The biggest problem with Mario Power Tennis lies in the price-tag
The biggest problem with Mario Power Tennis lies in the price-tag. Originally released on Gamecube back in 2004, this Nintendo exclusive is part of the long-line of sport related Mario bros. Titles. Considering the Nintendo mascot's passion for Golf, it wouldn't be a wild guess to assume he has a taste for other physical activities and hey presto, Miyamoto called upon the moustached plummer to use a tennis racket and go crazy with it on the courts.
Like Mario Golf, it's fair to say that crazy is exactly what Mario Tennis delivers in parts, allowing for powerful smash attacks or finishers that almost certify a game's victory and gimmick courts that play host to various stage effects, which are appropriately relevant to the Mario world (e.g. ghosts in the haunted mansion). They're fun little changes but have their flaws. Mario Power Tennis functions much how you'd expect a tennis game would with a series of tournaments to play and exhibition modes available for whenever you feel the need to play competitively against a friend. Naturally to begin with, you have a limited choice in characters and stages to choose from but they all unlock with gradual play.
Despite being close to five years of age on release, Mario Power Tennis plays remarkably smooth and agile for a sports game of it's type. It's comparable to Sega Superstar Tennis with the controls operating in a similar waggle manner for strikes, lobs or whatever else terminology you might use to describe hitting a ball with the racket at startling speeds. All movement is done using the nunchuck's analouge stick and the remote performs all the racket based commands. Moving your wiimote in the direction you wish to send the ball works as you'd hope and it's possible to make good of smash victories with a quick flick of the wiimote when the opportunity arises. Matches in Mario Power Tennis do grow vigorously difficult as you progress, so making use of any sort of advantage can either have you screaming for joy or whaling in frustration, and Mario Power Tennis will do tremendously in frustrating.
As you might of guessed, the gameplay modifiers of the gimmick courts and smash finishers act as double edged swords to the level of enjoyment that can be experienced with Mario Power Tennis. It isn't that I'm a tennis purist or that I'm used to being without such things, on the contrary, it helps divert the game from being repetitive and makes it stand-out from the competitors, yet they're as infuriating as they are fun. In a lot of ways the gimmick courts can be simply tedious in how they operate, their design is unoriginal, with the changes most often being in how the ball and movement of the characters are altered rather than anything else.
This comes of a bit of a shame because the concept is truly fascinating and could have been realised better. Although I don't suppose it pales any worse to the power smash attacks. These finishers are detestably lacking in balance – characters like Diddy Kong have terrible finishers when you contrast the flaming hellfire that Bowser produces with his own. It's madness. Furthermore they're too often and jeopardise the flow of play. The game pauses everytime a power smash is commenced, and when playing a team game, it isn't uncommon to go through four finishers sequentially in one round. It ironically can cause games to grow drawn out and dull.
Had Mario Power Tennis been a new game it probably would have been forgiveable at best that such flaws were made but the bottom line is it isn't. For a nearly five year old game, the only different thing about Mario Power Tennis on Wii is that it has the funky and innovative motion controls exclusive to the system. While it is nice that finally there is a Mario alternative to Wii Sports' almost bafflingly version of tennis, this release could of sponsored the other possible upgrades via the Wii's capabilities and extra development time. I'd happily take an expanded list of characters and stages that the Mario universe has added over the past five years. It would be more than welcome of Nintendo to implement Wi-Fi support so I can play my buddies from the United States and beyond.
Maybe this is a cheeky request but would it kill Camelot to include both Mario Power Tennis AND Mario Golf on one DVD? Bearing in mind the Wii has a vastly expanded disc storage capacity to the Gamecube, such things are plausible. A 2-in-1 tennis/golf package ensures I never have to bother with Wii Sports again. I guess my request isn't so cheeky though when you find out that Nintendo tried charging suckers into buying Mario Power Tennis on Wii for the full retail price of £29.99. It's insane that they even bothered. Without forgetting only a portion of the cost can buy you the original Gamecube Mario Power Tennis or the recent Sega Superstar Tennis on Wii. Bizarrely Mario Power Tennis on Wii lacks any sort of Classic or Gamecube controller support also.
Concluding, this repackaging of Mario Power Tennis isn't worthwhile, despite the fun factor the game provides. The new controls are pleasant to use and the tennis itself feels crisp. Swift gameplay and greased up animations are promising but the quirky modifiers are hit and miss. There is the glitzy charm of Mario and friends that obviously makes the game more welcome, Mario Power Tennis' presentation and cinematics are still as high quality as you'd expect from Nintendo. The recognisable voice talent is additionally there to provide audible grunts and cries for each character in the Mushroom Kingdom and the effective bright, bold colour scheme and graphics of Mario Power Tennis hold up magnificently on Wii, much to my own surprise. However this game lacks originality, it lacks value. For a re-release to have so little and to be sold so high is disgusting, it really is. If you ever do happen across Mario Power Tennis, do check it out but be wary of it's condition only as a re-hash and nothing more.