Nintendo, it seems, is the Walt Disney of the video game world. There are many comparisons, the easiest being that on the surface, both make entertainment for kids. That is just at face value, and offers little depth. I like to think that both companies make very high quality products and entertainment, and that the kid comparison is just a setup or an agenda designed for brand image.
Disney has given us great movies over its history, such as Fantasia, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and my favorite, The Lion King. However, sometimes Disney release, a “money grab” movie, like a sequel to Aladdin or Lion King. This leads to a dramatic drop in quality and leaves the viewer second-guessing his/her time and money already invested into the company. It would seem that the high and mighty Nintendo has also sacrificed quality for the quick buck.
Mario Tennis Open is Nintendo’s newest attempt to make a sports-game that is for both the non-gamers and young-gamers alike. In some ways, developer Camelot succeeds in this endeavor, but in others the title fails to be a true competitive experience.
The game play in Mario Tennis Open is a double-edged sword to be sure. First off, there are different types of shots to be used during the game. These shots are color-coded and represented in a lit-up circle on the court, which also acts as an indicator for where the ball will impact the ground. What makes the game play less of a sports title is the auto-running; yes- auto-running. The act of running in a tennis game is 50% of the gameplay and what makes it worse is the inability to disable this feature in online multiplayer. Sure, you can take control of character by using the analog disk, but what’s the point? This turns the game of video tennis into a color-shot matching game, and the true spirit of the digital version of the sport is almost completely diluted.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is fun to be had in Mario Tennis Open. The mini games can be nice distractions for a little while. One of the best is in the form of the original Super Mario Bros that is scrolling in the background of the tennis court. Everything that you do in this game also gives you coins that can be used to buy things like clothes and extra rackets, which can change the speed and strength of the character.
Nintendo also included some extra ways to view the action, with the ability to observe the court from both third-person and top-down. We even have some failed attempts to make the gyroscope relevant by being able to look around and aim your shot. Lets not forget, the multiplayer, which can be both online and in-person. Nintendo also did the smart thing and included download play for those who don’t own the game.
Overall, Mario Tennis Open is an attractive looking distraction that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t in the mood to take a game seriously (both in aesthetic and game play). However, I feel like many people will end up feeling cheated by a game that feels so casual that even a generic mobile-phone game for a buck can feel like a higher quality product. Anyone for some Lion King 6?
Review copy of game provided by publisher.