Being a huge fan of Mario Tennis for the N64 (one of the only good games that has come out in the last 6 months for the dying system) I was counting the days until the release of the Gameboy version. If it was anything like the Mario Golf by the same developers I knew I was going to be in tennis heaven. With each passing day my expectations and anxiousness grew more and more. Finally the game was released to a public tired of having to wait so long after playing Mario Tennis so much. And much to my delight the game was everything that was wished for with all of those pent-up expectations and more.
The game starts out in the Tennis Academy where you are the new kid on campus. You choose to be either a girl or a boy and are given a character accordingly. You are also given a roommate for doubles matches. The only problem with the game was in its character selection at the very beginning. As I mentioned you get the choice of a boy or a girl, that's it. There is no large character screen with many choices of players and there is no way to venture forth in the game as one of the Nintendo Characters. You are the default boy or girl with your default roommate. Anyway once I got over that little snag in the game I found everything else to make up for it in spades.
After finishing the required tour of the campus you are free to roam about and do as you please. This may lead you into conversation with one of your fellow students, training in one of the two training rooms, or into a match. Each time you complete a task or win a match you are given experience points to build up your character's game in one of four areas, power, speed, control, or stroke. The only drawback is that your doubles partner needs experience points too, and he expects you to give them to him if you want to do well in doubles play. Once you beat enough people in the junior course matches they will move your character up to senior and then on to varsity. Do well in varsity and you will make the travelling team and then you will be able to compete in tournaments.
The control and gameplay is almost identical to the N64 version. There are different ways to hit the ball and special shots that use various levels of spin and power. Lob shots, drop shots, and slamming the ball into your opponents head are all skills that must be mastered if you expect to beat the players in the varsity division. The control on the game is spot-on. I wish all games on the Gameboy could have the same smooth movement and tight control. Also, it is very important what skills you choose to develop with you experience points. The game is detailed enough that the different skills really begin to show.
Thankfully there are many ways to hone your skills, not just matches. There are 2 mechanical training rooms, 3 different trainers that will concentrate on one aspect of your game, and a couple of guys that will challenge you to test your skills. So if you get tired of just playing match after match then you can travel around and visit with trainers and other people at the academy. Plus the training sessions change after each promotion so the training never gets repetitive.
Then if the game just gets to be tiring, there are a few mini-games to keep you occupied. Each game features a Mario character to use in your conquest to open up everything that is hidden. Complete everything and you will get new courses, new characters and a new mini-game. Then if you get tired of carrying your Gameboy around you can transfer your characters over to the N64 and see your built up character in 3D and enter him in the N64 tournaments. Itís nice to see that the transfer pack is good for more than just Pokemon.
So if you did not notice already, this game has more options and features than you would ever come to expect form a little Gameboy game. Camelot has done it again. First they made golf interesting to people that did not even like golf and now they have put tennis into the mainstream. Just think of what they could do for bowling
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