While the drop shot, smash shot, and lob all work well, the Wii Mote seems to have a hard time differentiating between some of the diagonal movements; you may find yourself trying to set up your opponent for a specific shot, and accidentally perform the wrong kind, which either keeps you from securing victory or causes you to lose that round. That’s frustrating, especially when the controls are supposed to be an improvement on the previous version. It’s not a game breaker, but it is disappointing.
You can play exhibition matches with the AI or with friends, but the game also comes with a single-player experience. You play in tournaments that rise in difficulty in order to unlock more playable characters; these can be played in singles or doubles mode as well. That’s the meat of the single-player experience, and allows the game to be more fun with friends, but luckily you can play exhibition at any time and still have plenty of characters to choose from at the outset.
There are a few types of matches you can play as well, in addition to the standard one. Ring Shot has you aiming to put the ball between rings that appear over the net, and when you win the volley, you get the points. If you put the ball through multiple rings and then your opponent wins, you don’t get as much credit as you would have had you come away the victor. You can change the score settings, but first one to reach the goal is the winner. Besides Ring Shot, you also have Item Match, which is basically the Mario Kart equivalent of tennis. Items are above the net, and when you hit the item box, you gain that item, to be used on your next shot. These items include, but are not limited to, your standard red and green shells, bananas, lightning, power stars, etc. For those looking for that completely over-the-top tennis experience, Item Match is your game of choice.
You also have Gimmick Courts, each of which has their own specific style of play. For Luigi’s Mansion, ghosts appear when you hit certain panels, and they get in your way as you try to maneuver around the court, while Wario’s Factory has moving floor panels. My favorite is the Gooper Blooper court, where the size of the playable court expands and contracts depending on which panels you hit, making for a very strategic game of tennis.
The special games can be fun, though not as fun as the Gimmick Courts. Tic-Tac-Glow has you freeing Shine Sprites from the ground with specific hits of a tennis ball, Chain Chomp Challenge has you feeding a chain chomp balls while you avoid him, and Artist on the Court has you painting a picture with carefully aimed hits of a tennis ball. These are fun, but again, if you can’t get the controls to do what you want, they become more difficult than they need to be.
Just like New Play Control! Pikmin, and the rest of the New Play Control! titles, Mario Power Tennis comes in 16:9 widescreen with 480p support. This was a pretty good looking game on the GameCube, and it still looks good now, though it’s not up to par with other Nintendo published sports titles on the system (or the Sega ones either, for that matter). That can be overlooked given the level of the gameplay though, especially if you have never experienced Mario Power Tennis.
My biggest gripe with this game is that the controls took a step backward, a confusing situation given that the New Play Control! series is meant to improve the experience for those familiar with the games at the same time that it introduces them to people who have never played them before. It’s not a deal breaker for the game as I said, but one wonders why Nintendo did not wait for Wii Motion Plus support in order to enhance the controls further and make this worth the $30 price tag for everyone. Some online play would have been nice as well, though at the same time maybe that’s better left for a brand new Mario Tennis game down the line, one that also incorporates Wii Motion Plus into the control scheme.
Those criticisms aside, this is still a quality tennis experience, especially if you have never played the original, and for $30, it’s a solid investment and an excuse to invite friends over. It has more depth than the other competition on the system, despite being five years old and from last generation, so if you are in need of a tennis game then this is for you.