IGN Review of Mario Power Tennis
With the huge success of Wii thus far, and the ease of brining over GameCube titles as "Wii-makes" to the system, Nintendo has embraced the idea of gameplay over graphics, and has begun its New Play Control franchise, which specifically focuses on bumping up old, great Cube titles to Wii, and adding in revamped motion and IR control where applicable. The concept has already seen some pretty impressive results in Japan, with Metroid Prime hitting the Wii, now complemented by impressive Corruption-inspired IR control for aiming Samus around. With Pikmin, a similar technique is being used, bringing pointer control to Captain Olimar's adventure, upping the ease of use considerably. New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis, however, things haven't gone so well.
We'd take the Old Play Control over the new one any day.
Mario Power Tennis was a blast on GameCube, and it could have made for a great Wii-make with the New Play Control design. You had a nice cross-section of Mushroom Kingdom characters, some impressive locales, beautiful visuals (that still look decent on Wii, mind you) and gameplay that was both easy to pick up, and also strategic and surprisingly deep. At $30 on GameCube still (the used price has actually gone up over the years), Power Tennis is a Mario sports classic.
In concept, the motion control was a perfect direction to take Mario Tennis, and I'm still convinced that motion would be a great addition to the series. The problem here was execution, however, as the game has been made far more casual in its design (charge shots are now automatic, and shot placement isn't done with the analog stick; only timing-based shooting) and the final product is a Mario Sports game that doesn't play as well as its source material from three and a half years ago, and a motion tennis game that is surpassed by Nintendo's own launch product, Wii Sports Tennis.
The problem comes with rushed – or at least inaccurate – motion reading. Lobs and drops are already odd swings to do, having them both be completely vertical movements (down-to-up for lob, and up-to-down for drop) that don't really feel intuitive. Remember how with Wii Sports Tennis you could swing up into the air with an underhand lob shot, and it'd work? Not the case here. Deliberate, completely vertical swinging is needed, and it doesn't feel too hot. Add in the fact that all other shots are done with cross-body swings, each reading only about 60%-70% of the time, and you've got a final product that's far less reliable in its control, which cuts into the strategy of the game.
Since charges are automatic this time around, there's also no risk with picking your swing spot, initiating the charge, and then letting a ball rip. Now, if you're in the right place, the charge will immediately start, making for far more power shots, which each fuel the player-specific super-shots that are now far more frequent as well. As I mentioned briefly, the analog stick shot aiming is also taken out, which means that players will not only have to constantly combat the issue of lobbing balls instead of hitting their intended drop shots or topspin hits (giving their competitor a perfect opening for a smash), but they'll often hit it right to them as well. I've had the competition completely out of position, with an entire half a court open for an easy baseline hit, and then sent it right back over to them. Most of what's here works more than it doesn't, but its far from reliable.
If it wasn't for the unreliable control, Mario Power Tennis would be a great choice. It has one of the longest CG intros in Nintendo history, the in-game visuals still look great, it now runs in 16:9, and the colors are more vibrant all around. Small effects, such as a ball trail when tossing up for a serve, have been added to the game, as well as a picture-in-picture mode before serves and during replays. Menus are done with IR pointer control, there's a nice mix of single player tournaments and multiplayer party games, and both traditional and gimmick matches are included. As remnants of years past, there's an obvious emphasis on Luigi's Mansion and Mario Sunshine throughout the game.
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