Making the Grades
Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be on the receiving end of a "Pistol" Pete Sampras serve? Could you play the baseline as well as Venus Williams? Would you relish the look of defeat in Martina Hingis' eyes upon retiring her in straight sets? Do you think you'd stand in awe if Andre Agassi pulled off one of his turned-around-between-the-legs returns to beat you in the tie-breaking match on the center court at Wimbledon? Okay, the answers to these questions can only be found in your dreams... but if you put on your tennis slippers and limber up that tennis elbow, Mario and the rest of the gang from Nintendo will make your dreams a virtual reality.
Setting up to play Mario Tennis is simple... decide whether to play singles or doubles, then pick players from a field of 14 characters. Although you won't find anyone from the Pro Tour, you'll soon learn that characters such as Donkey Kong, Wario, Yoshi, and Peach could hold their own with any tennis champ (except maybe Bjorn Borg). Just keep in mind that, like real athletes, these players aren't perfect, so you'll want to take into account their strengths and weaknesses.
If you are new to the game of tennis, training in Exhibition mode will be time well spent. Here you will learn the difference between a fault and an ace, a let and a net, and a lob and a smash... along with instructions on executing various shots with your controller. You will be taught the finer points of scoring, and that love doesn't represent a lifelong commitment, but rather stands for zero... as in no points. You'll realize that different types of court surfaces have a marked effect on ball speed and bounce, and that out-of-bounds in singles play isn't necessarily out-of-bounds in doubles action... except on a serve (don't worry, you'll figure it out). Oh, and for those who feel that being born left-handed presents some kind of advantage, there's even an option to accommodate southpaws.
Tournament mode allows you to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat--just like the pros. Each tournament victory presents the winner with a cup. Win all the cups in a particular level and you will progress to a higher level of tournaments. But, you'd better hope your skills improve along the way, because your opponents become increasingly harder to beat. (You didn't think they'd just stand by and admire your shots did you?). Lose a particular match (a series of games with one opponent) and, well... as they say in the world of virtual reality... start over?
As is the case with most videogames, a number of fun, arcade-like diversions exist. These include Ring Shot (aiming the ball through rings suspended over the net earns additional points), Bowser Stage (its not easy to play tennis when the court moves from side to side), and Piranha Challenge (50 shots are fired in your direction... earn points by returning them).
Mario Tennis is one of those rare games that can be enjoyed by up to four players, regardless of age or gender... and parents can rest assured there is absolutely no objectionable content (unless you've included hitting the ball and beating an opponent on your list of violent acts).