Mario Tennis Power Tour «

It’s true that Nintendo has done a wonderful job of dolling out Mario and friends into all sorts of genres that their platforming roots never could have predicted they’d be a part of, but it’s inevitably hard to argue when Nintendo successfully pairs the characters with the right style of addictive gameplay. Who cares if it’s Mario kicking a soccer ball or swatting a tennis racket when the part that matters is totally and completely engaging? That’s been exactly the case with Camelot’s Mario Tennis (not to mention the developer’s Mario Golf) series, which has seen a successful run on both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube before arriving on Game Boy Advance in Power Tour form, which wraps the traditional power shot-focused gameplay into an extensive single-player adventure. Though not without a few qualms here and there, Power Tour undoubtedly transfers the rampantly successful sports formula from the consoles to handheld.

As you’d expect from the subtitle, the crux of Power Tour falls upon its single-player Power Tour mode that asks players to choose between a typical boy or girl, naming them and taking them up through the ranks. You’ll not only face off in matches against other students in your training academy, but the key to additional power shots and bulking up attributes outside the court setting requires participating in a series of exercising mini-games. Thankfully, though, the exercise portion is hardly a — pardon the pun — exercise in frustration and boredom. Camelot’s even ensured that the mini-games hearken back to the trademarks of the Mario formula.


Take, for example, the treadmill, which is actually nothing more than a moving version of Shigeru Miyamoto’s classic Donkey Kong. You’ll even hear the all-too-familiar Mario jumping sound when you leap over bananas and barrels. These are small touches, but when combined with mini-games that challenge your finger skills in-between matches, they become something you’ll be playing over and over again even when it’s not required. All of your work, however, is meant to progress through junior, senior, and varsity classes within the academy so you have a shot at finding out who the masked players are who’ve been challenging the higher-level players. Considering you’re playing as a generic boy/girl, can you use some Scooby Doo-like skills to guess the mystery? It’s not hard.

If you’ve played a Mario Tennis game before, you know what to expect from the gameplay. Though Camelot’s made tweaks to tighten it up for the handheld format, the physics are all there and the only changes are related to control. Getting used to swatting a ball around on the D-pad actually proves a bit of a challenge; getting the timing down when deciding where you want to smack the ball seems to require more precision than found on the consoles equipped an analog stick. There’s a little re-learning required to understand where the offensive and defensive shots have been placed with the slight remapping onto L and R, but it’s only a match or two before the old rhythm sets in. Players who are just starting out might be a little disappointed by the A.I.’s actions early on, however; the computer has a tendency to randomly switch between competent and completely idiotic, even when you’re working on first-place ranking matches. Constantly winning matches because your opponents can’t bring their racket up in time to hit the ball rather than missing a well-placed shot kinds of cheapens the experience, but that’s a problem that disappears rather quickly as you face more difficult opponents.

 

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