Being an American tennis fan is not easy. Gone are the days of Agassi, Roddick, and Sampras. However, New Gamer Nation takes a moment to reflect on tennis greatness with a game that came out during an upswing in American tennis. Nintendo released their hit title Mario Tennis 64 for the much beloved Nintendo 64 in the summer of 2000.
Nintendo has done a fantastic job throughout their history of incorporating Mario and company in some fantastic sport-specific titles. Mario Tennis 64 is one of the longest running Nintendo sports titles and helped to grow the fanbase of the cartridge-based system. Tennis games can become stale and repetitive extremely quickly, but Mario Tennis 64 did a good job in quelling those issues. The main defense against repetition came from the wide variety of game modes that players could choose from. Tournament play was meant to represent the major tennis surfaces: hard court, clay court, and grass court. Players will start with the Mushroom cup, held on a hard court, and will battle their way up to the clay court tournament. As players advance, they will finish their championship run by taking on the grass court championship. The tournaments grow in difficulty as players make their way through their opponents and various surfaces.
If players become bored with climbing the ranks, there are numerous mini-games and challenges to take part in. Players can play a “Ring Shot” mode, where balls must be passed through coin rings in a test of control, power, and reflexes. There are a total of 3 mini-games in addition to the tournament challenge.
However, perhaps the most exciting feature of the game is the ability to connect four of your friends at once. Double teams can be formed, and it’s great fun to go against your friends while playing with another. This may inevitability lead to hours lost playing in a Mario Tennis 64 doubles tournament, but it’s a great way to spend a rainy day.
Tennis games have always been given simplistic controls, and this game is no different. Players will use the joystick in order to move around the court. Mastery of this will allow a player to run around and hit a forehand, even when a backhand is the easier shot. Use the A-button to hit a strong, straight forehand or backhand. The B-button will allow players to utilize a curve or spin. Players will also be able to hit drop shots and lob shots through variations of the controls. Overall, the controls are simple, effective, and, most importantly, responsive.
Mario Tennis 64 is one of the best sporting games of all time. The game was ahead of its time, especially when it came to incorporating multiple players. The varying gameplay, the 20 playable characters, and all of the unlockable secrets of this game make it a must-own in your retro library.
Mario Tennis 64 is worth the full 10 out 10 stars.
This review is based on a retail copy of Mario Tennis 64 for the N64, developed by Camelot and published by Nintendo