Camelot's Mario Tennis franchise debuts on Nintendo's 3DS handheld with Mario Tennis Open. But this isn't another RPG-fueled handheld installment that have veers from the groundwork laid by console games. Mario Tennis Open is designed to be a console-quality experience for the 3DS.
That made for an ultimately unsurprising gameplay experience in the recent preview build I was able to sample -- it felt just like you'd expect a Mario Tennis game to feel. But hiding under the surface was something far more interesting and exciting. Super Mario Tennis is an inventive mini-game that reimagines Nintendo's classic platformer. We've all played Super Mario Bros. to death, but Mario Tennis Open presents this classic platformer in such an uncommon way, I couldn't help but be impressed by the ingenuity and replay value of this new take.
Each level of Super Mario Bros. is projected -- at a slow pace -- on a wall while players smash a tennis ball into things. You don't stomp Goombas, you pulverize them with a tennis ball. You don't smash blocks to grab powerups; you smash blocks with a tennis ball and receive rewards, which then augment your tennis ball appropriately. A mushroom, for instance, will make your tennis ball grow in size.
The pressure of a constantly draining clock adds a layer of desperation and panic to the experience. In order to add time and keep going through the level, you have to constantly pelt the wall with your tennis balll, adding time by acquiring coins, killing enemies and grabbing powerups. It's an interesting concept, and one that I'm anxious to see play out in some of the more complicated Super Mario Bros. levels.
Mario Tennis Open launches on the Nintendo 3DS in North America on May 20.