Welcome to another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Every Tuesday join Cyril as he reviews the best (and worst) retro releases for the week.
This week we finally get another Virtual Console game to review. Nintendo's pattern seems to be two games a month, which leaves us with very little to talk about these days. This week we get a good (but not great) sports game starring Mario, Luigi and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom. The good news is that Nintendo hasn't completely run out of Mario games to milk. Unfortunately, the bad news is that you're stuck with another episode of This Week in Defunct Games!
Mario Tennis (Camelot)
[ Virtual Console - 1000 Points/$10 - Nintendo 64 - 2000 ]
What Is It?
Although this Nintendo 64 game has the distinction of being Mario's first tennis outing for a home console, this is not the first time our favorite Italian plumber (doctor?) has hit the court. That honor goes to the similarly-named Mario's Tennis, the 1995 pack-in game for the failed Virtual Boy. The franchise would eventually lead to the Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color and the GameCube.
Mario Tennis lives up to the title. By now you've seen the formula - take a bunch of Nintendo characters and pit them against each other in some sort of race, sport or board game. In this case they are playing tennis, a surprisingly addictive sport that is perfect for four players. The cast here is inspired, giving a few new characters a chance to go up against returning favorites. We get Birdo, Boo, Baby Mario and the loathsome Waluigi. There isn't a lot of meat here; you get a few single player modes and some multiplayer stuff. Even if you're not a huge fan of tennis, the gameplay is fast and easy to pick up, making this one of the better games in the ever-expanding Mario sports line.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Let's start with the good news. Mario Tennis is a great playing sports game, with responsive controls and a speedy interface. Camelot (the company behind a number of Mario tennis titles) knows what they are doing when it comes to making a great tennis game. On the other hand, there's very little here that screams "MARIO!!" Sure you get the characters and a few fun cameos, but the levels aren't as inspired as I would have hoped.
Is It Worth The Money?
As I played through Mario Tennis for review I was ready to fully recommend this week's lone Virtual Console title. It's fun, still holds up well and offers some fun four-player action. But the more I thought about it the more I couldn't get over the idea that there are far superior Mario Tennis games compatible with the Wii. I would recommend Mario Power Tennis for the GameCube, a game that improves on the theme in every way. These days you can find Mario Power Tennis for roughly the same price as this N64 port.