Great tennis balls of fire!
Oh, Camelot. You’re like the McRib; most of the time you’re nowhere to be found, and then you come along once every year or two and get everyone all excited before you up and disappear again. Unlike the McRib, however, Camelot at least puts out high quality products made with high quality ingredients, and the Mario Tennis franchise is perhaps the strongest example of that.
Conspicuously absent from almost every event up until this year’s GDC, Mario Tennis Open finally came out from behind the curtains with gusto, offering convention-goers a playable demo featuring nearly all the characters from 2004’s Mario Power Tennis along with a multitude of courts on which to play. We didn’t spy any new characters this time, with the exception of playing as a Mii, but that is of course subject to change as the game chugs along in development.
The Mario Tennis basics remain intact and as simple as ever. The A and B buttons still control most of your shot options, including lob and drop shots if you hit them alternatively, but Open adds the X and Y buttons to control “simple” and “flat” shots respectively. It’s a little tough with just a few demo matches to see how nuanced the new shot types are—that’ll require some quality time later on down the road.
What’s sure to cause some controversy among fans is that the character-specific power shots are no longer in the game. On one hand they were a bit too “arcade-y” for some and the animations would cut into fast volleys a lot, but on the other they added flavor and differentiation between the characters.
In place of the old character power shots is now a context-specific system to get power shots when the chance arises. Unlike before, when a star would simply appear and doing any well-timed shot would result in a blazing star shot, there will now be a color-coded symbol on the ground that corresponds to the different shot types. To get the added oomph of a power shot, you must not only be in place and have the correct timing, you also need to use the corresponding button that matches the symbol’s shot type.
As you might expect, there’s also the obligatory touch screen controls. If you don’t like pushing buttons, all the different shot options are available in a layout on the touch screen, including lob and drop shots. What’s more interesting is that the game takes advantage of the 3DS gyroscope—holding the system up vertically will switch to more of an over-the-shoulder view. In this view, physically aiming the 3DS at different sides of the court will direct your shot. It’ll take some getting used to, but it may have the potential of having a bit higher shot accuracy than the Circle Pad.
Camelot is scheduled to serve up Mario Tennis Open on May 20th, 2012.