(GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Mario Power Tennis (GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Mario Power Tennis Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Martin Watts

Raising a racquet

Originally released on Game Boy Advance in 2005, Mario Power Tennis is unusual in that it takes the tennis simulation genre and embeds it into a role-playing game experience. It’s a combination that works surprisingly well, with the biggest success being a player progression system which allows you to level up your character and choose which of their attributes to focus on when doing so.

The main story mode follows either Max or Tina (depending on who you choose to play as at the start), both young tennis players — and each other’s double partners — looking to work their way up the ranks of a prestigious academy. Interestingly, Mario and Co. don't take centre-stage despite the title of the game, although it's safe to assume — without us spoiling it for you — that they do feature in it in some capacity. The plot itself is far from complex, and rather it serves more as a device in which to join up the various matches and other tennis-related activities you partake in throughout the game.

Despite its relative simplicity, the story commands a considerable amount of your attention due to its text-heavy nature. This is especially apparent when you first start a new game, in which everything is explained in excessive detail, and the dialogue — usually focused around the positive outcomes of teamwork — goes on for far longer than it should. Those looking to avoid this can enjoy a standard exhibition match outside of the story mode, but the latter needs to be played through in order to unlock characters.

Nevertheless, the message of teamwork is actually of great importance early on, as you start off as part of a doubles team before you can later move into singles. As a result, part of your success in completing the game is dependent on an AI-controlled partner. Thankfully, you can rely on them for the most part, but their overall performance is also determined by the choices you make.

This is where things get interesting, as the game’s levelling system is designed so that your doubles team receives a lump sum of XP after a match or training activity. It’s then up to you to decide how this is handed out to each character; do you split it right down the line and ensure you receive a partner who’s technically on par with you or do you hog the majority of XP for yourself? Moreover, you can choose which of your partner’s attributes to increase as they level up, meaning that, for example, you could focus on shot power while they have enhanced control. This element of choice — while not hugely intricate from a gameplay perspective — does at least enable you to customise your playthrough.

The core tennis gameplay is largely what you'd expect, albeit with some deliberately unrealistic features thrown in as per most Mario-themed games. In addition to your usual array of topspins, slices, lobs and smashes, you can call upon offensive and defensive power shots to give yourself an edge. These include the ability to have a nefarious effect on opponents and reach shots that would normally be physically impossible. The plus side, especially with regards to the latter, is that it can result in much more exciting rallies, though it does undermine the the skill factor to some extent. Overall, the mechanics are very tight and intuitive; the power of your shots — true to the traditional Mario Tennis formula — is determined by tapping the button in the run up to returning a shot, and it’s very easy to guide the ball to where you want using the directional pad.

In between matches, you're given the chance to use the academy's training facilities to help boost your character's stats. These mini-games range from small, button-bashing affairs right through to proper tennis training modes, complete with varying difficulty levels. They are primarily useful for quickly earning XP, as opposed to better mastering the game, so some activities such as target practice help to better understand your available shots and how to control them.

Visually, Mario Power Tennis stays true to the franchise on which it's based, sporting plenty of colour and vibrancy, although the overall quality hasn't quite held up in the transfer to Wii U. The role-playing portion is portrayed using delightful 2D sprites and artwork, however, characters take on a pseudo-3D look when you're playing a match — this was most likely done to highlight the original power of the Game Boy Advance — which looks horribly pixelated and outdated today, especially when blown up on a large TV.

Another element that’s lost on the Wii U is the multiplayer mode. While it would be nice to experience this, it’s not a huge loss as Mario Tennis for the N64, a more suitable multiplayer alternative, can be found on the Wii Virtual Console — which can also be accessed on Wii U.


With a comprehensive story mode, tight and entertaining tennis gameplay mechanics and a surprising amount of depth, Mario Power Tennis is a return winner on Wii U. Its visuals look considerably outmoded in some areas, and other aspects such as the exceptionally heavy dialogue initially make it a bit difficult to get into the swing of things. Nevertheless, there’s a deep experience to be found underneath all the waffle, mainly thanks to the sense of progression the story mode delivers from start to finish. Mario Power Tennis remains a very playable game, is without question worth its relatively small asking price and — most of all — goes very well with a punnet of strawberries and cream.

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User Comments (34)



Yosher said:

I'd get this, but the severe lack of actual Mario characters makes this a deal-breaker for me (especially since Yoshi isn't in there). Besides I still have the GBA copy itself somewhere. Honestly this game shouldn't even have Mario in the title.

That said, it's still an okay game, I guess.



Samurai_Goroh said:

I bought it last week and so far really liking it. Moved up to the varsity class already and there's quite a challenge there. It does look very pixelated on the matches though, play this one on the GamePad and with the smooth filter on.



OorWullie said:

I gave this a go once but the amount of text you have to get through before you can get on the court and then between matches is too much.Not sure if it's like that all the way through but it put me off enough to give up on it and never try it again.The golf is the same from what I remember?



Phantom_R said:

Every year, the writers at Camelot win the award for Most Mindlessly Long-Winded Dialogue Ever.



BakaKnight said:

Awesome game, loved it so much when I first played it that I HAD to buy it again

...even if actually the trip is less exciting the second time around >.>;



Thrillhaus said:

I had to jump all over this the second it came out when I found out that it had a career mode similar to the one from the GBC game. That is seriously missing from the games they put out today - it would be an instant but if they brought this kind of stuff back.



WiiLovePeace said:

I'll buy it at the very least to support the idea of getting the GBA Mario Golf on Wii U. I've heard it's good. Of course I'm going to enjoy the game too.



LasermasterA said:

Ah yet another Camelot game that I love. They do tend to text heavy but it is yet another great GBA game. I really liked the campaign and the game was really fun and is replayable. Although my main complaint is the almost completely useless ultimate shot >.<



Nintenjoe64 said:

I'm tempted but Wii U Tennis and Grand Slam Tennis are probably enough for me.
I have a Nintendo network promotion £5 voucher which I am going to cash in. Not sure what to get though. I know the minute I use it up, they'll announce two N64 games on VC that would cost me £2.50 each to upgrade.



Geonjaha said:

I loved this game when I first played it. It didn't need any of the Mario characters because the gameplay was fun and the progression was enjoyable. Something the 3DS version came nowhere close to having. Again though; it's on the Wii U. I'd much rather buy this on the 3DS, and as such - I'll be waiting.



blueeaglewombat said:

I bought this and forgot that it had the RPG elements. I just wanna play tennis. Mario Tennis Open is much better IMO, it's straight Tennis



DBPirate said:

Oh wow. I thought it would be a lower score. Not that I'm saying the game's bad, I've never played it before. Hopefully this week is another GBA game, but it'll probably be NES. There's barely any SNES games now.



Dpishere said:

I didn't enjoy the gamecube Mario Tennis as much seeing as it was a little light on the rpg side of this series. This one looks much more like my cup of tea!



Yosher said:

@SilverArrow It was called the same way as the GameCube version in Europe and Australia. It was only called Mario Tennis: Power Tour in America. So you can call it either way.



Gridatttack said:

Awesome game, I still play it every now or then. but yeah, the lack of mario characters hurt, but for the other hand this game has 30+ playable characters, Can your mario power tennis do that?



Yosher said:

@Gridatttack Question is whether people care about these random human characters. I know I sure don't, aside from maybe the main playable ones who are okayish. I'd much rather have a roster of Mario characters I know and love that consists of 10 characters than a 30+ roster of characters I've never heard of whenever I play MARIO Tennis. All those characters have nothing to do with Mario.



MeWario said:

I have this on my GBA micro and I'm not a huge fan. The RPG element is a neat idea but it's just too formulaic and half@r$ed. The game mechanics themselves are really solid though unspectacular. It's certainly not bad but more deserving of about a 6-7.



Gridatttack said:

@Yosher Its just your preferences. Theres your GCN mario tennis for that
This is the other counterpart that continues the GBC game.



Yosher said:

@Gridatttack I know that. I just can't think of ANYONE who is excited for playing with 30+ random human characters in a MARIO game. Like, who the heck are Chad, Chris, Kyle? Mario fans want Yoshi, Wario, Koopa! (Yes I even had to look up some of those random human character names because all those characters are so un-memorable.)

So yes, I really highly prefer GCN/3DS Mario Tennis over this game, solely for that reason.



DarkCoolEdge said:

@Yosher I really don't like 3DS and GC Mario Tennis because their gameplay is horrrible. I like much more the tennis in the GBA game, it is a lot closer to the real game than on the others. Those boring and incredibly repetitive supershots and neverending points... ugh.

Plus, I miss the rpg component. It was neat.



Gridatttack said:

@Yosher Im not excited, but I prefer this one over the GCN or 3DS ones for other reasons.
Also, just because you dont like it, dont assume other else dislike it too >.>
You might dislike this game, but others prefer this game



FJOJR said:

The only thing that stopped me the 1st time this came out was the fact that they dropped the GCN-GBA link with Mario Power Tennis. A lot of missing features were cut off for both games that were featured in Mario Tennis for N64 & GBC. And once again that lack of support from Nintendo will stop me from getting this too.



Yosher said:

@Gridatttack I didn't say others dislike this game too, I know many people who prefer this game over the GCN/3DS ones. But that has nothing to do with the character roster, which just happens to be my personal reason for not liking this game. The RPG gameplay was nice, but that's not what I buy tennis games for. If I wanna play a Mario game with RPG elements I'll just boot up Paper Mario or Mario & Luigi, but I don't find it very fun in a game like this, personally, so in such a case I'd quickly fall back upon the regular tennis matches, and if that has no interesting characters for me to choose from then it's really not my game. Never said that went for others as well.



dimi said:

Mario Tennis for GBC is hands down one of the best games of the plattform, one of the few that worth their money even today. Respect to Camelot! After i played Golden Sun on the GBA...The best graphics in the system so far and great story. Camelot isn't as great company as it used to be. I still want Golden Sun IV.



SheldonRandoms said:

I got this already, so i'll probably pass, but man, if there was a tennis game that I revved up back in the GBA days, it was this!



Luffymcduck said:

Great game but I was disappointed that you couldn´t transfer your characters to Gamecube version and receive bonus stuff like in N64/GBC version.



Beau_Skunk said:

Is the Gameboy Color one for 3DS any good? (I feel it's a bit overpriced at 6 bucks... Yeesh, they don't even charge 6 bucks for "Lost Levels" anymore.) Don't have a WiiU yet.

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