Whilst there is nothing really new about Mario Open Tennis, it must be said that at its core it's a very solid game. The 3D graphics are a real selling point, but more importantly the gaming experience is one that really stands out. The new control features offer something new and different.
Activating the 3DS's vertical gyro sensors allows you to switch between perspectives, from a more action orientated view to an overhead perspective. This view is better suited to play, unfortunately the semi-automatic change often leads to undesirable changes in perspective and thereby lost rallies. Luckily, you can disable the feature.
As a tennis hero you can take on the role of one of many Nintendo characters. Mini-games can be played to earn coin, which in turn can be spent in the item shop. There are bats, shirts, shoes and a variety of costumes on sale. All objects have an effect on strength, flexibility and ball spin. Visually it's great, but technically, the changes aren't as noticeable.
You can get by here with skills learned from other tennis games. The conventional controls work, or you can use the touch screen to add topspin or slice the ball. The game also automatically selects the best possible shot, and presents it to you via a large central button. All shots are assigned a colour, and when that colour flashes on the screen, a well timed shot will produce a special impact. Whilst this feature might be too powerful, it does stop endless rallies.
The tennis courts are all inspired by well-known places in the Mario universe. You can play in Bowser's Castle, on the Penguin Island or in the Donkey Kong Jungle. Each place has a unique element to factor in. In the desert, Wario's balls move slowly as if stuck in mud, while as you'd expect they slide quickly on ice.
In solo play we must fight our way through tournaments, which are naturally divided into cups. At first progress is steady, but before long the difficulty level ramps up substantially.
There are four mini games to play, including an option to hit a ball against a wall featuring a projection of Super Mario Bros where you can collect coins and smash Goombas. A fun mode than borders on the insane when played in multiplayer. Ring shot is a rather simple where you need to hit balls through a set amount of rings within the alotted time.
Then there is Galaxy Rally with Luma from Super Mario Galaxy where you have to be very precise with your balls to create the right length rallies as there are bottomless holes on the other side of the court. Lastly, there is training with Inky Piranha Plants in Ink Showdown, where the plants act as ball machines and squirt ink to blur your vision. Overall, a fairly dull mini-game.
As far as multiplayer goes all kinds of matches await you both locally or online - alone against others, doubles with and against each other, and mini-games like Ring Shot and Super Mario Tennis. If you have Street Pass activated you can measure your statistical prowess against other players or face them in a quick game of Ring Shot. There are online leaderboards, and as always facing off against human opponents is where the real attraction of this game lies. Especially if it's against someone you know well...