Here we have the precursor to the modern Mario Tennis series. Released in 1995 as the pack-in game for the Nintendo Virtual Boy, Mario's Tennis challenges players to step into the role of classic Mushroom Kingdom characters and compete in vs CPU 3D tennis. Players can choose to take on an opponent alone in a singles match or against a pair of opponents with the aid of a CPU-controlled character of your own in a doubles match. Like in the Mario Kart series each character has unique speed/power stats, making experimentation necessary to find which character is the best for you. The 3D virtual aspect of the game kicks in as the camera followed the tennis ball as it zooms back and forth on the court. The characters themselves a plain flat sprites, however. The game plays like a standard game of tennis. Players can select one or three sets, with each set consisting of up to three matches. A tournament mode is also available in which you can perfect your serves and returns against the whole roster of characters.

Speaking of characters, who's up for a game?

  • Mario - the average player, the everyman.
  • Luigi - another all-around average guy, although he's a little faster on the court than his brother.
  • Princess Toadstool - excels at connecting her racquet with the ball.
  • Yoshi - the fastest player on the courts.
  • Toad - second fastest player on the courts. He can dive sideways for those almost-missed shots.
  • Koopa Troopa - also excels at racquet/ball connections. He can execute the dive as well.
  • Donkey Kong Jr. - the strongest player, his shots fly far.

The controls are easy to pick up. The A and B buttons swing the racquet with the A button being a far shot and the B button being a low shot. The lefthand control pad moves your character forward, back, left, and right. The L & R buttons plus the righthand control pad have no function in this game. The biggest drawback to the game is that you have to adapt to the 3D viewpoint. It's very easy to miss a shot because you thought your character was closer to the ball than s/he turned out to be. Practice makes perfect, of course, but one must have the patience to practice in the first place. Some first-time players may become frustrated easily at the initial challenge level, but once you find the sweet spot, it's easy serving. The game pak itself is easy to find in the world of Virtual Boy (since it was the pack-in game in the USA, after all) and although you won't find much in the way of VB gear in used game stores you will find the online auctions to be ripe with equipment. Commonly you'll find the game sold along with used Virtual Boys; it's unusual to see the American version of the game for sale without a unit. On the other hand, the Japanese version most commonly sells solo for around $10 as the Japanese Virtual Boy had no pack-in game. No matter which version you pick up, I'm sure you'll find all your virtual tennis needs served.

Mario's Tennis instruction manual
Thanks to yerricde

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