Mario Tennis Showdown

By Seán O'Sullivan - June 6th, 2012


Sully and his lady recently went to a Nintendo event that featured Mario Tennis Open. After causing a racket, they courted danger by showing the advantage of their love…Seriously, I suck at tennis puns. Just read the article about how Sully’s missus squared off against Canada’s gaming pros…

To celebrate the launch of Mario Tennis Open, Nintendo held an event in their Toronto offices late last month, in which local press gathered to play online against fellow Canadian journalists across the country. Well, fellow Canadian journalists and my girlfriend, Kate.

For reasons not worth going into, it was convenient for me to bring her along to the event; but when we found out that our kind hosts had been grinding through the Single Player to unlock equipment for her to use in multi-player, we agreed that social decorum mandated her participation in the competition, however farcical it would be.

Kate has spent a great deal of her adult life around men who play videogames; and even though she’s yet to master dual-analogue controls, she’s got a knack for destroying my Big Brain Academy scores, or completing the remaining 70% of my copy of Professor Layton after I asked her to look at a puzzle I was stuck on.

“I have the power!”

I was concerned that the level of finesse required to compete in a technical game like tennis would leave her frustrated for the two hours or so that we’d be playing against Canada’s finest, but there didn’t seem to be a moment that Kate wasn’t enjoying herself. Her initial lack of self-confidence was evident from the many concerned looks she gave me over the dual-screened portable. When she asked what the analog-slider was, I realized that this was her first time ever holding a 3DS. I had a feeling that she was going to make me pay dearly for bringing her along. But then she fired up the Single Player mode to warm up, and I heard a delighted squeal.

“Ooh! It’s just like Wii Tennis, only fancier.” She was playing as a Mii, which was enough of a home-comfort to ease her into the game. Once the many shot-types and button-combos were explained to her, I saw her eyes glaze over – but the touch-screen control concept was one she seemed interested in trying out.

Ignore the circle-pad for a few seconds and the game takes control of your character, getting them into position to continue the rally while the bottom-screen lights up the shot type it recommends. While some have maligned this as a way of relegating the game to an imitation of “Simon Says”, it meant that Kate was able to pick up the game, and within a few minutes, be competitive against professional gamers who had been honing their skills on the game for a few weeks.

Sometimes I wonder if Mario ever does anything normal.

It felt like she got to walk in my shoes for a while. After the event, she enthused about how fun it was to imagine the reaction of some guy thousands of miles away swearing to himself after she sneakily placed a drop-shot just out of his reach. Furthermore, she finally understood the feeling of anti-climax when you’re up by a few points, and the chump on the other end disconnects. She also encountered the lack of common-decency when playing against others – she skipped all her replays, but was made to sit through innumerable moments of glory-reliving by self-congratulatory jackasses.

The game held her hand, but she never felt like she was being condescended to – since she could deviate from the suggestions at any time by pressing one of the icons that wasn’t lit up. Any self-proclaimed purists who moan that the alternative play controls take all the skill out of the game should observe that Kate didn’t win any of her matches – it just made her competitive enough to enjoy herself.

For those looking for a new way to play old console games…

Don’t we want to see more of this in videogames? Nintendo is clearly taking steps to make itself a more viable option for the hardcore multi-player gamers – this approach seems very much like a gateway drug. Kate got an authentic taste of the online experience that I have been enjoying for years now; her realization that seasoned players using manual controls will prevail inspired her to begin experimenting towards the end of her brief play session. Rather than begrudge Camelot and Nintendo’s decision to “dilute” the experience, I applaud them for their continued efforts to increase the number of people who can comfortably identify themselves as gamers.

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    2 responses so far:
  2. By Rituro
    Posted on Jun 6, 2012

    Tennis puns make everything better.

  3. You know it, ball boy.

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