We’re not ones to trash the Virtual Boy unnecessarily – while it does have its faults, it’s not completely devoid of merit. However, it’s got to be said that Mario’s Tennis was a pretty weak pack-in game.
On one hand, you can see why Nintendo chose it. The movement inherent in a tennis game can make for good use of 3D, and it does here – the court and characters scale around nicely, and the ball can be tracked around well thanks to the system’s stereoscopic display. Plus, tennis did prove successful as a Mario vehicle in later years.
Unfortunately it proves to be a bit of a let-down. It’s quite possible that you’ll have to stick with your pack-in game for some time, so something with a bit of depth to it is preferable. However there’s not a lot to do in Mario’s Tennis, with just seven characters and only tournament mode beyond standard single matches. Worse yet, the standard saving grace of the sports game isn’t present as there’s no multiplayer mode.
All of this would be a little excusable if the game played well, but it isn’t up to Mario’s usual high standards. The correct timing to hit the ball appears to be when it is actually slightly behind the player, which is counter-intuitive, and even the process of making a legal serve is rather too fiddly. It’s a shame, because the Virtual Boy really needed a strong launch title to sell itself to players, and this just wasn’t it.