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Mario Tennis Open: Will this be the best multiplayer game on 3DS?

Series creators Camelot serve up arcade gold

The two-year drip feed of hype, trailers, videos and 'surprise' reveals is not for Nintendo. President Iwata appears on Nintendo Direct in February to introduce Mario Tennis Open, then casually announces that it's out in May.

That's one month before we get the Pimms in and make hi-larious "come on, Tim" jokes as Andy Murray sulks his way out of Wimbledon at the semi-final stage. But forget the surly Scot, because this is the tennis tourney you should be interested in. In Issue 71 of Nintendo Gamer, we predicted the appearance of both Waluigi and a Mario Galaxy-themed court.

Zoom

And lo and behold, early footage reveals a certain skinny purple chap and a match played out against a shimmering starfield. There's also a frozen courtyard setting, another court sitting atop a giant mushroom, and the traditional Bowser, Peach and DK-themed arenas. All of them look refreshingly gimmick-free.

That extends to the divisive Power Shots, too. A blight on the GameCube version - perhaps why it isn't as fondly remembered as the N64's brilliant multiplayer - they've been replaced by a system where certain areas on the court are highlighted.

Stand in them and you get a boost to the type of shot signified by the colour. Red topspin strokes accelerate off the surface, blue slices arc impossibly, and grey drop shots kill the ball dead.

SPIN DOCTORED

Some of these shots are tricky to return, but they're not as overpowered as in Mario Power Tennis, and they add an extra layer of psychological warfare. Stand in a yellow zone and your opponent will anticipate a lob - so throw them with a sneaky slice. You've got a greater variety of shot selection, with X and Y hitting 'simple' and 'flat' shots respectively.

You can even choose to tap areas on the touch screen that correspond to the strokes, but our concern is that these extras could compromise the wonderful economy of the original's two-button set-up. As well as local wireless matches for up to four players (happily including a cut-down single-cart multiplayer option), there's the option to play online.

On top of singles and doubles matches against friends, there's a matchmaking mode, which pits you against strangers of a similar skill level. Rank up and you earn victory medals or unlock new outfits for your Mii. With StreetPass, gyroscope support and monthly leaderboards, Mario Tennis Open could yet usurp Mario Kart as 3DS's best multiplayer game.

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