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Mario and his pals have played tennis before, and it was a right good time. The N64 edition was a hit, another Ace in the books for Nintendo. People wondered what they were going to do for a Gamecube version. Was it going to be a mere graphical upgrade, or did they have another trick up their sleeves? Well, now that the game is out, I can tell you that it’s definitly Game, Set, and Match for Nintendo.

From the moment you boot this game up and are greeted by Wario and Waluigi, to the time you are able to beat all of the tournaments blindfolded, you’ll be in another surreal Nintendo world. The intro movie itself – a throwaway in many games – is a riot. You’re also treated to outtakes from the intro after you beat a tournament, and believe or not they are funny to watch.

The gameplay, too, is top notch. It doesn’t feature much realism, but like most Nintendo games it delivers on fun. The graphics are also well done – the courts are bright and colorful, the characters are sharp and well-animated, and the action is fast and smooth. You have the same two shot buttons are before as well has the lob and drop shot options, but what really sets this apart from it’s N64 predecessor are the power shots. Each character has two unique powershots, an offensive one and a defensive one. The offensive powershot is a rally-ending smash, and can be anything from Mario’s huge hammer to Donkey Kong launching himself out of a barrel at the ball. If you manage to intercept one of these smashes you’ll be shoved two the back of the court by the force and sometimes be oddly affected by the shot. Boo’s powershot causes the recipient to be swarmed by mini-boos, and Shy Guy’s shot electrocutes you.

You can also return a powershot with a powershot of your own – in fact, if you have a powershot available and you don’t use it, when you get hit by the ball it’ll knock the powershot right out of you. A particularly fun event is when all four players use their offensive powershots in succession hitting the ball back and forth. This is one of the flashiest sequences in the game. The defensive powershots help you get to balls that should be out of reach, and they’re just as varied. They range from Luigi pulling out the Poltergust 3000 and sucking the ball to him to Peach blowing a kiss to the ball and making it return to her (…). These can really screw up your scheme when you’ve hit that perfect shot down the line only to have the other team saved by a defensive powershot.

The game also has a series of Gimic courts, where as you play hazards are triggered that can change the course of a match. For example, on DK’s court, Clap Traps walk along the net, and if they’re hit they’ll fall on to the court and go after the players, thereby slowing them down. These can either be fun or a hassle, depending on your perspective. The courts are fun to look at, and fortunately you can unlock them for normal play by winning on them in Tournament mode.

There are also minigames to play, but they’re not the games strong suit. Some, like Artist on the Court where you hit paintballs are a mural to color it in are fun, but most are just tedious. You can also unlock new minigames, and some of them have courts that you can make available in the exhibition mode by winning the Tournaments. Finally, there are four unlockable characters to play as, and they play just as uniquely as their counterparts.

Of course, no game passes through my gates without having it’s flaws exposed. First though, I want to point out a personal pet peeve; Daisy has this valley-girl attitude going on that drives me up the wall. Okay, now on to the technical details. The biggest problem is that the characters seem unbalanced. When I play with my friends I’m banned from being DK because he’s one of the best characters in the game, almost to a cheap extent. Others, like Koopa Troopa (whom I just call ‘Turtle’) have really weak powershots that put them at a disadvantage. Speaking of powershots, the animations that accompany them get old after awhile and there’s no way of speeding through them. You can turn powershots off completely, but only in exhibition mode.  All in all though, this is another excellent Nintendo offering. It’s a great party game, especially for those who don’t play alot of videogames. The controls are easy to learn and with all of the options, it’ll be a Smash hit.

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