We're not against the idea of Nintendo re-releasing some of its classic GameCube games on the Wii, more or less as they were but with new Wii controls, but we were concerned that some games just wouldn't get the care and attention required. Mario Power Tennis originally hit the GameCube just over four years ago and, with the success of Wii Sports (and the included tennis game), bringing this fun sports title to the Wii seemed to make sense. The problem here is that the simple controls from the original release have been turned into awkward Wii Remote swings that cause nothing but trouble.
As with the other New Play Control titles we've played on the Wii, Mario Power Tennis doesn't add much to the original game. The game modes are as they were, so you've got the fairly basic Exhibition and Tournament play options, as well as Special Games: five tennis themed mini-games playable with up to four players. There's nothing here in the way of a career mode or story mode, so the lone player may well feel a little short changed.
As with all Mario sports titles you can choose from a variety of classic Nintendo characters, with each falling into a certain category: all-round, powerful, technical, fast, defensive or tricky. For example, Mario is good at most things, but specialises in no particular area, making him good for beginners, while Bowser Jr. is able to trick opponents by curving the ball.
As a four-player game, complete with crazy on-court antics, Mario Power Tennis was great fun on the GameCube. It would seem like a perfect fit for Nintendo's family conquering Wii, but somewhere along the porting line the controls must have slipped through a few quality checks. After playing Wii Sports Tennis we know that a tennis game can be great fun for everyone, but here you'll frequently activate the wrong shot type, it's incredibly hard to hit shots with power and after a few games your arm will most likely be suffering from tennis elbow.
As in Wii Sports the angle and power of your shot is determined by the speed of your Wii Remote stroke, with the timing determining the angle. It's all good on paper, but in practice it's a recipe for frustration. Trying to hit the ball where you want it to go, at the pace you want, and with the spin you want is bordering on a nightmare. For example, a topspin shot requires a stroke from lower right to upper left, whereas a slice requires a stroke from upper right to lower left. Then there's a standard flat shot which is just a stroke from right to left. You can see how your actions could easily be misinterpreted by the game.
Add in motions for smashes, lobs, drop shots and the ability to perform power shots and suddenly a simple game becomes somewhat more complex. While the game recognises your actions correctly most of the time, the errors still occur far too often to be acceptable, especially if you're coming to the game from a more hardcore background.
Something Power Tennis offers that Wii Sports doesn't is the ability to move your character around using the Nunchuck's analogue stick. While this method certainly gives you a greater sense of control, a lot of players will prefer to let the AI handle player movement and simply focus on performing the right shot type. Sadly there's no support here for NES-pad style Wii Remote play, the Classic Controller or the original GameCube pad. It's clear Nintendo wanted to make the game appear as new as possible, but it has severely reduced the fun factor as a result, meaning a lot of people will be better off finding a copy of the GameCube original.
The control issues are a real shame as the rest of the game has been proven to be a lot of fun. The on-court action is never predictable, the various courts are all well designed and the mini-games offer something different to sink time into. Visually the game is showing its age, but as with Pikmin it's still not ugly by Wii standards. While a proper new Mario Power Tennis for Wii would look better, this will do the job for now.
As much as it pains us to say it, having been big fans of the original GameCube game, the control issues in this Wii port make Mario Power Tennis hard to recommend. Had there been support for a traditional controller this would have been an excellent party game, but as it stands it'll really only be acceptable to gamers who don't know any better - who may well find many of the issues nothing to worry about. For that reason Mario Power Tennis on Wii gets a pass, but we really expected a bit more from Nintendo.