Earlier today, while touring a Nintendo booth dominated by GameCube and GBA games that are either already available or will be released in North America within the next few weeks, we happened across a single playable version of Mario Tennis hidden away in a darkened corner. The line to play the game was pretty lengthy, but since this was our first opportunity to get our hands on the game, we got in line and eventually managed to get a few games in.
The characters available for us to play included Mario, Luigi, Waluigi, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Boo, and each character had a distinct strength, such as speed (Yoshi) or power (Donkey Kong). After electing to play as Yoshi against Mario, we were taken to the Donkey Kong-themed jungle court where one of the first things we noticed was that there were small crocodiles walking across the top of the net. Nice looking, but an otherwise minor graphical detail, we thought, until our opponent managed to hit one with the ball, and it proceeded to fall into our side of the court and nip at our heels. Having the crocodile in tow definitely slowed Yoshi down a little, and toward the end of one of the games we were actually pulling a chain of no fewer than seven crocodiles (including small green ones and larger red ones) around the court. Every now and then the crocodiles would be hit by lightning and scamper off the court, though exactly what caused the lightning to strike wasn't clear.
The A and B buttons on the GameCube controller appeared to be the only ones that were used for playing shots in the game, and as far as we could tell they were actually both doing the same thing. The strength of our shots was determined by how long we held the shot button down before releasing them, and we were able to play some pretty effective cross-court and drop shots by moving the analog stick in different directions while holding down the shot button.
After our time with the game was over, we stuck around to watch another two players try out a different court: the inside of Luigi's Mansion. The court looked like it could have come straight out of the actual Luigi's Mansion game from 2001, and there were lots of colorful translucent ghosts floating around. We couldn't really tell whether or not the ghosts were impacting the gameplay in any way other than being a distraction, but one of the action replays did appear to show a ghost becoming solid for a second and getting in the way of the ball. A conventional grass tennis court was also available as well, though the gimmick courts seemed more interesting to most onlookers.
Mario Tennis is currently scheduled for release in November. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.