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Mario Tennis Aces for the Nintendo Switch is just over a month away from launch. We’re so close that Nintendo is releasing their usual demo next week, which of course is going to get all of the coverage that my little hands can type. Until then, however, I’d like to talk about the classic, the game that threw the first serve spoke to speak. That’s right, it’s everyone’s favourite Nintendo 64 Tennis game, Mario Tennis, and –

What? That wasn’t the first one?

The first one was on the Virtual Boy? Like, the Virtual Boy? The … yeah, the pair of goggles with a kickstand. It’s called Mario’s Tennis and it came out in 1995?

Fuck.

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Alright, so, sorry folks. It’s not Mario Tennis, as in – here’s tennis but with Mario’s name in front so you know it’s got Mario in it – rather, it’s Mario’s Tennis, as in the tennis belonging to Mario. And of all the bloody Nintendo consoles that it could be on, it’s on the Virtual Boy, the complete and utter commercial failure of a console. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never played a damn game on it. I don’t know if I’ve ever even born witness to one with my own eyes, aside from watching videos and looking at pictures. So, yeah. We’re gonna have to rely on emulation for this one. Sorry, Nintendo. With that said, let’s find out if Mario’s Tennis was a diamond in the rough.

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This is about as legible as I could make the emulator. I’m sure that it would look a whole lot worse if I was somehow capturing this off of a Virtual Boy, though. So, here, title screen. Mario’s Tennis right there. The first option says single, the other, doubles. We have a copyright right there by Nintendo, circa 1995.

You might be wondering why it’s in purple, rather than in the classic Virtual Boy red. That’s a feature of the emulator. You see, the Virtual Boy unit itself consisted of two screens, one for each of your eye holes. This created the ‘3D’ effect that the system was er, famous for. Since it would be difficult to replicate that effect on an emulator, instead, it’s pumping one screen out as red, and the other as blue, presumably so that you can wear a pair of old school, red and blue lensed, 3D glasses. I’m not wearing them, but it just so happens that it looks a whole lot worse in plain red.

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Mario’s what?

Moving swiftly on, let’s go ahead and hit good ol’ button ‘A’.

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So, looking here, we have a fairly respectable set of options for 1995. You got your usual Player One Vs Computer stomp, a tournament mode, difficulty levels, and option between either one or three sets. We also get to pick a character, which, honestly, I didn’t expect. We’ve got every character from the Super Nintendo Super Mario Kart available here. Aside from Bowser. But we have ol’ Koopa Troopa, and that’s all I personally need.

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So, naturally, I pick Koopa. Then, in a twist that I stupidly didn’t expect, the game turns around and asks me to pick a computer player. Guess I shouldn’t have expected anything different from the ‘1P vs Com’ option. Let’s pick Tournament instead.

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Much better.

Alright, so we have our seven characters all lined up across the bottom. Dong Jr. gets a free pass and is allowed to move into the semi-final without any kind of competition. What the fuck, Junior? Did your big Dongy Dad pay you in or something? I guess that the son of that clumsy motherfucker needs all the chance that he can get in this tournament.

So, one final tap of that A button. Finally, we can give Mario’s first tennis adventure a good go. I’m actually looking forward to this, it being my first Virtual Boy game and all.

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It’s kind of hard. I completely fucked my first round against Yoshi. Didn’t score a single point against him. It would be unfair to shoot this game down within the first five minutes, though. Like any tennis game, there’s going to be a knack to it. I’ll play a few more practice rounds as Koopa, switch to Peach, and then take this thing proper serious.

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Ten games later.
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Twenty games later. Playing as Dong Junior didn’t help.

Yeah. Safe to say that this one isn’t for me. Being honest with you, it’s not a bad game. You can run around an ‘impressive for handheld 1995’ 3D tennis court. You have all of the standard tennis moves, though some of them are a bit tricky to get off because of they all seem to be movement based. The character sprites, to say that they’re being rendered in a single colour, actually have a ton of detail on them. Even when they’re stood on the other side of the court, you can tell which character is which. Everything is rendered with a surprising amount of clarity, especially considering the technical limitations of the Virtual Boy, and that’s all to be commended. I can’t blame the controls, either, since there’s only two buttons and they both swing the racket, though, again, how you swing the racket is based on how you’re moving around on the court at the time.

The thing that’s screwing me up, honestly, is the complete and total loss of the three dimensional effect that’s supposed to be there, but is pretty much lost the second that you decide to emulate it. It’s spectacularly difficult to get a read on where the ball is at any given time. The issue lies in the fact that it’s rendered in three colours. As you can see in some of the screenshots above, when the ball is particularly close, it splits into two – a red half, and a blue half. When they’re merged together, as they should be, you’d actually be able to get a pretty realistic damn impression of where the ball is, I imagine. Which would allow you to swing for it in time, rather than have it go to the side, or simply bounce behind which happened to me in pretty much every single serve. I’m positive that it looked fantastic on the console. I can imagine that, in a way, the tennis ball itself would look like it was about to smack you in the face. I’m just not getting that on the emulator, for obvious reasons. I’d love to give it a whirl on the actual hardware.

If I were to give it some more time, I’d probably be able to get over it and build up some kind of muscle memory, or my eyeballs would just get used to which ball is the right ball, and I’d probably be able to win a round. As it stands, though, I played this damn thing for over an hour, and I’m not playing any more of it. My eyes hurt, and I can’t even blame it on having the console pressed directly against my optics.

My recommendation? If you happen to own a Virtual Boy, or you have somehow got your hands on one, you can probably do a lot worse than beaming Mario’s Tennis straight into your vulnerable retinas. Since it was only one of twenty-two games released on the fucking thing, though, that ain’t really saying much. On the emulation side of things – unless you’re real damn curious, I wouldn’t recommend it. Just in case you are, though, the emulator that I used was called VBJin, and I used the version found here. As for the ROM, find it yourself – what, do you think that this place is The Pirate Bay or something? No, it’s Atomic Kote, you loon.

Chuck us a follow on Twitter for more. I’m literally desperate for your attention.

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