|Golden Sun: The Lost Age|
North American box art
|Developer(s)||Camelot Software Planning|
|Platform(s)||Game Boy Advance|
Mario Tennis: Power Tour is a Camelot-developed Mario Sports game released on Game Boy Advance in 2005. Central to the tennis game is a story mode featuring RPG elements and an original cast of characters. What makes the game noteworthy from a Golden Sun perspective are extreme similarities in interface and presentation, along with several special effects that are either lifted directly from or bear heavily resemblance to various Psynergy effects in the Golden Sun series.
Mario Tennis: Power Tour is a GBA tennis game classifiable as part of the wide-ranging Mario Sports game series, but it is by no means just a tennis simulator. An arcade-like mode called Exhibition does serve this direct purpose, however, and you can use characters from the Mario series for playing casual tennis matches. All Mario Sports games implement a gameplay system of some sort to wildly differentiate from a normal sports simulator and adhere to the Mario aesthetic, and in this game this manifests in special moves called Power Shots. Characters have their Power Meters fill up over time, and once full they can unleash either an Offensive Power Shot or a Defensive Power Shot. An Offensive Power Shot either shoots the tennis ball forward much faster than normal, gives it propulsional force that "damages" the Power Meter of a character the ball crashes into, or imbues it with a special "magical" property that hinders the opponent receiving the ball, such as knocking that character back several feet or temporarily stunning. A Defensive Power Shot essentially saves you from losing a game by magically allowing you to return a ball otherwise far away enough from you that you can't reach it in time.
The game's main mode is dramatically different from the Exhibition mode, however: An RPG-based story mode called Power Tour that only features the Mario world and characters near its end. Set either in a remote area of the Mushroom Kingdom or in a different area altogether with competing Tennis academies and characters appearing as quite "normal" humans compared to normal Mario characters, Power Tour focuses on a pair of young tennis players starting their careers at the Tennis Academy, a young boy named Clay and a young girl named Ace, and they aspire to become eventual Tennis champions. The cutscene-heavy mode places you in the role of whichever character you choose as your silent protagonist, with the character of the opposite gender being your talkative sidekick throughout the game.
The Power Tour mode has a Role-Playing Game feel to it in that whenever you beat tennis opponents in singles and doubles matches, you gain experience points which you allocate to your two characters so they may level-up, granting them points which can be allocated to a wide variety of tennis-related skills, including serving power, agility, volleying ability, and so on and so forth. This makes them gradually more fearsome tennis players that can easier defeat opponents in higher skill divisions. In addition to the normal tennis matches, there is a slew of radically varied minigames available at a designated Training Center on campus which increase eight additional, separate Power stats on your character, such as running an obstacle couse on a giant conveyer, walking a tightrope holding a pole, and using ESP to help you flip up and match cards very quickly. Levelling up your Power Stats allows you to gain new power shots to equip on your two characters so that they may better combat the powershots opponents at later levels wield.
The game does not necessarily have a real plot, but there is much interaction between characters over the course of the Power Tour mode, which pretty much goes like so: You start off at the bottom of the Junior class and work your way up to the Senior class by winning four matches with Academy students, and repeat this process with the students at the Senior class and then the Varsity class. Once the Varsity class is completed, you automatically are brought to a tournament called the Island Open to represent your Academy and compete against the top players of three other tennis academies. Once you win the Island Open to prove yourself a top player, you will get an invitation from Mario himself to compete in a tennis tournament in Mario World with the famous Mario crew. Beating Mario is the Power Tour's ultimate goal and will lead to the end credits. All of the above is effectively played twice over the course of the mode, once for Singles play and once for Doubles play, and these two portions of the mode can (and should) be played intermittently to build up experience.
Golden Sun influence
Many reviewers and players took notice of the strong resemblances and similarities between this and Camelot's Golden Sun games, which this game was released after. Indeed, practically the whole same development team for Golden Sun consulted on this project, including Hiroyuki and Shugo Takahashi on production and game design, Motoi Sakuraba on music, Shin Yamanouchi on character design, and many others. There are no actual cameos of Golden Sun characters in the game though, even though one of the coach characters is named Alex and wears a blue cap, and while that might be a possible nod to the Golden Sun character of the same name, the Alex in this game previously appeared in a past Mario Tennis game.
Instantly recognizable are the presentation and the audiovisuals. The graphically detailed environments use multiple layers and many animated field sprites in precisely the same way as Golden Sun environments, including objects you can inspect such as closed lockers you can open and bookshelves you can sift through. Talking to NPCs that sometimes wander around aimlessly brings up conversations that are in the same style as Golden Sun cutscenes, including character facial portraits near text boxes wherever applicable, while the character field sprites shake and generate emotion bubbles above their heads, and conversations feature Yes/No decisions that for the most part only affect the conversation itself briefly and have no bearing on actual gameplay. Also, special large-scale orange and green font used for events in this game such as countdown timers return from the Golden Sun games.
Audiowise, the Motoi Sakuraba-composed music for the game uses many of the same instruments and tones as Golden Sun music, including brief pieces of chorus, though there aren't any sound effects lifted from the games other than the "speaking" heard alongside displaying text in cutscenes and the "hop" sound effect that occurs in the cutscenes featuring Mario bouncing.
The most direct tie-ins to the Golden Sun games are some of the special effects that occur during certain Power Shots, which in almost all cases resemble Psynergy:
- The Dragon Shot offensive power shot summons a screenfull of reddish energy and shoots the tennis ball forward engulfed in fire arranged as such that it is the exact sprite as the dragon's head seen in the Fume Psynergy series.
- The Flying Shot offensive power shot causes the user to jump up engulfed in fiery energy and strike the ball falling down with intense force and letting off red energy shrapnel. This is a direct homage to the Planet Diver Psynergy.
- The Stunner Shot offensive power shot causes the user to shoot the ball forward inside a giant image of a white-gloved fist, knocking back an opponent with strong force. Very likely based on the Force Psynergy.
- The Hand-Power Save defensive power shot and its upgraded form Psychic Save causes the user to psychically summon a white hand that telekinetically bring in the faraway ball to the user while the screen's background colors flash different colors. This is most likely the Move Psynergy making a spiritual cameo.
- The character Sheri's offensive power shot generates many orbs of streaming purple energy that look exactly like the purple energy orbs seen in the Ward Psynergy series.
- The character Willy's offensive power shot imbues the tennis ball with magic powers using a large, intricate holographic image that could be a throwback to either the holographic image seen in Excalibur's "Legend" Unleash or the more simplistic image of the Psynergy Seal.
- The character Elroy's offensive power shot summons a spectacular snowstorm to launch the ball forward, and the effect ends in a mass of ice shards that could represent the Prism Psynergy series falling off the screen.
In addition, one of the Power Training minigames, the Instinct Drill, is a minigame where you are to flip face-down cards face-up to match them. To help you complete the round in good time, your character can use ESP to reveal the cards while they are face-down before deciding which ones to flip. This process is effectively the Reveal Psynergy returning in both function and visuals, and holding down the B button increases the telltale circular undulating field of the revealing perception.
An interesting but unrelated thing to note is Waluigi, a Mario-series side character that was created by Camelot Software Planning and made his debut appearance in the original Nintendo 64 version of Mario Tennis. In this game, Waluigi is one of the six Mario characters appearing, and his voice is the one calling out the name "Camelot!" in the startup screen with the Camelot Software Planning logo, but this is his first time appearing in a Mario game without his more famous counterpart Wario. It is because this is a Camelot game that Waluigi appeared instead of Wario. Waluigi and Isaac from Golden Sun both appear as Assist Trophy characters in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, however.
Mario Tennis: Power Tour received very positive reviews. IGN gave the game a 9, praising the RPG aspects of it and the leveling system to improve the characters. GameSpot gave it a 8.5, spotting the variety in the game.