Early next month, everyone will be able to get their hands on the latest Mario Sports title, Mario Hoops 3 on 3. I recently got my hands on a brand new Noble Pink DS Lite, and since Mario Hoops had just been released, I decided to get it. Mario Hoops 3 on 3 is quite anticipated in North America, and it is one of the big DS releases in September.
I got my import DS Lite and game early this week and spent some time with it to bring you this one of a kind preview. I’m sure most of you want to know if this game is worth the 40 dollars or not, so after nearly a week with the game, here is my hands-on preview.
I have to admit that I had a few doubts about this game when it was first announced. I know that Mario games are usually good, especially the sports games, but look at Square-Enix’s track record, and you can see that most of their non-RPG efforts have been unsuccessful. But then, on the other hand, Nintendo is publishing the title, and we all know that they wouldn’t publish a game unless they knew it was a quality title. So while I’ve been sceptical the whole time this game was in development, I still decided to at least give it a chance and see what the result would be.
So I had the game for now 1 week, does it still hold up? Actually, I’m still on the fence here about whether or not I still want to play it or if I am going to get another game right now to replace it. Fact is that while it is fun for the first few hours, it kind of gets old pretty quick. I played through the whole tutorial and learned how the game worked and thought it was an interesting way to play basketball. There are numerous moves you can do, but they all make sense and while at first, it seems like a daunting task to learn everything, once you’ve gone through the tutorial it gets stuck in your head immediately. The game is really easy to get into, and it uses only the d-pad and 1 button, and of course the DS’s touch screen.
So for example, if you want to shoot the ball to the top right corner, you will slide the stylus from a bottom left corner of the screen to the top right corner, to shoot behind you from top to bottom… I think you guys get the point here. And if you do the exact same move while holding the L button, it will instead pass the ball to one of your teammates. You can also tap the screen to dribble and the faster you do it, the faster your character will do it, and where you tap the screen will also change the position of the ball around your character to protect it from other players. And to dunk, you do exactly as if you would shoot, but you do it closer to the basket.
When you are playing defensive, sliding the stylus from bottom to top will make you jump, and the opposite will make your character try to grab the ball from others. You can also slide it from left to right or right to left to spin really fast, and there are also tons of another move you can perform, but as you can hopefully see, it is kind of intuitive, and even if you’d happen to forget one of those moves, when you start thinking about it you can figure them out by yourself.
While I know that there are tons of basketball games on consoles and that they all play really well even without a touch screen and a stylus, being able to do all the traditional basketball moves without the use of buttons and also having more control on the ball, it makes the game easier for less experienced gamers and also more fast paced. A lot more, actually!
So with all that out of the way, let’s concentrate more on the gameplay itself. The way the game works is that you have to get as many coins as you can, and then get the ball in the basket as you would in any other basketball game. The catch here is that when you score, you get 20 points instead of 2 or 3, but you can also get more. The way you do it is by dribbling the ball over coin blocks, or should I call them squares, on the ground. The more you do, the more coins you get and those get added to your score. So that means that instead of going straight to the end of the court and score, you might want to run around and get a few more coins. I’ve been able to score over 80 points at a time so it makes the gap between your score and the opponent’s bigger a lot faster than normal, and will oblige him/her to take a risk and get as much coins as possible. This adds a little strategic side to this otherwise arcade oriented basketball game. Add to the twist Mario Kart style weaponry like shells and stars as well as banana peels and others and you’ve got one crazy basketball game here!
You have different modes of play, with the first one being of course tournament mode. You have 4 main cups being the same ones you see in every Mario game- Mushroom, Flower, Star and Rainbow. Each one of them has different basketball courts. With some of them offering different gameplay mecanics. For example, in one you have to shoot the ball in a Piranha plant’s mouth, or in another stage you will play underwater so you move slower. One stage I liked a lot was in the mansion from Luigi’s Mansion as ghosts could grab the ball as you’d throw it. Of course there are others, but what would be the point of spoiling it all to you? This is a preview after all! But anyway, the goal in tournament mode is to win of course, and depending how you perform you will get the bronze, silver or gold cup instead. I should also state that by finishing the game on easy, you unlock hard, and after finishing hard you unlock an even harder mode of play. Each cup consists of 3 matches, while the 4th one has an additional stage, so it doesn’t take too much time to complete.
Besides that you can just play a single game against the cpu, or you can also play mini games. They are really simple though and once you’ve tried them once you probably won’t go back. The goal in those is to get hold of 100 coins and then cross the finish line. You have 3 different ones, which you can unlock by beating the game’s time. I played the mini games for roughly 30 minutes and haven’t played them since so that shows you how much “fun” they are.
There is also a multiplayer mode, but that is where I was the most disappointed with this game. They at least included one, but honestly, it really sucks! You can play against your friends in mini games, but you can’t even play real games! What’s the point of adding a multiplayer mode if you can’t play the main game with your friends, especially since the mini games are so bad! And if you’ve been following the development of this game closely, you should also remember that it was supposed to include standard multiplayer modes, but also wifi play. Multiplayer is the reason you keep playing a game like this one once you’ve unlocked everything, and without any decent multiplayer modes, it gets old really fast!
And one last point I’d like to add is that the game’s AI is incredibly good! This is the kind of game that made me swear and scream at my DS thinking the cpu was cheating! I played on easy and thought it was too simple, but once you get to hard, the difficulty level increases so much that at points I would just put my DS away as it became nearly impossible at times, as if the game’s AI was doing everything perfectly and performing moves I could only dream of doing myself. Really, because this game offers so many possibilities, it manages to pull them all at once in game and unless you practice a lot with the title, you will have a hard time finishing the game 100%.
While I was really excited at first when I got the game, one week later, I am already thinking about putting it aside and getting something else. I’ve unlocked most of the fun stuff and nothing has me interested in this title anymore. It’s nice of SquareEnix to have added a Final Fantasy stage as well as several characters like the mages and also Moogles, but they just change the look of the game itself, not the way it plays. We’ll see what my opinion of the game is one month from now, but right now I feel this game is average at best. Some people might find it really fun, but I wish Camelot was still working with Nintendo and had developed this game since I feel it would have been much better.