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Mario Hoops 3 on 3 Review
by Doom and John Madden
Kart racing! Baseball! Tennis! Golf! Soccer! And now basketball. Surely Nazi fans of the plumber and his pals will look at this new Nintendo DS title in disgust, accusing Mario of "selling out to the niggers". Maybe they're right. Maybe Nintendo is whoring out Mario to other companies for unnecessary sports games for no reason other than the ever-present cha-ching. Indeed, perhaps the "niggers" and the "Jewish conspiracy" do involve themselves in the making of a new Mario sports title. I doubt it, though. What Mario Hoops 3 on 3 really is is a nice portable basketballer which will keep you busy on bus rides and every other long period of waiting on a transport vehicle, and believe me, as a college student, I get a fucking ton of it.
In a magical world of whimsy, a basketball game is held to determine the fate of the universe. With the help of some celebrity friends, th-oh, wait, I'm thinking of Space Jam. Ah, yes, that underrated gem where Charles Barkley FINALLY unleashed his raw acting talent on the world. Mario Hoops 3 on 3 has nothing to do with Space Jam, fortunately. There's no story to speak of, no magical Mushroom Kingdom hoops tourney, no Ron Artest throwing TVs at people, no shoe deals and most importantly no Shaquille O'Neal as a playable character (or at least I hope). Who the fuck cares, it's a Mario game (SAVE PRINCESS AGAIN...FROM STOCKHOLM SYNDROME) and a fucking sports game. Play basketball, sink three point shots, enjoy.
The gameplay is fairly simple yet wildly differently from what is traditionally considered NBA basketball. Consider it the XFL version of basketball, if the XFL never tanked and didn't suck. Instead of 2 pointers and 3 pointers, the easiest shot gets 20 points, with the point numbers increasing from there on out. Points are added by dribbling on parts of the court noted by question mark spots, very similar to the question mark blocks in Super Mario Bros. (gee, I wonder why). The games last 5 minutes, with scores often reaching into the 300 point realm (damn West Coast offense!). Oh, and, of course, 3 players on each team as opposed to the traditional five. We're going into street ball territory here, people! These variations make it easier to play without all the regulations and penalties which slow down NBA play. I never saw Lebron dribble an M into the court to score extra points (Mario, conversely, can and will do such a thing)!
THROW UP THE BEEF HOME FRIES
For single player, there are traditional exhibition and tournament modes which are to be expected from every Mario sports franchise entry. Tourney mode starts off easy and gets considerably more difficult when hard mode is unlocked. With hard mode, the AI does a better job of using the counter-moves offensively and defensively. Included also are mini-games which neither challenge nor entertain. Mario Hoops 3 on 3 was developed by Square-Enix, which to this day continues to fucking confuse me. The makers of the Final Fantasy franchise? Really? Really? I guess it explains why Final Fantasy characters are included in the group of playable characters. And why I had a hard time determining Mario's gender. And why between half periods, long FMV cutscenes unfold to elaborate on the flimsy and retarded story (to be serious, the graphics are fucking nice. N64 level or better, folks). Finally, a game where the White Mage can dunk! Speaking of playable, the rest of the talent pool consists of the usual suspects: Mario, Luigi, DK, Yoshi, Bowser, Bowser Jr., Wario, etc. Likewise, the courts are on par with the usual 'fucked up craziness' of arenas in Mario sports titles. The same old, same old, when it comes to the magic Mario Sports Formula, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, Tennis and Golf rock, don't they?
And here's John Madden, because this is an article related to sports and John Madden always is on hand to make sports-related jokes.
Good day to you, sports fans! John Madden here, and I'm a little out of my element, covering basketball instead of football! After all, John Madden is no Marv Albert (John Madden wears only men's clothing)! I'll still try to soldier on and provide my unique blend of commentary and Maddenisms, though! Okay. Basketball! Basketball was invented in the late 19th century by James Naismith. He used a peach basket instead of a hoop and used black telegram boys to fish the ball out of the peach basket when a point was scored. As years passed, those black telegram boys went on to become the stars of the NBA (National Basketball Association) and white men were relegated to background duties, such as coaching, general managing, owning, and every other non-player facet of the sport. What does this have to do with Mario and his colorful cohorts and their zany sporting antics? Well, Mario Hoops 3 on 3 is not in any way similar to the NBA! Where's the scouting of young teenagers for the NBA draft? The shoe contracts? Drugs and weapons charges? The overexcessive playoff system? The reliance on dunking opposed to fundamentals and dribbling? The lack of passing the ball? As an NBA fan, this is a massive disappointment for the Mario franchise. Square-Enix missed this one like Shaq misses free throws - badly. The only people who are going to buy this are WNBA fans (all 0 of them), Nintendo fans and children. BOOM! TOUGH ACTIN' MADDENACTIN!
Where Mario Hoops 3 on 3 falters lies in the control scheme and its unwieldy nature. It is one of the very few to allow for two entirely different styles - one through using the stylus and the other through using the regular buttons to control your character. The stylus control is simple in theory but much harder in practice. Essentially, the player touches the stylus on the part of the court they want their character to dribble the ball on. Right to dribble right, left to dribble left, behind to dribble behind, etc. Same thing for passing. Move the stylus left to right (or vice versa) whilst holding the left trigger to pass to the character on the left or right. For scoring, move the stylus from bottom to the top of the lower screen. The problem with it is the alternate is so much easier to use I had trouble playing with the stylus control scheme without lapsing into the button oriented one. The alternate utilizes the A/B/X/Y for jumping, passing and dribbling on offense and blocking, grabbing, etc. on defense, the direction pad moving the character around as usual. This is incredibly easy compared to the stylus version, it's hard not to use it.
Unlike Mario Golf and Mario Tennis, the replay value is lowered considerably in Mario Hoops 3 on 3. Once you finish all the tournaments, nothing is left in the way of a reason to keep playing. The AI gets boring after a while because it utilizes the same few strategies over and over again, with no real effort to change things up to keep you guessing. Better AI certainly would've helped replayability. There are not enough modes to sustain interest and, again, the mini-games are akin to chewing broken glass were you not to have any teeth whatsoever. While the controls may annoy and befuddle initially, the lack of replay value is what really hurts this baller's chances of catching on with the market. Sure, it fills a niche, but truly great basketball games are ones so fun they stay fun no matter how many times you've played it.
Mario Hoops 3 on 3 isn't a game so good you need to go out and buy it at a store immediately, but for what it is, it's beyond serviceable (aka it's a very (and perhaps only) good basketball title starring plumbers and egg spitting dinosaurs). It's especially serviceable when playing against another human being (unfortunately no Wi-Fi support, the only way to do real multiplayer is have a friend with a copy of the game as well). If looking for a title to sustain you for the long haul, I suggest you look elsewhere; Mario Hoops 3 on 3 disappoints on providing a sufficiently long experience. Still, I see promise for the sequel to turn a good one into a great one if Square-Enix remembers to improve the AI and not overpower Final Fantasy characters just for the sake of stroking their egos. A nice, crazy arcade basketball game with room for improvement but enjoyable for pick-up Nintendo DSing nonetheless.
How many needles of black tar heroin to make this game good?: 1 for
the Square-Enix factor