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September 11, 2006



- Light-hearted and fun gameplay

- Outstanding graphics

- Stylus control works well most of the time, and alternate controls are available



- A fair bit of cheesiness

- Occasionally touch opponent AI and dimwitted team AI

- Multiplayer options are lacking



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Mario Hoops 3-on-3

Score: 7.5 / 10


While it's easy to blame Nintendo for pimping out their franchises, the resulting games usually turn out to be pretty good. It's taken them awhile, but they've finally hit up basketball as their next sport of choice. Except it's skipped the consoles and gone straight to the DS. More shockingly, it was developed by Square-Enix, not exactly known for its sports games. But the end result is surprisingly decent.


mairo hoops 3-on-3          mario hoops 3-on-3


Mario Hoops' big innovative is the use of the touch screen for gameplay. You move your character with the directional pad, and choose between players with the left shoulder button, but the rest of the actions are performed with the stylus. To dribble in different directions, just rapidly tap the screen. To shoot, stroke upward. To pass, make a motion towards the side that you want to pass to. Things work similarly on defense, as you can try to steal the ball by stroking downward, or create a barrier by scratching rapidly. This all might crazy, but it




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works surprisingly well most of the time. However, to really get all of the nuances, you'll need to sit through an exhaustingly long tutorial. It's also way too easy to try to pass the ball and end up accidentally shooting. If the touch controls become too unwieldy, the help buttons allow you use a more standard control scheme, unlike some other recent DS games (you hear me, Starfox Command?)



Like any of the Mario sports games, each match is more about wacky hijinks than serious basketball. For example, each basket is worth at least twenty points. You can obtain coins by either dribbling on question mark boxes littered or smacking them from your opponents, which will net you greater points whenever you score. This gives the game an odd sense of pacing, since it's much more advantageous to run around the backcourt and grabbing some cash, as opposed to simply making a beeline towards the basket. Obviously, the more time you spend trying to make some dough, the higher risk that your opponent will pull out a turtle shell or some other weapon to steal the ball and make a quick score of their own.


There's a fair bit of cheapness, which is to be expected in games like this. If your opponent gets an invincibility star, forget it -- that's pretty much a ticket to a free basket. Some of the courts are particularly annoying, as they tend to throw random crap at you from out of nowhere, and it's maddening to play on the ice level. It's impossible to make standard jump shots without charging for a few seconds, so it's easy for your opponent to swing by and knock the ball out of your hands. It's much easier to try to make a slam dunk, but even then, some of the more tenacious AI components can knock you out in midair pretty easily. They almost always have perfect aim, and most of the time, the only way to avoid getting smacked by something is to pass to one of your teammates. That's pretty much all they're useful for, because they certainly don't do anything other than standing in set formations, waiting to be selected.


mario hoops 3-on-3          mario hoops 3-on-3


Playing with friends should theoretically eliminate any of the problems with computer controlled allies or enemies, but there's no download play outside of some crappy minigames. There's no internet wi-fi gaming either, which drastically reduces the game's playability. As such, the only real thing that keeps the single player game interesting are the unlockable Final Fantasy characters, which include faces like the Black Mage, White Mage and Ninja from the NES games, as well as the Moogles and Cactaurs. The standard cup isn't too difficult, but the difficulty level ramps up severely from there, with some of the challenges being absolutely absurd.


On the plus side, Mario Hoops looks amazing. It's far beyond Mario 64 in terms of visuals, and would almost look better than a lot of PSP games, if it weren't for the lower resolution. All of the stages are colorful representations of classic Mario stages, usually accompanied by appropriate music.


Basketball fans will mostly be put off of the strange mechanics of Mario Hoops, but this game isn't for them anyway. Each game barely lasts more than five minutes, making it an ideal pick-up-and-play game, and the arcade feel is likely to impress even sports games haters. Despite the lacking multiplayer options and the annoying AI, Mario Hoops is a pretty solid game, and hopefully we'll see a console-sized rendition in future.


- Kurt Kalata

(October 27, 2006)


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