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Mario Slam Basketball is a fast, challenging and action packed 3 on 3 basketball game. In single player mode you select a team consisting of 3 of the popular Nintendo characters from the 'Mario and Luigi' genre and challenge a team of 3 other characters in a game of basketball with a difference.
In this game there are no set scores for scoring a basket. Points are awarded for dribbling the ball over '?' boxes on the court floor and collecting coins on the way to either placing or slam-dunking the ball in to the opponents basket. This is the only game of basketball I know of whereby it is possible to score over 100 points with one slam-dunk.
The court contains 'weapons' that you can use on your opponents and that your opponents can use on you. In true Mario genre style there are red and green shells that can be picked up and thrown to render another character useless for a split second. In addition there are walking bombs that will suddenly walk in front of your character when you are on the way to making a stylish slam dunk and explode just before you get a chance to complete the manoeuvre and score.
Initially you can choose 3 out of 10 popular characters from the 'Mario and Luigi' genre of computer games. The characters include Mario, Luigi, Wario, Warluigi, Princess Peach (in pink clothes), Princess Peach (in yellow clothes), Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Yoshi and Bowser. All characters have their individual skill set as follows;
i) Technical skills
These characters are skilful and are good at dribbling and ball. Characters with this trait include Princess Peach (in pink clothes), Princess Peach (in yellow clothes) and Warluigi
ii) Powerful players
These characters are strong and are the best characters to steal the ball from opponents and blocking opponents from stealing the ball from you. Characters with this trait include Wario and Donkey Kong.
iii) Speedy players
These characters are fast and able to sprint away from opponents and make quick dashes towards the basket. Characters with this trait include Bowser and Diddy Kong.
iv) All round players
All round characters are not strong in a particular area and are average at everything. These characters will lose out in situations where it is up against a character with a single strength. For example a powerful character will quickly win the ball from an all rounder, a technical character will dribble around an all rounder and a speedy character will out sprint an all rounder.
All round characters include Mario, Luigi and Yoshi.
In order to be successful you need to put together a team with the appropriate skill set. Whilst this is easy in the earlier levels of the game it does actually get quite difficult as you progress through the game.
The graphics are superb. All the characters are bright, colourful (just like the originals) and easily identifiable. Like the characters, the court and background share the same vivid colours. There are no 'blocky' graphics here.
Despite the good graphics the playability is not compromised and the game is fast and furious, which surprised me. I thought that this would have been too much of a challenge for the DS but there are no problems here at all.
Like all games of the Mario genre there is 'cheesy' music and individual sound effects from each character. Whilst not too bad I did find it annoying after a couple of hours of game play.
Personally, I would like to see sound effects found in the NBA Jam basketball game on the Megadrive back in the year dot. The commentary was great including "He's on fire!", "Is it the shoes?", "Boom-shack-alack!" and the like. I guess if this commentary was included this game would not be a 'true' Mario genre game.
Mario Slam Basketball makes full use of the DS touch screen as well as the directional pad. There are left and right handed modes to make this possible, and I only found this out after 5 minutes of struggling in getting to grips with the controls.
The characters are moved around the court using the directional pad (if playing in right handed mode) or the A, B, X and Y buttons (if playing in left handed mode).
The stylus and touch screen is used to dribble the ball, shoot, pass the ball, block opponents from stealing the ball, stealing the ball from opponents and making the characters jump.
The L button (in right handed mode) and R button (in left handed mode) is used to change players within the team.
The controls are complex and it is difficult to get the hang of them at first. This is not helped by the speed of the game meaning it is easy to become 'lost' and the ball is down the other end of the court before you even realise it has been stolen from you. However, persevere and practice and the game will become more enjoyable.
In order to hone the skills required to play the game, there is a practice mode. This allows you to practice all manoeuvres including slam-dunking, stealing the ball, dribbling the ball and protecting the ball. This feature is only useful to a certain extent since the practice pace is far slower than that of the game mode. The only way to really improve is to keep playing the tournaments.
In this game you can either play simple 3 on 3 with Mario basketball rules, in single games, or you can play in a tournament. When playing in tournament mode you will be awarded either a gold, silver or bronze trophy depending on how much you win by.
By winning certain trophies there will be bonus features unlocked.
As you progress through the game there are additional features unlocked including more characters, different courts and different balls.
The only negative I can think of is there is not an online mode, although I can live without this.
****Price and availability****
Released in early 2007 getting hold of a copy of this game will not be too difficult. According to Lovefilm the RRP for this game is currently £29.39, although the same site sells it for £28.93. I would recommend shopping around though because following a very quick review on the internet I have found a copy from Amazon for £22.89.
This is a great game that will provide hours of entertainment. It remains true to the underlying concept of the Mario genre games in that is focuses on fun and playability, however, the graphics are in no way compromised in achieving this.
Nintendo have also kept the concept of collecting coins for additional points, as well as providing weapons in the form of red and green shells, just like when the first Mario Brothers was released on the NES back in the late 1980s. Whilst the concept is over 20 years old it is still great fun and whilst some people may think it should be changed I am a firm believer of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and this definitely is not broken.
It takes time and patience to learn the controls and keep up with the speed of play. It is easy to get lost and you will find that your opponents would have stolen the ball and scored a basket before you even know what had happened! To overcome this you need to be able to switch team players quickly and at the right time. This also takes a lot of practice.
The trick here is to persevere and not get too disheartened when it takes ages to win a game. When you finally do learn the game and how to dribble like a pro, pass the ball and finish it off with a super slam-dunk that Michael Jordan would be proud of and earn massive points along the way it is a great sense of achievement.
The game can get very fast and frantic with a lot going on at the same time. The walking bombs and your opponents trying to throw shells at you, as well as trying to steal the ball all add to the chaos.
I would recommend this game, but it is not a game suitable for younger players. I would not even contemplate giving this to my co DS reviewer (my five year old nephew) since it is far too complicated for him and he would not have a clue.
However, it is a game that I will keep for when he's older since I think this game, like the Mario Brothers and Mario Kart before it, will stand the test of time and will be just as enjoyable in 10 more years time.
About the game
Mario 3 on 3 Hoops is a basketball game for the Nintendo DS.
Published in 2006 by Nintendo the game features a selection of your favourite characters from Mario's World and battle those 3 players against three in a traditional game of basketball set over several different play courts and landscapes.
There are two main modes of play in the game; battle and tournament. The battle mode is used for a quick "one-off" game whereas the tournament mode is a cup challenge where you must win a series of three matches to win the tournaments cup.
Regardless of mode chosen, each game is played over 2 periods that last 2 and a half minutes each. At the end of the first period you change to the opposite side of the playing field. Despite this change you still play in an upwards direction and play towards a basket at the top of the upper screen.
The game starts with your chance to select your team of 3 players from a selection of Nintendo characters. There are about a dozen characters to choose from initially but more are unlocked as you progress through the game.
Each character has a specialised strength on the playing field. For example Donkey Kong has great strength and can barge the opposition out of the way and quickly win any engagement or tackle of the opposition whereas in contrast the slender Super Monkey Ball character MiMi may lack the power of the great ape but does have super fast speed and can easily whiz around the court without challenge.
Once you have selected your team the Nintendo then select its team of three from the remaining characters. And the game is ready to start.
The aim of the game is to accrue as many points as possible by throwing the basketball through the oppositions hoop within the 5 minutes of playing time.
The game is played on a court that varies from Level to Level, but familiar scenes such as Jungles, Beaches and traditional Basketball courts are all represented. The layout of the court is traditional with standard court markings and a basket at each end of the playing field.
In addition to the usual court markings there are several yellow squares marked by a question mark scattered across the court. The function of these squares varies depending on whether you have the ball in your possession or not. If the ball is in your possession and you dribble the ball on top of the square then you are given additional coins (I'll explain the relevance of these later). If you don't have the ball in your possession and active a yellow square then you will be presented with a random power up or weapon that can be used against the opposition to gain back possession of the ball.
So, a typical game may go something like this -
The whistle for the first 2 and a half minute period of play has started and the ball is dropped into play. You use offensive moves to gain possession of the ball and then run towards the nearest yellow square to dribble the ball on. Constant dribbling on this square adds coins to your characters counter. You then run to the basket and slam dunk the ball in to the net and it's a goal!
It's at this point that the importance of collecting coins becomes apparent; for each basket you score you get 20 points plus the number of coins collected. This means that it can be possible to score in excess of 50 points per basket.
After 2 and a half minutes is over the 1st period of play ends and the second begins.
The time remaining in each period is displayed onscreen as are the scores of each team. After 5 minutes of play the game is over and the team with the highest amount of points is the winner.
There are several ways of scoring a basket and this can range from long shots, power shots or a slam dunk which are all controlled by a series of different stylus moves.
Of course there are times when you will have lost possession of the ball and need to regain the ball or protect your basket from the opposition. This can be done through a series of defensive and offensive moves that are all styli controlled. To get the ball off the opposition you can swipe it from them with a horizontal styli swipe on the screen. The more power your character has the easier this move becomes. Gathering power ups such as tortoise shells to through at the opposition can be equally as effective!
So that's a feel of how the game plays. The key aspect is the selection of your team and their particular attributes. For the easier levels I found that having Donkey Kong or Wario in my team to be a good choice as their brute strength made swiping the ball from the opposition a breeze. This team of characters became less effective though as the game progressed and the computer controlled team of fast runners left my team perspiring and without the ball (or score!) for the majority of a match!
The tournament matches are a series of three matches that increase in difficulty. The game play is the same as detailed above and a successful run of three matches will win you a cup and may unlock further items or characters to play. The better score that you accumulate will result in a better cup being presented.
In addition to the main modes of play there is a challenges section that has a few challenges such as dribbling your ball and collecting stars against the clock. More importantly in this section is the practice and training mode that is essential if you haven't played the game before as there are numerous styli movements required to master the many offence and defence skills.
The final mode is Wireless play that enables you to play a battle game head-to-head wirelessly against a friend. The game offers DS Download or Multi-Cart play options.
Sound, control and graphics
The music in the game is computer generated, upbeat and laced with Nintendo character samples. The characters are all well represented and the Italian quips of Mario and the helium yelps of Yoshi are all present. The sounds really sparkle and compliment the graphics perfectly.
The controls are the trickiest part of the game in my opinion. The movement of the characters are done using the Control Pad however the players' offence and defence moves are all made by stylus swipes. This presented me with a problem as it means that you have to hold the console with one hand and control the characters movement at the same time whilst swiping the stylus across the touch screen with the other hand. It's not impossible; it's just a little awkward. Fortunately Nintendo have added the option to alternatively use the buttons rather than the screen for the offence and defence moves however this only covers a few of the moves and limits your on and off ball control. Once you have mastered the console balancing you will find that the controls are instant and perform brilliantly making game play fun and responsive.
The graphics are bright, colourful and wonderfully drawn and have that professional look that Nintendo's Mario titles are renowned for. The 3d landscapes and play court areas all move quickly with slowdown or jitter and the characters look like they have been transported straight out of a cartoon movie - fantastic!
Nintendo have done it again and produced another classic Mario title.
The combination of lush graphics, great music and most of all excellent playability make this game a guaranteed winner. My only minor gripe is the control system can take a while to adjust to and prove awkward at times. Problems aside, whether you choose to play a quick singles match, a longer tournament challenge or a wireless game against your mates the game still oozes fun.
A super hooper game!
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Get that magic touch. There are plenty of basketball games out there, but none with the hands-on control of Mario Hoops 3-on-3. Players use the touch screen to get their game on as they execute tricky dribbles, special passes and sweet shots ? all with strokes and taps of the stylus.