Mario Hoops 3-on-3
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Mario Hoops 3-on-3, also known as Mario Slam Basketball in Europe and Mario Basketball 3on3 in Japan, is a Mario sports game developed by Square Enix for the Nintendo DS. It features Mario and his friends participating in basketball with two competing teams of three characters. This game is the first Mario sports game to be dedicated around basketball. While the game plays with the traditional basketball rules of shooting the ball into a net, various Mario-themed mechanics are incorporated into the game to differentiate from the real sport. For example, players can dribble the ball into ? Panels to obtain coins that better their score whenever a shot is taken, and when on defense, these ? Panels provide Mario series items to use against the opposition. Players can additionally perform Special Shots to ensure that the ball makes it into the hoop. Unlike most other Mario sports titles, Mario Hoops 3-on-3 is controlled entirely by the touchscreen, with nearly all moves using swipe or tapping controls via the Nintendo DS stylus. The game supports local play with multiple cartridges and download play with a single cartridge, and it supports up to four players.
Originally, the game was meant to be an original intellectual property, but Square Enix felt that it would work well if it were a part of the Mario franchise, and so Square Enix contacted Nintendo, who then allowed it to use the Mario label. Due to Square Enix being the developer of this game, this game is the first game that has Mario and Final Fantasy characters appear together as playable characters, in addition to other Final Fantasy elements present in this title.
A follow-up to this game, Mario Sports Mix, also developed by Square Enix, was released for the Wii later on, returning the basketball sport from this game, while also including other sports as other modes.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 plays with traditional basketball controls and rules. Two teams of three characters pit out against each other in a court, dribbling a ball past their opposition. The goal of the game is to amass the most points by shooting the ball into a raised net onto a particular side of the court; in the player's case, the hoop is always ahead of the player rather than behind, even while switching courts. The player's team of three is identified with red colors, while blue colors represent the opponent team's players. Most of the gameplay in this title is controlled by using the touch screen capabilities, such as dribbling the ball, performing dodging movements, and shooting the ball. The only exceptions are moving a character, which is controlled by the , and a special form of passing, which uses the button. This default control scheme assumes that all players are right-handed, and it can be switched around with the , , , and buttons controlling movement and the button for passing for left-handed players in the settings menu.
All matches start at half court, with the center of each team preparing to jump for the ball that Lakitu will release at the start. The player who successfully catches the ball while jumping obtains possession of the ball. While in possession of the ball, players have many various options. Players can move around with the ball, dribbling ? Panels for coins that help them obtain more points if they successfully score a basket or pass the ball towards another teammate. Players can evade attacking opponents by moving the ball away from them via dribbling the ball into a different area than where the opponent will attack. Players can attempt to aim for the hoop by swiping up on the touch screen, though they can increase accuracy of their aim by charging up the ball beforehand. If players run up to the basket and perform a shot, they will dunk the ball into the hoop. If the ball rebounds from the backboard, players can jump up and dunk the ball in to ensure the ball goes through the net. Some evasive maneuvers against opponents include making quick turns to avoid opponents in a pinch, and, while charging, players can move the ball around to prevent steals.
On defense, players can attempt to steal the ball from their opponents, though players can successfully steal the ball only if they swipe directly where the ball is at. When the offensive team is passing the ball, players can intercept passes by either walking in front of their opponent or jumping to retrieve high passes. Jumping can also prevent shots at the basket from being made, and it can retrieve shots that are rebounded from the basket rim. Players can additionally block the dribbling player from going by. When this occurs, a blue force field is formed in front of that character between the dribbling and defensive player and when enough time passes, the shield turns red, meaning players can perform a more powerful steal that can knock any players down regardless of where the ball is. Another attack move is a ground pound-like move, where characters pound the ground to cause their opponent to drop the ball. Sidestepping causes players to make quick, trickier movements to disorient opponents and to help snatch the ball from them. While on defensive, players can run over the same ? Panels that give out coins on offensive to obtain a special defensive item. These items can be used to attack opponent characters, and some of these items are exclusive to some courts in the game. Players can also swap between their teammates with to get in a closer position with the ball handler.
One shot unique to Mario Hoops 3-on-3 are the Special Shots. These are initiated when the player controlling the ball taps the screen below in rapid succession to create a particular symbol. For example, to activate Mario's special shot, the player has to tap the dots that make up the letter "M" on the bottom screen. Each character has a set symbol for them, and they can all be shown in the game's respective practice mode demonstrating the Special Shots, where the shape is outlined. When performing the Special Move, the performing character cannot move and is thus susceptible to opponent attacks. If Special Shots are performed within the 3-point line, they cannot be stopped, though Special Shots performed outside the 3-point line require a teammate to receive the ball and thus can be stopped. If successful, Special Shots are worth more points than regular shots.
Scoring is slightly different in Mario Hoops 3-on-3 than in a real world basketball game. Each shot made is worth 20 points rather than 2 points. Shots made outside of what is normally the 3-point line are worth 30 points (therefore, the basic shot is multiplied by 10 in Mario Hoops 3-on-3). Special shots, regardless of position are worth 40 points. To compound the points, coins received from ? Panel increase the number of points players obtain whenever they score. Regular coins add 1 point each to the score, and red coins add 10 points to the score. Every time a team makes a basket, their coins are reset to zero. Getting hit, either from items or other players, results in some of the player's coins scattering on the field, which can be picked up by anyone, including the character who lost them. The limit to the number of coins one team can have is 100 (therefore the maximum normal score for one shot is 140, and for Jr. Street, the maximum score is 420), and the more coins one has, the more are lost on a hit. If there are no ? Panels, then the shot value is divided by ten, making normal shots worth two points, three-pointers worth three, and special shots worth four.
Matches are played in at least two periods lasting two and a half minutes. At the end of each period, each team's coin count is reset to 0, the teams switch baskets, and another jump-ball at half court is initiated. Whichever team has the most points overall when all periods are finished, wins the match.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 has a total of four modes. In addition to these modes, settings and records can be accessed when players touch the wrench or paper sign the respective Toad is holding up.
The Challenges mode contains both practice modes and then an extra challenge-like mode after completing the main practice mode.
As Mario, players practice basic techniques upon starting the game, then advanced techniques after winning the first tourney (Offense 2 and Defense 2). If a defensive character is needed for practice, it is always Wario.
The following is a table of each lesson, which explains the control mechanism for each move, as well as each exercise to practice the lesson. If the requirement is just a number, the player must do the move that number of times. If it's a time limit, the player has that much time to do that objective (i.e. block a player from dunking).
Practice dribbling commands of players who've mastered their special shots!
Players can practice Special Shots with any player unlocked. It acts like a lesson, with the objective to do the special shot 3 times from anywhere on the court, with two other characters supplied for alley-hoops. In this mode, the specific shape and order needed to make the proper Special Shot with a particular character is always displayed.
Dribble Race (Time Trial)
Get 100 coins from ? panels and head for the goal! Beat the best time!
This extra mode allows the player to pick any character and try to gather 100 coins from ? Panels and cross the finish time in as little time as possible. There are three of these mini-courses, and to unlock the last one, the preset records must be beaten in the first two.
Tourneys are the equivalent of tournaments in the Mario Kart series. After picking a team of three, players go on to compete in a set of matches (2 periods of 2:30 each), each on a different course specific to the tourney. The overall display of the tournament is sprite-based and a traditional Mario-style, where characters stand on blocks and can hit more blocks above them to showcase advancement. When the player beats the first team, the captain hits a block with a Beanstalk in it and gets to climb said Beanstalk, and the losing CPU captain hits a solid Empty Block and starts crying. The gold trophy stands at the top of this screen, with a ? Block below it. The player goes through Round 1, Round 2, and the Finals. Each time the player loses a match, the player can retry as many times as necessary.
When the Final Fantasy team steals the trophy after the Rainbow Cup, the ? Block reveals a beanstalk, which the captain climbs up to the Rainbow Ship, initiating the Extra match.
There are four tourneys, and they nearly follow suit with the Mario Kart series in being named Mushroom, Flower, Star and Rainbow. Once all four tourneys are won, their respective hard mode versions are unlocked. Each of the eight tourneys receives a bronze, silver, or gold trophy (separate from the automatic trophy presented upon winning, this is like a grade on how well the player did). They are determined as follows:
Upon winning the tournament, players have the option to advance to the next tourney. If players complete Rainbow Tourney, the staff credits roll.
Players can choose a team of three characters from a pool of available characters, even the opponent's players if desired (each spot left blank is chosen randomly), and jump into any course played and won in Tourney Mode. There are some settings to alter in the match:
*Unlocked after winning Hard Rainbow Tourney.
After the match, the player can play with the same settings or quit the mode.
This is the multiplayer mode of Mario Hoops. DS Wireless Play includes three modes, while DS Download only includes two of those three.
Mario Hoops Face-off! Game results will be recorded in the player ranking. Win matches to earn points and rank up!
The single mode that is limited to local wireless, Exhibition mode has up to two players to choose their team of 3 players and face off against each other, subject to the default basketball rules and settings as normal Exhibition Mode.
Dribble Race Versus Friends! Nab 100 coins from ? panels and beat everyone to the goal!
Same as Dribble Race Mode, except it is not a time trial: the first to cross the finish line with 100 coins wins. The mode is available to up to four players.
Coin Hunting with Friends! Throw items and scramble for coins! Hold on to coins until the end to win!
This is a non-basketball related mode that draws heavily on Mario Kart's battle mode. Each player (up to 4) starts with 50 coins. Players then use items to reduce the other player's coins. The single player remaining with coins wins. In a three or four-player game, players eliminated early can stick around to annoy players still in the competition (similar to Mario Kart 64). There are four courses; the last two are unlockable by winning five of these battles in a row.
Options and player rank
On each bottom corner of the game's main menu, a Toad can be found holding a sign. The Toad on the left holds a sign with a wrench on it. When clicked on, the players access the option menu. Here, they can view and edit their profile, which consists of their name, rank, multiplayer win rate and record icon, and ball choice. The players can choose any of the playable characters as their icon, which is displayed to their friends. The ball icon brings up a menu in which the players can choose which ball to display as well. This ball will be the one played with in the respective player's games. The other features the options menu allow is to select the player's handedness, allow the help (face) buttons to be used in play, and allow "Call-outs." If "call-outs" is turned on, the player can receive invites from challengers while he or she is in the middle of a game. The other Toad on the main menu brings up the player rank menu if clicked on. Here, the players can view where they rank amongst their friends. They can also view friend's profiles and sort out their friends lists using a "favorites" feature.
The overall gameplay for Mario Hoops 3-on-3 can be controlled using the Stylus or the buttons of the Nintendo DS.
Special Shot Commands
All Special Shot commands can only be executed by using the . Each command must be tapped out twice. The total number of taps with the on the Touch Screen to activate each shot varies depending on the shot command types.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 has twenty-one playable characters, five of them being from Square Enix's Final Fantasy franchise. Ten characters are playable from the start, with the other eleven being unlockable (See the Unlockables section for the methods of unlocking each character). There are five different character types, listed at the side, each character type having its own pros and cons. Additionally, all twenty-one characters have a special move called a Special Shot, with each character having their own unique Special Shot.
Some of the game's unlockable features include costume changes for some of the characters. These costume changes range from completely changing the color of a character to just changing his or her outfit. To activate these costume changes, the player must hold down one of the sides of the after selecting the appropriate character.
Characters with only one costume change
Characters with multiple costume variations
Mario Stadium crowd
The following characters make cameos as distant members of the crowd in Mario Stadium:
The fourth course of each tourney (excluding Rainbow Ship) is an unlockable and can played only in Exhibition Mode. The rest of the courts are played in Tourney Mode as well.
Two minor unlockables, the other courses in Dribble Race and Coin Hunter modes, have already been mentioned in this article. There are many more unlockables in the game, including characters and courses previously mentioned.
From Tourney Mode
Most of the unlockables come from winning trophies in Tourney Mode, including all but one character, costume changes, and most balls. By getting silver or gold on the first try, more than one unlockable can be obtained.
Winning the Rainbow Tourney unlocks Hard Mode, winning the Hard Rainbow Tourney unlocks Pro difficulty in Exhibition matches.
During play, ? Panels always produce items very similar to the Mario Kart series. To use most items, players stroke with the stylus in the direction the item is to be thrown, or simply use the button.
Items for all courts
Offensive and Defensive items
The following items can be used by any player, regardless if he or she is on offense or defense.
The following items are exclusively given to a defensive player who runs over the ? Panel.
Items for specific courts
An original soundtrack that is based on the game is released only in Japan and is published by Square Enix, the same company for the game. It has thirty-one songs from the game.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 was developed by Square Enix, well known for their Final Fantasy franchise and its characters, some which are playable in this game. It is their first Mario-themed game they have developed for the Nintendo DS, the other being the Japan-exclusive Itadaki Street DS later on, which also features Mario characters crossing over with another of Square Enix's IPs, Dragon Quest. Shin Azuma directed the game, who would later reprise his role as a director in Mario Sports Mix, the follow-up title to Mario Hoops 3-on-3. Masayoshi Soken has composed the game's soundtrack, and he would also later compose the soundtrack for Mario Sports Mix.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 has received generally positive to mixed reviews, scoring a 69 on Metacritic based on 40 reviews and a 70.36% based on 42 reviews in GameRankings respectively. General praise has been given towards the game's crisp graphics and animations and the Mario-themed take towards the sport to make it feel different from other basketball games, though the touchscreen-centric controls have been a major point of contention, with reviewers either thinking that it adds to the gameplay or that it subtracts from it. Another common criticism is that the game lacks replay value and is very light on content, and the lack of online play makes this game difficult for users to pick up again. Many have also expressed criticism toward the attributes and skills of the Final Fantasy characters, saying that they are overpowered compared to that of the rest of the roster.
Jeff Gerstmann from GameSpot gave the game a 7.1 out of 10. Gerstmann has praised the game for the innovative touch-screen based controls, the Mario-themed environments and hazards in the courts and the game's graphics, though has criticized the game for its lack of content, the repetitive single player mode, the lack of variety of sound clips and animations, and the lack of online play, where the download play has only "tedious minigames". He has recommended the game to people who wish to play in local multiplayer modes, but has advised for solo players to ignore the title due to lack of longevity. Aaron Kaluszka of Nintendo World Report gave the game a 7.5 out of 10. He has stated that the game feels awkward at first that it controls entirely with the touchscreen, though has remarked that after a few minutes of play, the controls start to feel intuitive. He has additionally praised the game's graphics and sound, calling the presentation "fun". Some criticisms of the game he has was with the game AI, saying that the game feels like "Mario Hoops 3-on-3 often plays more like Mario Hoops 1-on-3." as AI teammates "don’t really do much besides stand around waiting for a pass." and the game's multiplayer, limited to only two player offline play and four player support only being available in Mario Party style minigames.
Craig Harris of IGN gave the game a 6.8 out of 10, criticizing the touch-centric control scheme, saying, "This new touch screen control works but it sort of lacks immediate response, giving it a soft, mushy feel -- a stylus stroke isn't as quick as a simple button press. Even if the touchscreen control offers more variety on the court, it just doesn't feel as satisfying as it should be. Some touch screen controls are more complicated than you'd expect -- special moves need to be tapped out in a specific pattern twice, maneuvers that feel too disconnecting from the rest of the ball-handling control." He has also criticized the method to collect coins, calling dribbling on the ? Panels to obtain coins to score more points, saying that "this game boils down to just how long can you hold onto the ball and tap squares as fast as possible." Another criticism of his was the game's AI, saying that the AI is stupid to let players score while they sit around in the early game, though the game has a difficulty curve and it takes time to reach challenging opponents. One praise of the game that Harris offered were its bright, colorful, and detailed graphics, especially for Nintendo DS standards. Keza McDonald of Eurogamer, giving the game a 6 out of 10, has echoed similar thoughts regarding the enemy AI, saying that they just stand there, and they cannot prevent steals until Hard mode. Another common complaint was the lack of online play and a viable single-cart option mode, though McDonald has praised the touch control scheme.
References to other games
References to later games
Names in other languages