In the beginning, it was meant to be an original game, but Square Enix felt that it would work well with the Mario label. Square Enix contacted Nintendo, and Nintendo allowed them to use it. 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 Pad, and a special form of passing, which uses the L button. This default control scheme assumes that all players are right-handed, and it can be switched around with the A, B, X, and Y buttons controlling movement and the R 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 L 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.
The game features many characters from the Mario universe both old and new.
- Bowser (unlockable)
- Donkey Kong
- Bowser Jr
- Diddy Kong
- Dixie Kong (unlockable)
- Birdo (unlockable)
- Koopa Paratroopa (unlockable)
- Boo (unlockable)
- Fly Guy (unlockable)
- Black Mage
- White Mage
- Red Coins
- Blue Coins
- Purple Mushrooms
- Lightning Bolts
- ? Blocks
- Green Koopa Shells
- Red Koopa Shells
- Blue Koopa Shells
- Mario Stadium
- Koopa Beach
- Peach Field
- Sunset Beach
- DK Cruiser
- Luigi Stadium
- Daisy Garden
- Malboro Garden
- Wario's Factory
- Jr. Street
- Bowser Castle
- Glare Desert
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.
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- The playable characters' voice clips were recycled from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Super Mario 64 DS, Mario Superstar Baseball, and Mario Kart DS.
- This is Bowser's third appearance as an unlockable character after Mario Golf and Mario Golf: Advance Tour.
- Metacritic score for Mario Hoops 3-on-3. Metacritic. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- GameRankings score for Mario Hoops 3-on-3. GameRankings. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- Gerstmann, Jeff. (September 12, 2006). Mario Hoops 3 on 3 Review. GameSpot. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- Kaluska, Aaron. (October 1, 2006). Mario Hoops 3-on-3 review. Nintendo World Report. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- Harris, Craig. (Septemter 12, 2006). Mario Hoops 3-on-3 Review. IGN. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
- McDonald, Keza. (October 25, 2017). Mario Hoops 3-on-3 review. Eurogamer. Retrieved December 23, 2017.