Mario Tennis Aces on Switch
I’m not sure if the Mario Tennis games have ever had any pressure lobbed onto them, but it does feel a little different this time around with Mario Tennis Aces. Nintendo has staggered their major first-party games as such so that each of them get their own moment in the spotlight. Couple that with the immense popularity of the Nintendo Switch, and with the fact that the last home console game Ultra Smash was so terrible, and you’ll have a situation where a lot more eyes are on this cute tennis game than there normally would be. Luckily, Mario Tennis Aces comes up strong for the most part with only a few stumbles along the way.
If you’re not playing with others either online, or locally with friends, your first stop will then likely be the game’s Adventure mode, AKA its campaign. The story follows Mario (you can only play as Mario) as he goes on a journey to collect five power stones across an island where all matters are settled over a game of tennis. It sounds silly, but to be honest, our world would be a safer place if that’s how things were. Anyway, he’s doing this because an evil tennis racket has possessed his partner Luigi, along with Waluigi and Wario, and he has to rescue all of them and save the island from falling under this evil tennis racket god’s wrath. The story is totally nonsensical, even by Super Mario standards, but at the same time, it’s incredibly unlikely anyone is buying this game to experience a rich story.
More important is the content within the story. You’ll travel across various parts of the island each with their own theme such as forest, or ice. Every section contains unique courts and challenges, each of which are designed to throw a wrench into what are, in a lot of ways, tried and true tennis mechanics.
The courts are a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great that there are zany courts that force you to adapt to really silly things such as a piranha plant eating up your return and spitting it back at you. Sitting around with a group of friends and playing on courts like that is a blast, especially if everyone is competitive and has a few drinks in ’em. On the flip side though, some missions that feature them in the campaign can be incredibly frustrating. Despite appearances, Mario Tennis Aces can be quite challenging at times during Adventure mode. Which is great when it’s playing fair, but some of these courts are too much. Perhaps the simplest, but the worst, is a pirate ship court that has a giant mast down the middle. Aesthetically, it’s awesome. But when you’re up against a tough AI, and you’re having to constantly deal with balls bouncing off the mast, careening in the opposite direction into an impossible to reach location, you’ll want to pull your hair out. I don’t have any left, but if I did, they’d be gone after playing on some of these courts in Adventure.
Adventure also features a wide variety of challenges and missions, which is great considering some of the previous installments were light on content. There are boss battles, training-like challenges that force you to demonstrate mastery of the game’s mechanics, and even puzzle-like encounters. There’s a ton to see. What also varies is their level of enjoyment. I experienced missions that were dull, incredibly creative, frustrating, immensely satisfying and challenging, and everything in-between. So, it does have some flaws for sure, but overall, the majority of your time in Adventure will be fun.
Where Mario Tennis Aces shines in its simple, yet deep gameplay that is best experienced with a group of friends. At first, it will feel similar to the tried and true Mario Tennis gameplay. New to this iteration are mechanics such as Zone Shots and Zone Speed, which slow down time for you to line up a powerful shot or line up a return respectively. If your timing is off returning Zone Shots, you’ll damage your racket. Damage your racket too much, and it will actually break, and if that happens, the match is over, you lose. Also, each character has new Trick Shots that you can use to get to normally impossible to reach balls, and keep them alive. This also charges up an energy meter that you use to pull most of what I just mentioned off.
All of these mechanics mesh together beautifully to create an ultra wacky, but also super deep and complicated tennis experience and it’s as satisfying to watch two good players go at it as it is to play. The ball flies around at super speeds back and forth with slow motion dives, and you can literally moonwalk across the court behind the back saves to keep rallies alive. And, depending on how many rackets a game starts with, you have the unique never before seen drama of someone literally not being able to play anymore as the health on their last one runs low.
Editor’s note: We were not able to properly access Mario Tennis Aces’ online features properly prior to this review’s release and was not factored into the score. If, after launch, our experience greatly impacts our opinion of Mario Tennis Aces either positively or negatively, we will update this review.
All in all, Mario Tennis Aces offers up plenty to keep single players busy, but playing with friends takes everything the game does well up a big notch. It was so much fun playing 2v2 doubles with the Twinfinite staff in preparation for review. If someone was recording us, Nintendo could have easily used us for a commercial. We split up two sets of Joy-Cons and we were were yelling, screaming, laughing for hours over some Mario Tennis Aces. So if you’re just purely playing it for its single-player, it’s kind of a mixed bag of pleasurable and painful experiences. But as long as you’re willing to take your game either online, or in the company of friends, Mario Tennis Aces will inevitably go down as one of the best multiplayer experiences this year.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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