Mario Tennis Aces, the newest Mario Tennis game, has released for the Nintendo Switch early in the consoles life.
It’s been two years since the last title in the series, so has Aces improved since it’s predecessor or is it simply a port to the newest generation?
Well, it has a story mode this time, so that’s good news.
The first thing you notice in Adventure mode is that the hub world has RPG elements like older Super Mario Bros. games where you control Mario one space at a time — unlike past Mario Tennis games where it was multi-directional.
Mario Tennis Aces still lets players perform the basic three shot types (slice, topspin, and flat) while also lobbing and dropping the ball with their hits. The first level is a tutorial stage where a friendly Dry Bones teaches you how to serve, hit a more powerful shot, and return the ball on the court. After you learn the basics, Dry Bones will challenge you to an actual match. Once you complete the training, you will move on to learn more about the mysterious racket.
After a while you meet Aster, humble guardian of the noble king, Bask. Aster tells us he watches over Lucien, the ancient racket and confirmed people controller. King Bask was once the ruler of the Kingdom before he became envious of Lucien’s powers and took the racket as his own, destroying the entire kingdom, only to seal it away and strip it of its power before it did any more damage. King Bask then divided the racket’s power into five minerals called the Power Stones. Since that time, the ruins of the Kingdom fell with age, releasing the seal that once held Lucien. That is when Wario and Waluigi who learned about the event, went looking for the powerful racket only to end up being controlled by Lucien.
Aster asks Mario to look for the five Power Stones to prevent Lucien from finding them first and regaining its power. Throughout the game, you will face those who wield Lucien in tennis matches to stop the Mystical Racket from regaining its power. Aster tells Mario he must master the powerful tennis move, the Special Shot, to have a fair chance against Lucien.
The Kingdom of Bask is where you will uncover new moves to use in tennis matches throughout your journey. The first out of these new moves is called the Zone Shot, and in order to use this, you must find the Star point on the tennis court. The star point is where easy-to-hit balls fall from an opponent’s shot and by jumping high at the spot you will do a Zone Shot damaging an opponent’s racket or making it harder to hit back. Each player has a health bar for their racket. Take enough damage and your racket will break, leaving the player with an automatic loss. Those on the defensive side are not without a means of preventing this. You can block the incoming attack by precise timing, leaving your racket with full health. Another counter move is Zone Speed, a defensive technique that allows those facing a Zone Shot to counter by slowing down time. To do any of these moves, you must have enough energy. You increase your energy charge meter throughout the match by engaging in rallies and doing regular Charge Shots. Max Charge Shots will boost your energy even faster by running and pressing one of the shot buttons early.
A Trick Shot is exactly what is says, tricky. They demand the right timing and if the timing is off, you will lose energy by using them. By a flick of the right analog stick, you can quickly move to the side where the ball has landed and return it back with ease. Each character has their own unique trick shot to perform. A Special Shot is the last new move you learn and it’s one that requires max energy to perform. By unleashing all your energy on a Special Shot, you will do a devastating attack to your opponent’s racket. Again, blocking comes in handy here and swinging the racket right before the ball hits will reward the player with a successful block. One mistake in your timing when countering and it could be an instant win for your opponent.
Mario Tennis Aces’ Campaign, Adventure Mode, has five different locations to travel to. Locations include everything from a snowy landscape to a haunted mansion. Each different area will hold one of the Power Stones for Mario to obtain. By playing the story mode, players can unlock new courts and rackets that relate to the five different locations.
These themed courts play differently than the average tennis court. The forest court contains Piranha plants that when aimed and shot at will catch the ball and spit it back out fast at the opposite side. The variety of different courts add fun new challenges to the ordinary tennis match.
The story mode is a nice addition to the game since there hasn’t been one in the series since the GameCube entry. Even if the story mode lacks a good story to tell and is cheesy beyond belief, it still makes up for fun challenges and a new experience within the sport of tennis. There is also a typical leveling-up system integrated into the game. Each match will give you experience, which in turn will level up Mario’s racket and speed. At first, the matches seem easy to win but later matches will gradually become more difficult and sometimes require you to go back to already completed levels to get more experience in order to return and have a fighting chance. You can also unlock new rackets to use by completing certain challenge missions, which will have higher levels for you to add on to the gained experience.
The last Mario Tennis game in the series only released two years ago with Ultra Smash on the Wii U. Since then, Nintendo has improved the series by adding more game modes and gameplay elements back to the series. The graphics have also improved since Ultra Smash, allowing the Switch’s hardware to show off a noticeable difference since the last console.
Outside of the story mode, you’ll spend most of your time playing multiplayer, whether it be online or locally on the couch. Fans looking for a basic tennis match should know they can play without the special shots and racket health bars by changing the settings.
If you’re hoping for other options, there are two other multiplayer modes to choose from. The first is Big Ball mode, where the tennis ball is slowed down and bigger to hit. The mode plays as a novice option but adds an unusual match in skill when competing. Swing mode, another stand-alone multiplayer option, lets players use the joy-con’s motion controls to hit the virtual ball like a real tennis racket. Anyone looking for a Wii Sports type of realism will be disappointed, as the joy-con’s motion tracking is very sensitive and by barely moving will make your character swing. This makes matches difficult because you may accidentally swing when not wanting to or miss your chance at a perfectly timed hit ever-so-slightly.
A different approach Nintendo has taken on unlockable characters is through its online tournaments. Instead of unlocking new characters through the story mode or multiplayer, players will have to play in online tournaments to add a new character to their roster. This unlocking system seems like a good incentive for players to partake in online matches and with Nintendo’s online service on the horizon, it’ll be right in time for the tournaments.
It’s nice to be able to pass a joy-con over to a buddy and be able to play a fun and crisp game of tennis. The newly added special shots give the game more options and gameplay style than the typical match, but veterans of the series may want a return to the basics. Character selection is extensive and gives players a lot of variety from the start, though unlocking new characters through the online tournaments seems to be a bit too much to get players to use their services. Mario Tennis Aces is the newest party game for the Nintendo Switch and even though it could have provided players more, it’s still a good addition to the series.