At some point in every gamer’s life, we have become immersed in the Super Mario Brothers World. The plumbers first debuted in 1981’s Donkey Kong and two years later, the first Super Mario Brothers game was released. Since then, the plumbers have done it all. From turning into pieces of paper, brawling with Nintendo characters, playing the beautiful game of soccer, moving effortlessly in space, and everything in-between. So when Nintendo decided to make Mario’s Tennis back in 1995, it was not a surprise. Since the original adaptation, there have been six different tennis games featuring Mario and his friends, which have released on just about every Nintendo system known to man.
So when Nintendo announced they would be releasing Mario Tennis Aces, my ears perked up. I own a Nintendo Switch and have been yearning for a game to hold me over until the big sports games drop in a few months. The question now was this: how would Mario Tennis Aces hold up to its predecessors? Nintendo’s attempt at bringing Mario Tennis to the Wii U failed miserably, as Ultra Smash remains one of the poorest reviewed games in the franchise’s history. Could Nintendo once again serve their consumer’s an ace? Or is Mario Tennis Aces another fault in the long-storied franchise.
What I Like
Gameplay – Mario Tennis is a quirky representation of the sport, which only Mario and his pals could successfully pull off. Players battle back and forth, using a vast array of special moves and trick shots specific to each character. These techniques range from player-specific finishers to power shots, and everything in between. Despite the arcade-ish feel, MTA pulls off the game of tennis extremely well. Oftentimes, I found myself immersed in combat as I chased around the glowing ball from one side of the court to the other. Games could sometimes take 15-20 minutes before someone was victorious. It was great, but at the same time frustrating. Whether or not you’re an avid fan of tennis, it really won’t make or break how enjoyable MTA is to play.
Controls – There is only so much that can be done in a tennis video game from a control standpoint. With that said, the game is rather intricate with the arsenal of weapons at each character’s disposal. For example, some of the more basic shots change the ball’s trajectory. Players can choose to slice the ball, add some backspin, or hit a flat shot against their opponent’s will. More advanced moves include drop shots and lobs. Lastly, players are able to perform trick shots and special shots, which can literally shatter an opponent’s racket. On the other hand, many of these special moves can only be performed based on your energy meter. As the game progresses, your meter begins to build. Use powerful shots, and other special moves, and your “energy” will slowly drain. At first, the controls can seem a bit overwhelming for casual gamers, but soon enough you will have the vast array of shots mastered. Finding ways to utilize these different shots, combined with pin-point accuracy, is recipe for success in MTA.
Graphics – Nintendo’s Switch console isn’t quite as powerful as some of the other systems, but what they do from a graphical standpoint continues to impress. Mario Odyssey was stunning, and Mario Tennis Aces is much of the same. All the levels look magnificent. The pirate ship looks lifelike, and the unique design makes things fun and entertaining. The forest, where players must avoid fire-breathing plants looks realistic, as does Boo’s mysterious castle. They are all well done, and show off the power of the Switch. Furthermore, player models look great and the way everything plays out on the court is well done. There are very few things as satisfying as pulling off a special move, and watching the game play out visually. MTA pushes the Switch to the limit, and for that I’m thankful.
Character Selection – The roster in MTA is big, like really big. Players can choose from a diverse group of characters ranging from Mario and Luigi, to Princess Peach and Toadstool, and everyone in between. Each character is categorized based on skill set. There are six types of skills, and each character possesses one of these traits. The six character types are all-around, technical, powerful, speedy, tricky and defensive. Obviously, these traits play a crucial role in how each character performs on the court and can be used as a strength versus the opposition. Lastly, Nintendo has promised future add-ons that will ultimately expand the roster.
Below is a list of the full roster for Mario Tennis Aces:
- Bowser Jr.
- Dry Bowser
- Koopa Troopa
- Shy Guy
- Dry Bones
- Boom Boom
- Chain Chomp
What I Don’t Like
Lack Of Game Modes – There are four modes in MTA: adventure mode, tournament (online/offline), free play (single/local/online), and swing mode. You can play many of these modes with up to four players, which promises to be a good time. The adventure mode follows Mario to different locations as he battles to retrieve the five gems that Wario and Waluigi misplaced. The different levels and bosses that you encounter are great, and they work well as Mario continues to evolve RPG-style. The different objectives make things fun, but they still become stale eventually. Compared to other Mario games, adventure mode falls flat. But it’s kind of what you’d expect from a sports video game. Tournament mode is exactly what it sounds like; you battle your way through multiple opponents to ultimately face-off for the Mushroom Cup. There are three different championships, each more difficult than the one before. Free play is essentially exhibition mode, and swing mode allows players to practice the different shots. Overall, the game modes aren’t terrible, but for a $60 purchase I would like to see a bit more variety from a video game.
CPU Juggernauts – At times, Mario Tennis Aces reminds me of a game of Madden on the highest difficulty. Opponents’ energy bars never seem to falter, and they will perform special trick after special trick with pinpoint accuracy. No matter what you do, they are nearly impossible to beat. Each boss battle is a problem on its own and causes a new hurdle to overcome. The difficulty of beating a fire-breathing flower pot while dodging lines of tornadoes is all that more awarding when you eventually figure things out and overcome the odds. MTA isn’t unbeatable like some games, but will cause you endless frustration throughout the process.
Online – Nintendo has always struggled with online gaming, and this appears to be much of the same. My first game online I got matched up with the second coming of Rafael Nadal. I’m kidding obviously, but matching players up based on skill should be a priority of any video game. The game seemed a bit slower than my experience offline, and always seemed a second or two behind. With that said, the rest of my online experience has been silky smooth. Players moved fluidly and seemed more responsive than my first game. Tournaments and head-to-head online play should ultimately give MTA the replay value we all expect from modern day video games.
Whether you are a die-hard fan of tennis or just looking for a game to hold you over until later this year, Mario Tennis Aces is an entertaining masterpiece that will keep you coming back again and again. You and your friends can spend countless hours battling one another for supremacy. In fact, most of what makes this game a home run is how much fun it is to play with others. Stunning visuals are easy on the eyes, and the character selection is second-to-none. Sure, the adventure mode isn’t perfect and online play can be spotty, but when you’re able to get into a smooth game the experience is awesome. Mario Tennis Aces is quality tennis game in a marketplace where there just has not been much to choose from these last couple years. Sure, it has its faults, but overall it’s a fun, beautifully executed game that Nintendo should be proud to champion.