Mario Tennis Aces just might be the deepest tennis game ever made, but a bunch of eyebrow-raising decisions hold it back from being an all-around fantastic game.
What Is It?
There isn’t much of an introduction needed here. Mario Tennis Aces is the latest in the Mario Tennis series that has received mostly praise–assuming the Wii U’s Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash never happened. With the success of the Nintendo Switch, it was only a matter of time for a Mario sports game to grace the hybrid console, and tennis is up first.
Fans of the series will be pleased to know that the robust and easy-to-learn gameplay is back and better than ever, and for me in particular the inclusion of a story mode definitely had my interest, no matter how ridiculous the plot ended up being. Unfortunately, it’s by far the worst part of the game.
Why Should I Care?
Ridiculous as it is, the game tells a story of an enchanted racket that corrupts the people that get their hands on it–in this case, it’s Wario and Waluigi, and you have to use Mario to traverse the world and do tennis-related activities to make everything right again.
The problem is actual games of tennis are few and far between. While you expect a Mario sports game to have its gimmicks, and while there are a handful of fun minigames, they eventually get too hard and stupid (for lack of a better term) for their own good and it stops highlighting the fun and deep tennis game that Aces is supposed to feature.
What makes it worse is the fact that you have to stick with Mario throughout the entire story, and this does nothing to help you get better at the game with any other character. It’s all a real shame, because it was the story mode that made me want to buy the game in the first place. Luckily, the multiplayer fun does just enough to make up for it.
If you have nobody to play with, the bulk of your time will be spend playing the tournament mode which seems to model itself after Mario Kart‘s Grand Prix modes as well as online multiplayer–which can be pretty tough if you haven’t mastered the basics of Mario Tennis Aces.
The game is easy to pick up and play, but mastering it is another story. In addition to the usual topspins, slices, and lobs, Mario Tennis Aces incorporates new zone shots along with the ability to mess with zone speed, in addition to unique trick shots to go along with each character’s special abilities.
Zone shots freeze the game and allow you to aim your strike at any specific point on the court (which can be done using standard or motion controls). In addition to hitting the ball whenever you want, slowing down time is also a good maneuver defensively.
Using these special abilities requires you to have enough energy stored in a gauge that’ll constantly fill up as you rally. When this gauge is completely filled, you’ll have access to your special shot that’s incredibly hard to hit.
That said, these trick shots and special shots aren’t impossible to hit. They require perfect timing, and if you don’t block these shots properly, your racket will break. Each character has a set number of rackets per match, and if you lose them all, you lose the match.
So in addition to a robust tennis game, there’s also the metagame of making sure you have a filled gauge in addition to blocking shots properly so that you don’t lose your rackets. All these contribute to an insanely deep tennis game that feels like a puzzler and a fighter that’s an absolute joy to play with friends or online competition.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
While the story mode was completely disappointing considering it was one of the more unique aspects in the game, the fact that the actual tennis is so deep more than makes up for that mishap.
Mario Tennis Aces continues what looks like a staple of fun when it comes to local multiplayer on the Nintendo Switch, joining the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Bomberman R, Overcooked and others making it another solid entry to any Switch library.