One of the most delightful things about having a Switch is being able to finally play the newest entries of long standing, home console and Nintendo franchises. With Mario Tennis Aces being released, it was finally time to see why the Mario sports games are so beloved, and I can now see why.
Covering off the gameplay, Mario Tennis is easy to start playing, but has plenty of depth. Basically, the right-hand buttons choose your shot, the left joystick runs and aims, and the trigger buttons bring special moves into play. Getting a hand on running and hitting will give you enough to fumble your way through enough matches to learn the rest, but the most important element is the power bar.
All your successful hits build up your power bar. Some shots appear as a star on your side of the court, running there and hitting a special shot freezes time and puts you in first person view. This lets you aim, and fire a super powerful shot, but drains your special meter as you aim, so quick precision is key. These shots can be deflected, but you will likely need to slow down time to get there fast enough, which also drains your super meter. With all the super meter draining action going on, if by some miracle, you max it out, you can unleash a shot with a cool short animation and is near impossible to stop.
The first of the modes in Mario Tennis Aces is Adventure mode, which basically has you needing to save the world from a darkness by collecting five powerful hidden stones and putting them in the special tennis racket. Despite its underwhelming story, the Adventure mode itself is a bit of a mixed bag.
You move across a World map, entering challenges to progress the story. All the challenges involve tennis in some capacity, well you at least you are playing tennis, but with variations. These include slamming enough practice nets in a limited time, volleying a ball back and forth enough times, playing tennis against an opponent with challenges, or boss fights which have you needing to hit your balls to specific places. It’s fun, and varied, but can be frustrating.
The most annoying frustration is its difficulty spikes. The game tells you early on, that if you are beaten by a Level, go back to earlier challenges to get experience. This is because it has a rudimentary Leveling system which boosts your stats, but unfortunately you will have to go back and grind, a lot.
The next major annoyance is that when you lose a challenge, you need to wait for the Level to throw how you back to the world map, display some losing dialogue, for you to choose the Level again, and wait for it to load again. I would appreciate someone showing Nintendo how to implement a retry button in their games, as the faff gets annoying quickly.
Then there is the randomness of some challenges. The game is loaded with difficulty spikes, but none so much as a challenge against Blooper on a ship. The challenge of the stage, aside from Bloopers difficulty, is a mast in the middle of the court. With minimal accuracy involved, I would hit the ball to the other corner, for it to bounce off the mast and go out on the full. Blooper on the other hand would send the ball across the court, and it would miss, or bounce off and land in the opposite corner. There was no way to tell until it passed the mast where the ball was going, so if you guessed wrong, it was too late.
Despite its flaws, the Adventure mode is still enjoyable. The Levels and environments look gorgeous, and the whole vibe is everything Mario brings to any genre. But if you wanted a game where you can play tennis with characters from the Mario Universe, don’t worry, you can skip it and play tennis in Free Play or tournaments.
To take advantage of the Switch’s gimmicks, is Swing mode. Swing mode has you use a Joycon to play tennis, Wii style. It’s a surprisingly functional, and entertaining way to play the game, and thanks to options like giant balls, it’s a whole bunch of fun.
Free play and tournaments are that, normal tennis, with any characters, and all the awesomeness. You can play local multiplayer, online multiplayer, or against AI, and this is where many more of my hours were lost. Thanks to its simplicity this mode lets the fun gameplay mechanics shine to their fullest.
Released: June 2018
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Camelot Software