If you’ve been following my articles over the years, then you’ll know that tennis games are my jam. It doesn’t get much better than Mario Tennis for me, but it doesn’t take a tennis expert to know that both Mario Tennis on Wii U and Mario Tennis on 3DS (to a lesser extent) were extremely disappointing.
Thankfully, after about 30 minutes with Mario Tennis Aces on the Nintendo Switch, this looks like it’s going to be the best Mario Tennis game by in many iterations (by far).
For starters, there’s an Adventure Mode (story mode) which actually feels like it’s got some meat to it. A brand new character has hidden a special racquet that has been stripped of all over its power, and Mario must find five power stones in order to power the racket back up and defeat evil Wario and Waluigi.
I got to play four levels in Adventure Mode, and surprisingly, each had their own little storyline and gameplay mechanic. Whilst they started out quite easy (teaching me basic and advances techniques one-by-one), I needed genuine skill to complete the third and fourth levels, one which required me to defeat Donkey Kong on a interactive level where Peter Piranhas spat the ball back at me, and in the next level, I had to frantically take down 30 Petey Piranhas before they took me down, which I failed at both times.
Whilst I’m not sure how many levels there’s going to be, it’s clear that there’s going to be some serious meat to this mode. After every challenge, you’re able to level up Mario’s Shot Speed, Run Speed, Agility as well as his racket’s Attack, Defence and Durability. The game will advise you to go back and re-complete missions you’ve already finished, if you’re struggling to get past certain levels (which you’ll need to complete to move the story forward).
Thankfully, Nintendo seems to have gotten the balance of traditional gameplay and craziness just right this time around (there’s also a simple mode with no funny business). There’s probably more trick shots and special moves here than any Mario Tennis game that has come before it, but Nintendo has done really well to balance the attack and defence meaning that almost everything is counter-able with the right timing and strategy.
Obviously, in the way of shots you’ve got slices, top-spin, flat, drop shots and lobs, but gone are the way of those zones that are related to each shot type. Players can now use new zone shots, which basically acts in the same way (getting your player in a specific zone), but you can then take a moment and use the gyroscope in order to aim it at your opponent to break their racket (you literally lose if this happens), or just go for the open court. What surprised me was how easy it was to hit out if you weren’t aiming correctly. These special abilities were easy points in previous games.
Mario Tennis Aces also incorporates an energy gauge which is very important. You can use your energy gauge to slow down time using zone speed, which is essential in order to block incoming zone shots. There’s also trick shots, which basically allow you to jump around the court. Perfect timing will increase your energy gauge, but mistiming will ultimately make you miss the ball completely. If you’re good enough to fill your energy gauge, you can pull off a more powerful zone shot at anywhere in the court.
I realise how complex this sounds, and when I saw it on paper, I thought that it might be too much, but as I was saying, Nintendo has done a great job with making sure that these abilities work well in both attack and defence, and the energy gauge as well as racket breaking does a great job at balancing out all the mechanics.
My short time with Mario Tennis Aces has made me incredibly excited for the game. It looks fantastic on the Switch and is the perfectly portable game. Hopefully Nintendo can smash the online portion of the game (that’s been a major issue with the last few), as the gameplay mechanics have the legs to really make this a game that Nintendo and tennis fans alike will be playing for years.