THE ONLINE PORTION OF MARIO TENNIS ACES HAS NOT YET BEEN TESTED. THIS REVIEW WILL BE UPDATED ONCE THE DAY ONE PATCH IS LIVE.
Playing a preview build of Mario Tennis a few weeks ago and then getting deep into the online beta, I was excited to get my hands on the final version of the game and it hasn’t disappointed. Saying that the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game were disappointing would be an understatement, but it looks like Nintendo has finally given this series the love it deserves.
I was absolutely hooked on the game’s Adventure Mode (which acts a story mode). It lasts about 3-4 hours throughout the six or so different worlds and it does a really good job at building up the difficulty and introducing favourite characters from the entire Super Mario universe.
Adventure Mode follows a pretty set structure, with each world having a match or two (with each court introducing new hazards), a few mini-games (such as hitting targets or keeping a rally going) and then a boss battle against some pretty iconic Mario bosses. Everything in Adventure Mode feels surprisingly natural, and is a great extension of basic tennis mechanics.
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.
In my opinion, the major failure (outside of variety) in the Wii U version and the 3DS version was the fact that both games introduced gimmicky features which were fun for a short while, but both took away the skill required for the game to be taken seriously long-term. For instance, in the Wii U version, you were always building towards supersizing yourself, and the second that happened, the game no longer felt like Tennis, and it always felt like the person that reached this mode first, would always win the game.
In Mario Tennis Aces, there’s probably more shot types and gimmicks than ever before, but Nintendo has done a great job to make them all feel natural, and done a really good job at balancing them in both attack and defence. Everything is defendable with the right timing and strategy, and now that your racket can break (which will lead to you literally losing), there’s a certain strategy to risking a return of powerful shots or letting it go.
All the familiar ground stokes are here, but players can now use new zone shots in attack, which involves using the gyroscope (or analogue controls if you prefer) to use a little bit of your built up energy meter, in order to hit a powerful shot to the other side of the court.
In defence, 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 in order to make that ungetatable shot. 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 from anywhere in the court.
There’s a few little oddities. In my opinion, you start off with too many characters and there aren’t a whole lot of unlockables along the way. Even going through Adventure Mode, you’re unlocking a lot of courses and stuff that is relevant to Adventure Mode, but I’d have liked some more unlockables for free play. Tournament mode is here, but it doesn’t have the charm that it did in the original versions of the game, but I can forgive that in lieu of a very, very good Adventure Mode.
Also, as it stands at the moment (I hope it’s changed in a patch), you literally can’t choose a stage in free play. You can deselect courses that you don’t want to play in, but it’s still chosen at random from the stages that you haven’t deselected. It’s a very weird omission, especially when there’s a plethora of great courts to play on in Mario Tennis.
Swing Mode is a very welcome addition to the game. It’s not something I could ever see myself playing alone, but with friends and family, that I’d probably hit off the court in regular modes, Swing Mode is a great casual alternatively that literally anybody could have fun playing.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Mario Tennis Aces is without doubt the best tennis game to come out in the last five years. It's another must have game for Switch and a testament to how this console allows games to excel both in front of the TV and on the go.