Mario is a pretty diverse IP for Nintendo that has seen games across many genres. It might have originated as a platformer but the franchise has seen plenty of games that tackle multiple sets of genres including RPG, Sport, Puzzle, Racing, and Adventure. These are just a few of the genres that use the Mario IP but out of them, Sports itself covers a broad range of games ranging from Soccer to Tennis.
I have always enjoyed a good Tennis game so it was unfortunate to see the interest in a proper Tennis game decreasing due to the lack of competition and quality games. Mario Tennis has managed to scratch my itch for a fun Tennis game by offering something that is not only fun to play, it also attempts to stray away from the traditional formula established in this genre by introducing new gameplay mechanics.
My introduction to the Mario Tennis series is mostly from the GBA version. It is still widely considered as the best Mario Tennis game so I wasn’t exactly expecting this new iteration to top it, and while it doesn’t really come close to it, it is still fun in a different way with a focus on introducing mechanics that add more dynamics to a standard Tennis match. If you are expecting a meaty single-player story mode just like it was in Mario Tennis: Power Tour, this one, unfortunately, is rather disappointing.
Nintendo has learned how to craft great looking games regardless of the hardware power and we have already seen it with their first party effort that is available on the Nintendo Switch so far. Mario Tennis Aces is another gorgeous game from Nintendo that has nailed its animated visual style featuring colorful color palette, nice looking post-process effects and a solid frame rate that is buttery smooth. It is a technically polished game that doesn’t suffer from the lack of quality control, however, it does suffer from a lack of content.
The single-player part of the game is its Adventure mode. This is a story mode that features boss fights and challenges revolving around the Tennis matches. It is mostly a board-game type world map where you can move Mario between the different points of interest that offer a challenge, tennis match or lead to a boss fight. It is taking inspiration from the design of classic Mario games. The main quest is to retrieve the 5 power stones that are found around the world. Each place that has a stone has its own major boss fight and they cover the different variation of locales like a forest and snowy mountain.
This is the first proper story mode after Mario Tennis: Power Tour so a comparison is usually made here between both games. Unlike Power Tour, which features an academy, Mario Tennis Aces intro features an Island where Mario is just about to beat Browser in a tournament when he gets interrupted by a suspicious looking Waluigi and Wario. They attempt to gift Mario a cursed Tennis racket which he refuses to accept but before anyone can figure out the situation, Luigi grabs it leading to him getting possessed by the evil power of the Racket. Mario has to discover the secret behind this Racket and find a way to get 5 power stones that will help him defeat the evil behind it.
The issue with the Adventure mode is that it doesn’t offer much replay value. Most of the encounters in the adventure mode are either normal Tennis matches or special challenges. Once you reach the end of a new area, you will have to go through a boss fight. These boss fights are a fun distraction from regular Tennis matches but are mostly a one-time affair. Once you clear most of the boss fights and have attempted every challenge, you don’t really have much incentive to revisit the story mode.
It is important to go through this Adventure mode first because it also acts as a tutorial letting you learn the new mechanics like the trick and zone shots. They are essential in winning some of the more difficult matches and will take some time to master. Sadly there is a lack of good mini-games and the challenges, while mostly fun, don’t really fill the void left by them. I remember how in Power Tour, we had a whole academy full of activities to do and while you can also level up Mario and find new Tennis Rackets for him which have their own stats, it still doesn’t offer much depth or customization options.
The gameplay is where Mario Tennis Aces truly shines now. The regular lob, back shot, and power shot are all old story now. This time, you can use a special shot, trick shot, zone shot and zone speed to get a more arcade-like experience for Tennis matches. Zone shots basically let you aim in first person mode and target any part of the field. If the opponent is able to time their strike, they can block it, otherwise, if they hit the zone shot three times with their racket, it gets destroyed. Trick shots are cool gravity-defying jumps that can come in handy when you are far away from hitting the ball. Lastly, every character can do a special shot that is basically their most powerful attack.
Your racket has a health meter and it will get destroyed once it is fully depleted. The skill shots are all performed with a charge meter that gets filled with every successful hit. Once it is full, you can unleash the special shot that requires a complete charge. Every other skill shot will use a short amount of the charge meter so it comes down to using a mixture of the normal and skill shots to win a match.
Nintendo has advertised motion controls support for the game, however, they are only available in their own gameplay mode. You can attempt to play this mode in either single player or with a friend. The motion controls are not as precise as I hoped, but I still enjoyed their implementation enough to play it occasionally with my friends. I do wish it was possible to use these motion controls outside of this specific mode in the game.
It all comes down to the support of multiplayer and in this regard, the game offers most of the control methods. You can use the two JoyCon controllers to play together or start a local match with another Nintendo Switch user. This is further extended to the Tournament mode with both local and online multiplayer support for it as well. You can create a room or join others by searching for a room. It is also possible to invite friends through online multiplayer.
Mario Tennis Aces Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Mario Tennis Aces is a tennis game developed by Camelot Software Planning and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. An entry in the Mario Tennis series, it was released worldwide on June 22, 2018.
This is one of the better multiplayer offerings on the Nintendo Switch. It doesn't have much appeal solely as a single-player game since there is a lack of content with the short Adventure and Tournament mode, outside from that, it is still plenty of fun if you want to get it as a party game to play together with friends.