Mario Tennis Aces is the latest in the long running Mario sports franchise. After much criticism over the release on Wii U, this sequel is a chance to show that tennis games starring Nintendo’s iconic plumber can still be successful. Also, can Mario Tennis Aces run well in the online world? We will find out all of this in the review. Let’s begin.
Release date: June 22nd, 2018
Approximate size: 1.9 GB
Developed by Camelot Software Planning
Published by Nintendo
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch Exclusive
Nintendo has a certain charm with their nonsensical stories in their sports games. Peach isn’t in a castle in need of rescue but, instead, it’s his brother Luigi who needs our help. Oh, and possible, the world. Now the question on your mind must be… how do we save Luigi and the world? The answer is, obviously, through the healing powers of competitive tennis. Wario and Waluigi somehow managed to get themselves seemingly possessed by an evil entity and try to get Mario caught up in their troubles by offering him a legendary tennis racquet. Mario, who had no doubt been putting on a technical clinic at the Marina stadium, is still able to discern that something is amiss and declines the racquet of the Temple Of Bask. Luigi, who obviously wants more than the fame of being able to fight ghosts in mansions, takes the racquet in hopes of being able to switch from side to main character. Unbeknownst to him and everyone around, this unleashes a dark curse upon the Mushroom Kingdom and places Luigi under the dark spell that Wario and Waluigi have fallen victim to. This only leaves Mario, with his eye of the tiger, to take the racquet and use his tennis skills, that would even put the great Roger Federer to shame, to save the world.
As you can see, the story isn’t going to be featured at the Sundance film festival but it’s there to provide a reason to why you are performing the actions you are. Stories in sports games are not new and some do it better than others, but Nintendo has found a formula that works. This story provides the classic feelings of old Mario games and manages to bring other cast members of the Mushroom Kingdom into the spotlight. It’s good for what it is and exactly what the game needs. It’s also beautifully animated with its wonderful graphical art style.
When it comes to the gameplay of Mario Tennis Aces, it’s pretty spectacular. Normal rules of tennis apply but with that unique Nintendo flair. The goal is simple, you are either serving the ball or defending with the intention of sending that ball across the net. You need one bounce in the area provided and then out of the area with the opposing player unable to hit it back. This will give you a point, score four points and you win. Body shots give you points and so do breaking the enemy’s racquet. Everything is a simple as you think but things really become difficult and competitive when both players have similar or equal skills. Matches sometimes can become adrenaline fueling moments of intensity as two players, who might be tied with one point left to win the game, hit the ball back and forth in a mix of power shots, trick shots, and charged special moves. It’s an amazing experience and truly addicting as the trill of the game and desire for victory take center stage and a moment of carelessness cannot be permitted. Mario Tennis Aces manages to run with no hiccups or issues, no glitches or pop in, and no moments of technical issues that hinder the game in any way. In this day and age, that is a rarity that is much appreciated.
Now, I mentioned that Nintendo flair of techniques one can pull of that can dramatically alter a match. For better or for worse. Well, let’s discuss that. At first glance, its all pretty simple looking and you could probably play with only using one button and find moderate success but it’s the deeper layer of mechanics that the game’s excellent tutorial mode teaches that adds more for players. The Zone Shot puts the player into a first-person perspective and allows them to aim where the ball will go, with the joy stick or utilizing the game’s excellently implemented gyro controls, once they’ve stepped onto the star that forms on the court indicating where the ball will land. This is excellent to use when you are down on points and looking for a potential quick score that’ll bridge the gap. Zone Speed can be used to counter this or to quickly get to the ball that was sent away from you but still in close proximity. With the touch of a button, your walk speed is elevated so that you can return the serve. Now let’s say the ball is too far away from you, well, you can use the Trick Shot which slows down the action and gets you to the ball. Like most actions in this game, timing is crucial. You also have things like the Charge Shot and Max Charged Shot which allows you to hit the ball harder if you meet the requirements and you have the Special Shot which is a dynamic special shot that starts with a unique animation for each character before entering first person view to send the ball flying to the other side for a point. The Block, which acts more like a parry, can counter this. You mix all of this together and with both players having access to these techniques, tennis becomes more like chess. Of course, your Energy Gauge determines whether or not you’ll be able to pull any of this off and managing this energy is crucial.
With all of those techniques, each character also has abilities, or a class, assigned to them. Characters like Mario and Luigi are all around average which makes them excellent for new players. Then you have characters like Bowser and Donkey Kong that are powerful characters. The powerful are slow, lumbering, players who lack speed but pack a punch. Characters like Toad are speedy but power and with other designations, Mario Tennis Aces really adds a lot of great variety to the gameplay and many possibilities. From a gameplay perspective, the game is great. When you’re on the court trying to reign supreme, that game does well to allow players to feed their competitive drive and with smooth gameplay and a nice resolution, well, this may be the best tennis game Nintendo has ever produced. But what modes are there? Well, let’s check it out.
This is the game’s story mode and its presented on an overworld much like Super Mario World and Cuphead. Each stage will have you doing something and the variety is pretty interesting. You’ll have puzzle sections where you’ll use your tennis racquet to solve or pull off a technique, and it never seems out of place or jarring. If it’s not puzzling, you’ll be engaging in a regular match of tennis. They are all manageable and fun, but I did encounter a difficulty spike near the end that almost ruined the whole experience for me, but I managed to overcome. The absolute highlight of the story mode is, and if you know me you know where this is going, the boss fights. They are more creative than I expected and a wonder to behold. Some that stick out are the Snow Ogre you’ll battle against on a frozen lake, the Gooper Blooper looking to sink the ship your on, and Madame Mirage in the gloomy castle setting that reminds me of the once haunted castle that gave Luigi his GameCube fame. Additionally, you’ll level up Mario over the course of the mode and get some different tennis racquets to use. Overall, this mode is great to teach players the mechanics while proceeding through a wonderfully ridiculous story.
In this mode, you play in a tournament cup against the CPU. You and seven CPU characters will battle and move on two the semifinals, and then finals until there is a winner. It’s a nice mode for those who play single player games and have no intention of going online but want a similar experience. I had fun in this mode, but it does feel a little barebones and I would have liked to see more depth to it. Also, the mode is far too easy. I never felt in danger or as if the computer had an actual chance to beat me. The fact that there are only three cups doesn’t help the mode either. After you conquer this mode, there really is no incentive to go back. I mean, unless you want to beat each cup with every character but that doesn’t do anything.
This mode gives you two options: play online and play against the AI. The Online Tournament gives you three choices right off the bat: Standard Class, Simple Class, and Rankings. The Standard Class is exactly what you think it is, playing the game exactly how you’ve done so through single player. Energy management is still crucial, and all the abilities and skills are in this mode. This is where I spend most, if not all, my time in. Simple Class takes the worry of energy management away and simplifies the game with a test of skill using five shot variants. This is another great mode for those who want a simple game but I couldn’t get into it. I spent so much time within Adventure Mode and Standard Class that I found myself trying to use energy requiring skills and it ultimately lead to a lot of heartaches. The Rankings lets you see where you are in the world for that particular month with your primary character and it is separate by which mode you’ve played. You are able to see where you rank in the world, nationally, and between your friends. It’s very smooth and easy to understand by showing your win and loss record and the ratio in which you won in percentage. This mode also gives players the ability to unlock more characters over the course of the year!
Free Play is the equivalent of the casual match in fighting games or a quick match. Your three options here are Single-Console Play, Local Play, and Online Play. These work exactly how you imagine they do. The single-console play is the couch co-op mode where you can play with family and friends in the same room on one console. This mode works great and is easy to set up and play, you can also enjoy the company of up to four other players in this mode. Local Play, weirdly enough, is playing against one another using two Switch consoles in close proximity. This mode also works great and you can play against one another in any one of the many configurations the Nintendo Switch is notorious for. Online Play is exactly what it states, you play online against another opponent in a quick match without any need to worry about rankings or a tournament of some sorts.
Mario Tennis Aces offer a ton of ways to play the actual game, whether it’s with gyro and joycon motion controls or handheld, tabletop, or on a television. Every aspect of this game, whether online or off, runs absolutely great. The lower connection strength games, usually two bars or lowers, will run horribly but the game allows you to cancel the match before it starts if a connection is bad. If the connection is too bad, the game itself will do you the favor of canceling the match. The online is healthy and full of players and there was never a moment where I couldn’t find someone. The only real issue is that the game is pretty barebones when it comes to content, particularly for gamers who prefer to play single player content.
If there is one thing Nintendo has been able to boast about lately with their games, it’s that they look phenomenal. Mario Tennis Aces is no exception as this colorful world is full of life and personality. It’s games like these that can leave players in awe at how such a tiny console can produce better looking games than their competition. The first thing that is striking is the overall presentation and the menus and UI system the game utilizes. This is a level of sleekness never exhibited before on a Nintendo game of this caliber and I have to say that I am impressed. The whole look and feel of the game are like watching a live tennis tournament and the levels of hype the game produces in the built up to start of a round is motivating. For example, each character has a color assigned to them, in a sense, and on the versus screen it’ll show these clashes of colors with small flames that accurately represents what’s about to occur. The flames, a symbol of the passionate fire within each player and the color to reflect that character’s personality or what has come to define them. Mario retains his trademark red, Peach her traditional yellow, and Bowser is given black which perfectly represents the evil and darkness that is within him and all his ideas and goals. Stuff like this will go unnoticed to most but to others, well, it’s nice little touches.
Speaking of impressive design and nice touches, we must speak on those character models. I’m not sure how Nintendo can continually improve upon the models, but they’ve done it once again. Those who played anything Mario related on Wii U will know that those models and games looked great, almost as if they managed to reach that pinnacle from the trademark graphics design, but with the Switch, they’ve managed to make the models look slightly better and the clothes more detailed. The fabric on the clothes is excellent done and seeing realistic motions like, say, Peach’s dress swaying as she moves around. Bowser himself looks as intimidating as ever in this game of friendly competition and characters like Toad and Bowser Jr. look adorable. The effects the game uses also look magical and powerful, depending on their purpose, and effectively represent the intended purpose. Colors can streak across the screen as you stop the flow of time, or the wonderful graphics can come closer into view as you enter first person to deliver a devastating blow. The special attacks in this game are full of flair and personality as they enter into a cutscene like sequence to show off the impressive, at times game changing, attacks.
Another beautiful piece of the game is the environments. The game blends this art style with realism to create a more immersive landscape to play the game of tennis on. When it comes to professional courts, they accurately emulate the real-life counterparts they are based on with a cleanness and showmanship depicted on real life televisions. It is perfectly encompassed. Even better, the locales are varied, and you will be playing at many diverse and different locations. It may be at the professional court mentioned above with the roar of the crowd filling the area or you might be battling in an intense game of tennis on a boat with the wonderful blue water all around you and the beating heat of the sun upon the players. Other locations show courts with lush green grass similar to playing on a soccer field with trees all around you and rays of light filtering through those trees and reflecting on the grassy ground. Snowy areas and many others are all available to play on and I didn’t expect all this variety but am happy that they are here. I’m not sure if it’s the power of Nintendo’s hybrid console or them mastering their art style but they’ve done an impressively great job. Best of all, the game does it all by maintaining its silky-smooth frame rate and at the Switch’s full resolution.
Performance wise and graphically speaking, Mario Tennis Aces is a beautiful game. Every aspect of this game’s visuals has been given an impressive attention to detail and crafted with absolute love and care. It’s almost like a broken record when it comes to first party Nintendo games because every title now seems to come out either just as beautiful or more beautiful than the last. This latest title is no exception and it’s instantly apparent that they achieved every goal they had graphically. Honestly, I struggle to find any flaw with the game’s graphics. I can’t. The only thing I can think of is that, maybe, it’s possible that the art style may turn some people off, but I sincerely doubt that.
Mario and the whole cast brings with them all the classic sounds and minor vocal touches they’ve always had. No one sticks out or has had anything drastically changed in their expressions. Wario still sounds dastardly, Peach still comes across with that royal innocence, and Toad sounds hysterical with his high-pitched yelling. Other than that, the Mario series isn’t known for having voice acting and, so, this game also lacks it. Now, it’s a tennis game with little dialogue to read. It’s not a text fest. This makes it easy to look past not having voice acting and the lack thereof doesn’t have any effect on the game. When you’re actually playing, the impact of the ball hitting the racquet his apparent with a heavy thud that accompanies the collision. The sounds of sneakers trotting across the court is a nice touch, as are all the audio cues that accompany the visual flairs.
A light melody plays as your engaged in a competitive game of tennis. It never takes your attention away from the game and it doesn’t do anything to stand out, it’s there to provide audio to your ears when the rambunctious roaring of the crowd has died down. That’s another thing, the loud spectators do well to make this feel like a real game and every victory feels even sweeter. Every defeat brings more bitterness. Navigating the menus also provide the player with joyful chimes and sounds make the entire experience a joyous process.
Mario Tennis Aces does wonders with the little things in its audio department and its determination to infuse realistic sports elements with fantasy the series is known for is executed nicely. Little to no voice acting doesn’t bother me but it might annoy others. The lack of a truly powerful soundtrack will be subjective as well, but I am content with how it is all designed and presented. Like the game’s graphics, Nintendo did excellently here.
Mario Tennis Aces is a good game that does a lot well. The game is beautiful and runs great and the sound design is implemented spectacularly. Online is a pleasure that runs smooth and is adrenaline fueling and the single player content is satisfying. Nintendo once again proves that its first party games are some of the best in gaming, regardless of what genre they choose to explore or tackle. Where this game soars is in the gameplay. A lot of complexity has been added to the gameplay that results in a more dynamic and fluid experience, but they’ve also made it accessible to newcomers of the franchise. Swing Mode proves that Nintendo is the undisputed king of motion controls as they worked beautifully for me. Mario Tennis Aces is a must own for Switch owners because it is a ton of fun to play. I have sunk more time in this game than I care to admit.
Mario Tennis Aces$59.99
Graphics & Sound9.3 /10
Single Player8.0 /10
- The Game Is Beautiful, And Performance is Ace
- Motion Controls Work Great
- Complex And Accessible
- Online Runs Without Issues
- Nice Roster Size And Stage Variety
- Not Much For Single Player Gamers
- Some Features Of Prior Entries Don’t Return