Originally I was going to start this review with some super smart joke about how just like Metroid, Mario Tennis also took a break last generation. But being the thorough guy I am, I did a little research to see when was the last Mario Tennis game and found out that there was an entry on the Wii U! I guess it says something if I owned the darn console and this is the first I?m hearing of that. Heck it was also on the 3DS!
So for whatever reason it feels like Mario Tennis has been in the background for almost a decade. Now that the Switch is out making rounds, it looks like Nintendo took the opportunity to bring a once-great party sports game back on the scene. With Mario Tennis Aces, it definitely feels like a return to form for the series, and a lot of that has to do with the great multiplayer experience.
Okay but first I gotta mention two things. For one there?s a campaign mode which takes you through an overworld sprinkled with various tennis activities in order to stop some evil tennis racket. It sounds pretty lame and it is, but if you?re like me and it?s been about a decade since you played Mario Tennis or even real tennis, it?s the best tutorial you could ask for before playing against the pros online. And boy did I suck at this game for a long time, that?s the other thing.
In case you also suck, a big key to Aces is using the time slowdown mechanic by using the R button. This is your key to difficult opponents who love using techniques like the Zone Shot which is a superpowered attack new to the series. Once you?ve rallied the ball enough, you?ll build energy which will allow you to I guess go ?in the zone? and aim a reticle to exactly where you want your ball to go. It?s fast and powerful enough to damage your opponent?s racket, but the same can happen to you if you don?t time a blocking swing just right. That is, if you?re quick enough to counter the move.
A couple things that took me forever to realize is that you can slow time and even use the Zone Shot without having a full energy meter. About half full will do. You?ll know you?re good when you see a shining star on the court where the ball is going to land. If only I had known this on some of the campaign rally events I could have breezed through them in no time and even had some hair left on my head!
The game does also have a tutorial which teaches you all these things and more, but I didn?t realize just how much I would be relying on these moves against CPU opponents in the campaign. Heck some stuff is almost impossible without them. It’s like trying to play Mario Kart 8 without using items. Good luck!
Playing with other people is a completely different game, and probably what you?re really here for. It?s for this reason that it?s worth saying how Mario Tennis has probably never played this great. Because of the fact that the gameplay is so fun and solid, it?s an amazing addition to the Switch library of multiplayer titles
Almost every gameplay mode supports online play. Well every mode you?d want to play online. Tournament is what you?d expect, pitting you against other players in a bracketed competition. Here is where you can see your rankings and win/loss ratio. I had a good time playing against opponents and because the game does its best to match you with players who have optimal connections, there was little to no connectivity issues. If things don’t look good, matchmaking will spare you before things start and find someone with a better connection.
The open play mode is more customizable and allows for doubles play online. Don?t worry though, if you don?t have any friends like me then you?ll be paired up with a CPU player to help out. This is where you’ll probably spend more time just getting used to what’s on offer if you don’t feel like taking things seriously in an online Tournament.
As far as looks go the game isn’t doing anything special but gets the job done. Graphics are simple and colorful but most importantly very clear and easy to keep track of things. This is most important in doubles play, but some of the campaign modes will get hectic at times and can get confusing.
There is one other mode worth mentioning just to say how glad I am that it’s not the primary way to play the game, and that’s the swing play mode. This uses the Switch controllers more like a Wiimote where you’ll physically swing your arm instead of using buttons. While it works okay, it’s more of a curiosity than anything to take seriously. Admittedly I’m not the best tennis player but it felt like I had no control over my swings in this mode and was always hitting the ball out of court. I don’t even think Wii Sports was this inaccurate, but it could just be me. Are you able to master this mode?
I think the reason that Mario Tennis feels like it’s been out of the picture is because Nintendo hadn’t tried to seriously get it online and into the modern era. It seems like this time the game feels fully online with no gameplay issues that I found. It also helps that Aces has the best gameplay of the series so far and if you like party sports games, you really can’t go wrong with this one. The court variety, character selection, and ability to go online with multiple players on one console make Mario Tennis Aces out to be a game with lasting value. If you’ve been waiting for a series return to form well here it is.
Nintendo provided us with a Mario Tennis Aces Switch code for review purposes.