Game: Mario Tennis Aces
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Rating: E for Everyone
When Mario arrived in 1981 he was pitted against the giant ape Donkey Kong in an adventure that required our hero to jump over barrel upon barrel flung his way by the then villain. Who would ever have thought that Mario would not only become the most recognizable video game characters in the world, he would also spawn countless spin-off titles in which Nintendo’s lovably mascot plays sports, every-thing from golf to participating in the Olympic Games. Now our hero is picking up a tennis racket in Mario Tennis Aces.
Same Old Story with A Top Spin
At first glance tennis and Mario may seem like an odd pairing. However, when one looks at the mustache man’s history you will find there have been nine—that’s right nine— Mario Tennis games preceding Aces. This provides the creative minds behind the title plenty of materiel to draw upon in order to perfect the game’s formula, and that’s exactly what they have done. The narrative—yes there is a narrative—is, as you might expect, not very deep. The evil duo of Wario and Waluigi possess Mario’s brother Luigi with a legendary racket named Lucien. This sets Mario on a journey across the Mushroom Kingdom where he must play a variety of tennis matches and challenges until he can ultimately save Luigi.
The overhead map of the kingdom is presented like a board game. You hop from space to space, sometimes playing a round of tennis with a Koopa Troopa, some-times with a giant plant serving as a boss battle. If this mode was just tennis matches it would be a great deal of fun, unfortunately, more often than not, the game asks you to win trials in which you must hit the ball past a foe without letting him touch it, or whack it into magic mirrors in the correct order. These moments suck the fun out of the experience, making you wish you were playing tennis instead of these cumbersome mini-games.
Knocking It Out the Park
Mario Tennis Aces truly shines in its online component. There are racked tournaments in which you can compete with other players from around the world, all striving to be the best and win it all. You can also partake in co-op sessions on the same console with a friend and play friendly matches with other teams online. These matches are fun in its purest form, and what this game is all about. You may boot up the game intending to play one match, but you will most likely stay for another and then another.
This is due to the refined game-play, almost a rock, paper, scissors style. There are different shots assigned to each button, like a drop shot that sends the ball hurtling over the net before coming to a sudden stop or flat that has no spin but fast movement. You have to attempt to predict your opponent’s moves and then respond according-ly. There are also special moves unique to each character performable after successful rallies have filled up your power gauge. Once unleashed, these super moves can even destroy your opponent’s racket, allowing you to win by K.O.
A Full Cast
Mario Tennis Aces employs all of your favorite Mushroom Kingdom family members as playable characters including Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Daisy, Donkey Kong, Yoshi and Bowser, to the more obscure Toad, Toadette, Spike, Chain Comp, and many, many more. Characters can also be unlocked by taking part in tourna-ments during particular months, providing an incentive to return. This motley crew look gorgeous, as do the vastly different selection of courts, no matter whether you are playing the Switch in handheld or docked modes. Just like Mario’s previous outing Mario Odyssey, it is a treat for the eyes.
Despite being the finest tennis experience I have ever had in the virtual realm, Mario Tennis Aces fails dismally in the single player domain. With that being said, it could quite possibly be best multi-player game currently available on Nintendo’s latest system. If you don’t have access to online play, then it may be best to pass up on this round of tennis. However, if you do, this could keep you coming back for months to come.