Mario Tennis Aces is a stunning return to form for the series after lacklustre effort Mario Tennis Ultra Smash on Wii U. Unlike that game, Mario Tennis Aces is fully featured and includes an Adventure mode for the first time since Mario Tennis Power Tour on Game Boy Advance.
Camelot is back at the helm and despite offering some simpler, barebones sequels in the past, has put everything into Mario Tennis Aces. Alongside the Adventure are several other modes including Tournament, Free Play and Swing Mode.
Since Mario Tennis Aces drops players straight into the Adventure, it’s where most people will get a feel for the gameplay. This is handy as the Adventure acts as an extended tutorial, gradually unveiling all the tips and tricks the game has to offer.
Mario Tennis Aces Review
In the Adventure, the Mario Tennis Tournament is interrupted by Wario and Waluigi who’ve gotten their hands on an ancient, powerful and evil tennis racquet.
Entranced by its power, the evil racquet also ensnares Luigi and the three run off to chase down the five magical power stones that will grant the racquet its full power.
The story is absolute nonsense, which is as it should be. In Mario Tennis Aces, Mario’s forgotten his time-tested, tried and true way of dealing enemies and instead opts to battle them in matches of tennis.
I’ve always been fond of Mario’s tendency to stomp on heads and deliver swift kicks to the bollocks, but tennis works too. Especially when it’s as unique as in Mario Tennis Aces.
Like the Good Old Days, Only Better
I’ve not played Mario Tennis properly since it was on N64, but I immediately felt at home. Much of the gameplay remains the same, but it’s been updated, streamlined and improved to function better in 2018.
You still press A for topspin, B to slice, Y for a flat shot and X for Lobs and Drop Shots. However, instead of madly mashing the button like a maniac, in Mario Tennis Aces, to charge your shot you simply press your button ahead of time.
It’s much simpler and cleaner, but my muscle memory kept kicking in. It would be fine to mash the button of course, except that an all-new shot has been added which is triggered by double tapping. You can also activate it by flicking the right stick, which is far easier.
The Trick Shot, as it’s called, is useful for crossing large distances in a short space of time to hit an otherwise missed ball. Every character has a different animation for their Trick Shot and each is as charming as the last. Mario does a flip, Wario slides along the ground and Waluigi does a sort of Moon Walk.
If you time your Trick Shot correctly, not only will you return the ball and save the rally, you’ll also fill your power meter. The power meter governs your ability to launch Zone Shots, enter Zone Speed and unleash your Special Shot.
Now You’re Playing With Power
Zone Shots are supersonic returns that you can activate once your meter is yellow. When your opponent returns the ball and you see a star on the court, it’s your chance. By pressing R or ZR, you’ll switch into Zone Shot mode which sees you aim a reticule with gyro controls.
When you have your chosen location, simply hit any of the face buttons and the ball will go rocketing towards your opponent. You’ll need to be quick too as your meter depletes rapidly while your aiming.
In most instances, I found it easiest to either aim at my opponent or their racquet. This is because, when you unleash a Zone Shot, the timing on the return has to be perfect or your opponent’s racquet will be damaged. If it takes too much damage it’ll break. If they run out of racquets, they get a KO and you win the match.
Special Shots do even more damage and can destroy almost any opponent’s racquet no matter how damaged it is. Simply fill your power meter all the way, press L or ZL, aim and watch that racquet shatter.
Some of the latter matches in the Adventure mode were easier to win simply by destroying the other side’s racquets rather than play tennis. It’s really strange in hindsight, but in the context of the game, it absolutely works.
Come to think of it, even though Mario Tennis Aces is clearly a tennis game, it takes a lot of inspiration from fighting games. Both players will be working feverishly to build their meters, counter everything the other throws at them and unleash special moves at just the right time.
It works for the most part, though the player on offence usually has the upper hand. As I mentioned, you can return Zone and Special Shots, but only with perfect timing.
To do this without assistance is nigh on impossible, but thankfully you can spend your power meter on Zone Speed. By pressing R or ZR you can temporarily slow down time to enable you to line up and hit these otherwise impossible shots.
It’s quite handy, but, more often than not there’s so little time to activate Zone Speed that you’ve already missed the shot. It would have been nice to have been able to have some more defensive moves, but alas in Mario Tennis Aces, the best defence is a good offence.
Outside of Adventure Mode, most players will spend time in the Tournament and Free Play modes. Swing Mode is a nice addition for those who want memories of Wii Tennis, but it’s basically a gimmick and won’t really get much use.
What Else Ya Got?
Tournament Mode isn’t as fully featured as I’d hoped, but it’s certainly got enough meat to keep players going. Free Play is where the real fun of Mario Tennis is though.
It’s here that you can play local multiplayer, local multiplayer across multiple Switches and online. Unfortunately, the online modes weren’t available during the review period, however, they will be available for launch.
I’m hoping that the online functions better than it did in the demo because that was rubbish. I’ll be sure and update this review once I’ve had some time online.
However, it’s my opinion that Mario Tennis Aces functions best as a local, couch game. There’s no better fun than gathering a group of mates, having some drinks and wiling away the night with game after game of Mario Tennis.
Thankfully, Camelot has also included a simple mode for the purists among us. This does away with special shots, Zone Speed and the like and relies on good old-fashioned skill. It’s certainly my favourite mode and my preferred way to play.
It’s Definitely Worth It
There’s lots to love about Mario Tennis Aces and not much to complain about. It’s a little disappointing that you don’t see characters unlocking while you play, as is the shortness of the Adventure Mode.
That being said, the boss battles are really creative and fun to play and some of the special challenge stages are incredibly difficult. Good luck finishing the Advanced Rally Stage.
It’s great to see so many wonderful, fully featured, detailed and, most of all, fun games coming to Switch. Mario Tennis Aces is another in a long line of winning titles for Nintendo’s latest console.
If you own a Switch, you should own Mario Tennis Aces.
Mario Tennis Aces was reviewed using a digital copy provided to PowerUp! by Nintendo.
Game Title: Mario Tennis Aces
Proper Mario Tennis - 9.8/10
Adventure Mode is actually great - 8.9/10
Special Shots and Powers get annoying after a while - 5/10
Heaps of Content - 9.2/10
Where the hell is Birdo? - 4/10