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Mario Tennis Aces is a game which came out in June 2018 for the Nintendo Switch system. The game reviewed fairly well but it also received mixed reactions from critics and fans alike.
Since this game came out over 3 years ago, a lot has been updated and patched. Therefore, this Mario Tennis Aces review is based on the latest version of the game.
As to why am I reviewing a 3-year-old game? Well, for starters we just got the Nintendo Switch last year in November 2020. Also, my daughter is around that age where she is starting to enjoy games from the Mario universe. Plus she enjoys Mario Kart a lot, so we decided to give tennis a shot and more importantly it was on SALE! 😁.
Well, the game is essentially tennis but not like in the traditional sense that we see on TV. What I mean is, the game does follow the general basic rules of tennis but it does do things that are not possible in a game of real tennis but more on that latter.
What is Mario Tennis Aces?
So, as the title suggests Mario Tennis Aces is a tennis game but with Mario characters set in the Mario Universe.
Sounds fun and intriguing you say, well to be honest for the most part it is a fun tennis game but it does have areas where it tends to let itself down.
The game has multiple game modes on its main screen and your first preference would be to dive right into a match. Now based on your previous experience with sports titles you may already know the basic rules of the game but there are quite a few things in this game which you will not find in other tennis games
Therefore, my recommendation would be:
- Read the “how to play” option
- Start with the adventure mode. In this option you will find the basic rules of the game (tennis).
For my daughter the basic rules within the adventure mode option was quite useful as she has never played tennis before. The game does a good job in visual representing the various rules although it doesn’t answer my daughter’s question of why they have such a funny way to keep score?
Next up are the basic shots that you can perform in the game, which again are represented in the form of informative screenshots.
Up till now the game is quite simple and easy to understand for my daughter. What comes next took a little practice and getting used to, as these are new core systems of this game such as the energy meter and it’s various uses and functions (advanced shots & movement).
The game also introduces racket health and a blocking system. There is an option to practice the basic and advanced shots, sort of like a tutorial.
Now you might be wondering where the basic controller layout is as it is not in the free play options menu, not in the settings menu nor is it in the “how to play”?.
Well, in true Nintendo fashion if you have not started playing in the adventure mode. Then the controller layout is found when you have either started playing an actual match in free play or in tournament mode, when you pause the game.
If you are still in the “how to play” menu, then another good area to look into would be the “menu” option as it has valuable information on the character types in the game which are very important to understand how each architype is different. This menu also has useful information about court ball speed and bounce.
There is also a “Tips for playing” guide in the menu, which is a good read because the game also has a rock-paper-scissor type of mechanic to counter different shots that you would not have known if you didn’t read it here. So, it’s a good thing to keep in mind while playing with the A.I or your friends.
Ok, quite frankly that’s a lot of information buried in the how to play menu option. But let’s say you skipped all of that and directly went to the adventure mode. Which is essentially this game’s big story mode.
Adventure Mode in Mario Tennis Aces
Well, it’s the place you will find the most unique stuff and the most disappointing aspect of this game. Without spoiling too much Mario needs to save the island tennis resort from the evil tennis villain throughout various maps and courts in different tennis matches and mini games.
Sounds crazy and fun right! Well, that’s where the game shines and falls. The boss battles and mini games are fun and frustrating. The different courts have different hazard traps on them which, again is fun and frustrating. Sudden difficulty spike and cheap boss moves make this mode feel more like an after thought than a good story mode.
I mean it doesn’t have to be like a Pixar or Disney movie or anything, but it could have been fleshed out a bit more at least. The biggest gripe I have with this mode is that it builds itself an RPG but whatever stats you have earned for Mario doesn’t transfer out of this mode. Nor do the different rackets that you unlock transfer over.
Ok, I understand in order to balance the game the stats shouldn’t transfer for only one character. Fine, then at least give us the option to unlock character outfits or some customisation options that moves over from the story mode.
To be fair you do get one customisation item (Minor Spoiler Alert) which is the villain’s racket that Mario can use in free play mode and tournament vs the computer.
Oh and that item can only be used by Mario and nobody else. The only thing that you unlock from beating the story mode is 5 stages that can be used in free play or swing mode.
It took us around 2 and half hours to beat the story mode. I have read that people have finished it in under two hours as well. I mean I am not offended by it as it had the potential to be better for sure.
Tournament Mode Option in Mario Tennis
Well, there is no other way to say this is “Mama Mia Nintendo” what are you doing? There were 12 different “cups” in Mario kart 8 deluxe in this there 3. Yes, you read that right ONLY 3!
- Mushroom Cup
- Flower Cup
- Star Cup
Each cup differs in difficulty and rules (no. of games and sets that you need to play). None of the cups are hard and here the worst part you get nothing for beating the cups, well No! that’s not quite true.
You do get a crown icon below your character in the character select screen indicating that you won a cup with them. No customization, unlocks nothing.
I mean they have patched the game 12 times since it launched 3 years back and over that time, they have balanced the characters and added more characters and co-op challenges and online tournaments. Which are good things but there is no core drive for the player other than just playing a round of tennis.
I mean in Mario Kart at least the motivation was to unlock all the customisation options over the various difficult modes but here it feels like they just didn’t bother. I feel their ambition was different and they felt they were making a good tennis game with a few power play options would be enough and honestly, they were half-way there.
This is also the place where you can play online tournaments and if you do well in the official Nintendo tournaments you can unlock different coloured skins for some characters.
Co-op Challengesand Ring Shot in Mario Tennis
CO-OP challenges & Ring Shot are my least favourites modes of the game. They are essentially mini-games challenges.
Co-op as the name says can only be done with two players and honestly, they are not all that fun. I mean the option is there, so that’s great but my daughter and I got bored of it very fast.
Ring shot is also similar in nature but here you can do the challenges in single player or in local or online co-op. Its fine for the most part.
Swing Mode in Mario Tennis Aces
There is a whole bunch of visual explanation in the forms of pictures in the how to play menu but there is also a short video on how they expect you to play the mode.
For reference the pictures and video kind of don’t match with regards to how they want you to perform the motion.
Let’s just say, playing this mode is reminiscent of playing tennis on Wii sports with motion plus controllers. You can flail your hands like a crazy person and not hit a single shot or you could stand like a statue and just move your wrists and still miss shots.
It’s a silly mode and is temperamental at best, when it works it feels great but most of the time you would be moving around like silly people shouting at the T.V. which actually makes a good social media content, my daughter and I laughed more and played less in this mode for sure.
This mode can be played by up to 4 players locally or even online. Why you would do such a thing I am not sure but like I said, it could make a good social media content.
Free Play Mode in Mario Tennis Aces
Finally, coming to the free play mode. This mode allows you to pick your custom rules for the game as in how long you want the match to be, What type of gameplay (simple, standard etc.), which court, court hazards on or off, Single or doubles game, The difficulty of the computer etc.
Mario Tennis Aces Characters
The game has 30 different characters to choose from, each of them have been broadly classified into 6-character classes. Knowing what type of class, you are playing and knowing what type of class your opponent is key to wining at higher difficulties.
The lack of stadium variety is a sad understatement. If you happen to play this game without playing the adventure mode, then you would be able to play in the 4 standard courts each with their own ball speed and bounce behaviour plus one additional unique court.
After having played the adventure mode and unlocking the remaining 5 stadiums the total number of playable stadiums is 10. (Minor Spoilers below)
Each stadium has its own set conditions for ball bounce and speed behaviour and only the last 5 stadiums that are unlocked via the adventure mode have hazards on them each unique to each individual court.
Honestly, the short answer would be its fun. On higher difficulties the computer just lays waste to your racket and skills, so there is a definite challenge to be had.
Each character has their own special move when your energy meter is full and playing with friends locally or online is a blast.
On special game point, break point, set point or match point etc the controller will vibrate to simulate a beating heart.
Overall, my biggest gripe with the game is the lack of customisation and unlocks for characters and custom tournament options was a serious under sight from the developers. Which could have made a good game into a great one.
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