We don’t get as many tennis games as I would like (not as many good ones anyway). While I do love the more serious tennis simulators, it’s always nice to play a more arcade version just for a bit of fun.
I’ve spent the past couple of years playing the more realistic Tennis Elbow 2013, so it was a little refreshing to get my hands on Mario Tennis Aces.
This is why I was really looking forward to the game, and combined with that Mario creativeness, I was ready to sink many matches into it. But is Mario Tennis Aces a winner? Or is it a series of unforced errors?
Mario Tennis Aces Gameplay
The actual gameplay of the tennis is without a doubt the game’s highlight. It has that high level of polish you expect from a Nintendo game. Controlling your player, charging your shot, hitting winners, etc. is all very fun and satisfying. It also has that good level of accessibility so anyone can join in and play.
But don’t go thinking the arcade nature of the gameplay means lack of depth, because this game definitely contains the necessary depth and strategy to make this game more than just simply hitting a ball.
You have your usual tennis shots- – top spin, flat shot, slice, drop shot and lob. What I really appreciated was the fact that each shot had an associated colour to it. Top spin shots had a red trail; flat shots had a purple trail, etc. I loved this because it let you know if you pulled off the shot properly, and it also gives you a split second to adapt to your opponents shot (and maybe an idea to their strategy).
Apart from your usual tennis shots, there are a few more unique shots you can pull off. The Zone Shots allow you to aim where you want to fire your ball, and your character will whack the ball almost guaranteeing you a winning shot.
There’s always a chance though that that shot can be blocked and deflected back, but at the risk of destroying the racquet. So you’ll need to think about where to aim to shoot because it could backfire! It’s not always easy to block, because the window for blocking is so small, as you have to wait until the ball is almost touching your racquet.
The players on court have their own energy meter which is built up by keeping the rally going (which is strange…shouldn’t that expend energy?).
If your energy is filled, you can pull off a special shot that’s basically the same thing as a Zone Shot but with more oomph.
When you’re on the defensive you can perform a trick shot where the player will very quickly jump over to the ball that’s normally out of reach and save the point. Also holding ‘R’ will slow down time to make it easier (and possible) to reach Zone Shots and other shots that would have been winners otherwise.
So in terms of offense and defense, you certainly have quite a lot of variety of shots and abilities. Both sets of special abilities will drain energy, so you’ll really need to prioritise your energy usage. Do you use it all for offensive purposes and try to win more points? Or save it when your opponent is performing a special move and you need to defend?
To add yet another layer of strategy is that each player has a certain number of racquets each with their own durability. If you lose all your racquets, you automatically lose the match. So do you try to win the match via a normal tennis match, or by destroying your opponent’s racquets?
Mario Tennis Aces Adventure Mode
Adventure Mode is the big story mode of the game. An eerie, evil tennis racquet (???) has been released onto the world and is looking to regain its lost power. It curses and controls anyone who touches it, bending them to its will. Waluigi and Wario discovered this evil racquet, and unfortunately Luigi succumbed too and joined in on its evil plot.
Five orbs are scattered throughout the land and if united with the evil racquet, it will gain its full power and cause chaos and destruction. Of course it’s up to Mario to go his own journey to find the five orbs and prevent the evil racquet from finding them first. The story is obviously unoriginal but you don’t play this game for its story.
You’ll be travelling along a straight path from one level to the next, competing in either tennis matches (the world seems to revolve around tennis here), or in challenges that test your tennis skills.
That might include knocking out all the enemies within the time limit, knocking over objects to gain a set amount of points within the time limit, or taking on a boss.
These challenges were fine, but I felt there were too many of them as I mainly wanted to just play a proper game of tennis.
Even the tennis matches were quite lacking, as you’ll only need two games to win a set, and were either one set or best of 3 sets long. Sometimes you’ll play on special courts that provide extra challenges to the matches.
I hated these courts so much! I just want to play a normal game of tennis but the distractions the game throw at you only cause more frustration. Some matches took place on a boat, where a mast would be right in the middle of the net, meaning the ball can bounce right off it and completely ruin the point. This is especially infuriating when you’re playing fast opponents and you’re keeping the rally going only to have the point end abruptly. It’s not fun, it’s only annoying- I’m looking at you Blooper!
After each match/challenge, win or lose, you’ll gain experience points and level up. This will increase your stats to progressively make you a better player. But I never really noticed these upgrades, and there are only three stats to upgrade- Shot Power, Foot Speed, and Agility, so there’s not a whole lot of depth anyway.
Some bonus challenges will reward you with a bonus racquet which upgrades your stats and gives you an extra racquet in case your other racquets get destroyed. Earning a new racquet was one of the very few satisfying aspects of Adventure Mode.
Before and after each level, there’ll be some dialogue spoken between the characters for the sake of the story, but they’re not even cut-scenes, it’s just the characters standing there talking. It just feels cheap and rushed.
Overall it’s a pretty average adventure that won’t take long to complete, and once you’re done, there’s no real reason to ever come back to it.
Mario Tennis Aces Free Play Mode
Free Play mode is where you’ll play in exhibition matches against the COM or a friend. Just like the Adventure Mode, it’s also very lacking. The most baffling decision with this mode (and the whole game), is how you’re unable to play a proper, full tennis match!
The only options you have are either a tie-breaker, or play a one set requiring only 2 games to win it. That’s it!! The fact that there’s not even an option to increase the number of games in a set is not only confusing, but disrespectful to every tennis fan that paid full price for this game.
Selecting the court is another confusing affair. You can’t just select what type of court you want, but you must select the courts you DON’T want first, and then have the court you want enabled. It’s ridiculous!
There’s a lot less variety than the previous Mario Tennis game, where I believe there was a mushroom surface, sand surface, etc., but in the Switch version there’s just the usual hard, grass and clay surfaces. There are different areas you can unlock from Adventure Mode to play in, but they’re not different surfaces, just different arenas with annoying obstacles.
You can select from a whole range of characters but there’s only four different playstyles spread across them all. There are no stats shown which really could have separated them and made them more unique. It’s just another area that could have had more effort put in but was sadly overlooked.
Mario Tennis Aces Tournament Mode
Out of all the modes, this mode would be the place to be. Here you’ll play a traditional 8-man tournament where you’ll need to win three rounds to win the tournament. In true Mario style, there’s a Mushroom, Flower, and Star cup to play through, with each cup getting progressively more difficult.
The online portion is similar, but there are more rounds and you’ll only play one set requiring only two games to win. Matches for me have been a little laggy, but it’s not so bad that the game is unplayable. After every match you’ll earn some ranking points and be placed on the leaderboard, so if you’ve done everything else the game has to offer, you’ll be spending most of your time on this. That is, if you can really be bothered winning ridiculous amounts of matches to get anywhere near top.
Mario Tennis Aces Summary
As a huge fan of both Mario games and tennis in general, I can’t help but feel let down by Mario Tennis Aces. Every mode is just so lacking, and unless you plan on playing online or with a friend constantly, you won’t have much reason to come back.
The actual tennis gameplay is great and has enough depth to make every point feel like a problem solving affair. But it’s like Nintendo didn’t want you to spend long on it, with no options to change the amount of games played in each set, or the amount of sets played, and I just don’t understand it. Hopefully Nintendo will patch more options in, but it should have been there from the very start.
Mario Tennis Aces really should have been called Mario Tennis Double Faults if I’m to be completely honest. If this game was a tennis player, they probably would have lost 6-4 6-3.