The golden age of tennis video games have long since gone, yet Mario and friends continue to go head-to-head in one of the world's most beloved sports. Over the years the universal concept regarding gameplay mechanics have remained the same across the franchise; each time featuring a little something to differentiate it from its predecessors. Mario Tennis Aces is another example of this, bringing the popular franchise to the Nintendo Switch with exciting new twists.
Mario Tennis Aces is the first game, for the Tennis series, in nearly 13 years to feature a story mode. This is presented in the form of the Adventure Mode, one of the stand-out features of the game. The story focuses on Mario, who needs to make his way through various missions and boss fights in order to save the Mushroom Kingdom from a mysterious dark force that has taken the form of an unusual tennis racket called "The Lucien".
Now is probably a good time to mention that the plot is as ridiculous as it sounds, after all, the story's concept has been written around battling enemies with a tennis racket. The fact that Mario needs to save possessed characters and retrieve five special power stones before an evil tennis racket is irrelevant. The manner in which the missions have been designed and implemented is superb. You’ll need to quickly apply what you’ve learned in the brief tutorial levels to make your way through unique puzzles and challenges while collecting new rackets for your efforts. While short-lived, the new Adventure Mode is what fans have been hoping to get for years.
If you prefer to delve into the more traditional aspects of Tennis, and immediately hit the court, Mario Tennis Aces offers a host of your favourite Nintendo characters to choose from. Each character has their own unique abilities and stats, and it’s up to you to see which is best suited to your play style. Mario, Luigi and Princess Daisy deliver an all-round balanced experience with a little bit of everything, though nothing that particularly stands out. Yoshi and Toad are far quicker on their feet than the rest, while Princess Peach has more technical shots that focus on accuracy rather than power.
New characters to the franchise, Spike and Chain Chomp, join Wario, Bowser and Donkey Kong in the Power category, while Waluigi and Bowser Jr. take a more defensive approach. Boo and Rosalina are the technical gurus utilizing spin, with shots that curve towards or away from players. All these abilities have an impact on how you tackle your opponents but there are far more important elements to master before taking on the best of the best.
The characters each have an energy gauge that builds up the longer you hold in your pre-swing shot. Once you’ve built up some energy you can perform Zone Shots, Special Shots, and activate the new Zone Speed. Zone shots are activated using the right trigger button releasing a powerful shot that you can place with pin-point accuracy using the gyro controls. These are difficult shots to return and if you don’t time things just right the shot will destroy your racket. Run out of rackets and it’s immediately game over regardless of where you are in the match. To counter these Zone Shots players are able to use the gauge energy to perform Zone speed. This will slow down the timing of the shot so that you can reach the ball and block the shot providing it has been timed well enough.
Each character has their own Special shot that can only be used if their energy gauge is completely full. These shots are by far the most powerful and should be used sparingly especially against more difficult opponents. Lastly, there are useful trick shots that are used when a shot is out of reach and needs to be quickly returned. While each character has their own animation to the trick shot the effect remains the same; return the ball frantically!
If you prefer, you can play a match of tennis without these new features, both online and offline. This provides a more relaxed, composed style of play. Searching for online games proved unsuccessful for the most part pre-launch. Fortunately, I managed to meetup with friends from another publication and had numerous successful online matches. There were a few points where minimal lag crept in but nothing that affected the online gameplay experience whatsoever. After a few really good rallies on the unique, interactive tennis courts, I could immediately see that this is where the game's longevity lies.
Mario Tennis Aces is the tennis game that fans of the franchise have been waiting for. It provides all the best elements of previous titles and some engaging new ones. If you haven’t picked up a tennis game from the Wii Sports era, it even has a swing mode whereby you use the joy-cons as motion controls while attempting to return the ball as accurately as possible. Aces stands out as not only a magnificent arcade-styled tennis game but an experience that every Switch owner needs to try.
Banjo wielding, moonshine drinking, dungaree enthusiast. When not laying back on the porch couch he will be found making minor additions to his porcelain dog home décor.
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22 June 2018
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