Mario is one of the most iconic characters in all of video game history. The character who started off as a simple plumber out to save a princess of a kingdom of mushrooms has now appeared in too many games to count, including more than a few different sports type games, from soccer to kart racing and tennis. Mario Tennis Aces is the latest in the long line of Mario sports spin-off titles. It is the first Mario sports title available on the Switch. There have been several gameplay updates for this newest title beyond just the general increase in graphics, and it is a very good installment in the Mario spin-off titles.
Mario Tennis Aces
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 22, 2018
Players: 1-4 Players
Mario Tennis Aces is a fairly accessible tennis game and is generally fairly fun to play. But if you are a tennis fan or know, well, anything really, about how actual tennis is played… Mario Tennis is going to be absolutely frustrating. While you play through the main story campaign in the game, you will come across several diverse and infuriating levels. While each stages main boss may not be an overly difficult challenge once you learn their tricks, individual stages will have you pulling your hair out.
Make no mistakes here, the infamous Nintendo rubber-banding A.I is on full display here, with certain stages just being twelve different types of unfair. You see, you’re not just playing tennis matches on different courts, no. You’re playing tennis matches against floating mirrors that require certain shots to beat, or against a blooper on a ship in the middle of a raging storm with a giant mast in the center of the field.
This is the games biggest fault. In an attempt to make tennis more fun and Mario-esque, the developers added in a ton of extra hurdles for the player to overcome. Most of the time it isn’t so bad, but there are more than a few stages that just insanely unfair. In the match against the blooper on the ship, the bad AI cheating is especially prevalent (it is one of a few matches that are just particularly bad).
Since you are on a ship and there is of course a mast in the middle of the field, you will routinely see yourself up in points, only to have entire matches stolen because the blooper will be able to pin point hit the mast, causing the ball to quickly fire off in the opposite direction of where you would expect it to go.
Add in the spin shot and drop shot, the computer controlled opponents have plenty of ways to troll you. You will see this in a few matches in the main game and almost constantly when playing just normal matches against the computer.
I’ve never understood why Nintendo has such extremely trolling AI in their spinoff games, but at least you don’t have to contend with it as often as in other games here. However, it is still present and is still a massive headache.
The good news here is the fact that the campaign is relatively short, most players will be able to complete the game in about 5 hours or so. This naturally depends on how much time you take on the harder courts and if you go about completing every side court you come across. The game itself is fairly linear.
Not only is the game short, but each court stage in the game is meant to help you hone your different shots and the different, non-tennis mechanics the game offers. While this is, at its core, a tennis game, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a tennis match end by one of the pro players creating sheets of light, jumping off of them and smashing the ball in to the face of their opponent, which is actually a viable technique in MTA.
Not only can you win via point totals, beating your opponent in a relatively fair tennis match, you can also beat them by breaking their rackets. You can do this by using the super shots and special shots available to each character. You can’t just fire off these shots willy nilly, however. You will have to increase your special meter by performing continuous volleys, performing trick shots and returning the ball while standing in special star markers that being to appear in each stage.
While the game goes through great lengths to make sure you understand the fundamentals of the game, seeing as how the entirety of the single player campaign is just training, it does not provide any sort understanding of tennis, assuming that the player just knows how tennis as a game works. Look, I’m sorry. I play and sell games for a living in my day job.
I’m not exactly what is known as a lover of sports. I’ll watch Football and Hockey every so often, but I don’t go out of my way to follow sports. I’m not exactly sure why, in a tennis match, if you’re at 40-30, if your opponent scores against you, you basically keep going back and forth until one of you scores twice. Or how a tie breaker match works.
Unfortunately, Mario Tennis Aces doesn’t explain this, at all. The game basically just throws you to the wolves while teaching you enough about your stick so you don’t accidentally poke your eye out. With how the controls are laid out on the Joy-Con, you’ll be poking yourself in your foot often enough. It’s not terribly bad, but does get annoying, especially with the rubber-band like AI.
I would like to discuss the single player campaign, but there’s really not much here. As said earlier, the single player campaign will take the the normal player about 5 hours or so to complete. The story isn’t very much. Basically, Wario and Waluigi unlock an ancient evil tennis racket, said racket kidnaps Luigi and Mario and Toad set off on a whirlwind adventure to rescue him.
My apologies to anyone who was expecting Mario RPG levels of writing or anyone who was just really really looking forward to some serious tennis exposition while fighting a giant mirror. If I have spoiled a story you were really hoping to experience first hand, there isn’t much to it.
I’m always open to criticism but seriously, there’s just not much of a story here. However, it’s entertaining enough while you learn the different techniques for when you take on other players in online matches. This is essentially the entire point of the single player campaign: training for battling online.
All in all, Mario Tennis Aces is a fairly enjoyable game, even with the ever present rubber-band AI. Is the game currently worth your money? Most of your gameplay time will come from playing against other people in online matches, so if you are a multiplayer focused player, then most definitely yes. If you want a good 2 player game to pick up to have some fun with friends, then yes.
If you’re looking for a satisfying single player game that will keep you busy for awhile or for something to do on long trips or commutes, it is probably safe to skip this one for now until you can find it a bit cheaper or second hand. It’s by no means bad, it’s just focused more on the multiplayer component – which is what most people looking at this game are hoping to use it for.
Mario Tennis Aces was reviewed on Switch using a personally obtained copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 8
- Relatively fun single player player experience
- A fun Tennis game for people who aren’t sports fans
- A diverse cast of characters to choose from in multiplayer
- Upbeat and catchy music scores
- Bright, vibrant graphics and locations
- Harsh swings in difficulty
- Extremely short single player campaign, game focuses mostly on multiplayer gameplay
- No explanation on the rules of Tennis, only on how this specific game is played