Ever since the original Mario Tennis was released on the N64, I’ve always craved the next installment in the series, no matter what system it was releasing on. Developer Camelot has a knack for making interesting sports games out of mundane sports like golf (sorry if this statement offends you. I don’t mind watching golf, but Mario Golf is way more fun to be a part of. This is just fact.) I would love to see any of the other Mario sports games make their way to the Switch at some point. But for now, I’m more than happy to at least have Mario Tennis on the console. It’s the best entry in the series to date.
The big new feature that has been introduced in this iteration is Adventure Mode (there was one in Mario Tennis: Power Tour but apparently that doesn’t matter to Nintendo). It’s hilarious, ridiculous, and over the top, but Camelot has made all kinds of mayhem like playing a tennis match against a bunch of mirrors seem normal. The story goes full blown Avengers Infinity War with Mario trying to gain control of five stones that are needed to control the ultimate tennis racket. If this power falls into the wrong hands, it could mean game over for our hero and everyone else. At every new area, I was waiting for Thanos to pop up so I could battle it out on the court with him in a tennis match for the ages, but my one wish was never granted (maybe add Thanos in some DLC later like Fortnite?).
The stages provide varying degrees of challenge, some involve serving a ball back to Shy Guys on a train within a certain amount of time, to battling a giant Frost Golem with big hands that need to be taken care of so you can attack its eye. As you progress through each stage, Mario levels up and increases his various attributes like Mario Tennis on Gameboy and Mario Tennis: Power Tour on GBA. You’ll also come across different rackets to use, from an ice racket to a mirror racket to help you grow in power. It adds some great variety and keeps things fresh. You’re able to go back to previous stages, either to hone your skills or gain more XP to level yourself up further. For all you RPG enthusiasts, you’ll be able to grind levels to your heart’s content.
New mechanics in this entry in regards to gameplay include filling up your special meter to let off a devastating power move that allows you to pick a spot on the court like a sniper and fire the ball with precision, a trick shot that can fill your special meter quicker (however, it is easy to misjudge the timing and therefore is a risky move to make), slowing down time like Max Payne to block incoming shots or catch up to a ball that’s out of reach. If your opponent lets off a powerful shot and you miscalculate the timing of your block, you could either cause damage to your racket or break it completely. Depending on how many rackets you have, if you run out of them, it’s an instant K.O. This can lead to some harrowing moments, where you have to weigh the options on blocking an incoming shot or not in case you end up costing yourself the match because you destroy your racket.
After you’ve completed the Adventure Mode, you’re going to be spending the majority of your time duking it out in online tournaments. There are different local modes like four player, Doubles, Swing Mode (you’re able to swing the Joy-Con like a racket, you can even buy actual rackets to attach to said Joy-Con for more realism), a giant ball mode where you volley back and forth a tennis ball that floats across the court like a beach ball. These are great for when you have people over or playing with your kids, but when you’re by yourself, online tournaments are the way to go.
Currently, there aren’t any rewards for the June tournament, but coming up in the July, August and September tournaments, players who participate can look forward to unlocking a secret character for each month. If you don’t take part, you’ll be able to get the character the following month. Online play is stable and matchmaking is quick and easy. If you need to take a break from the tournament you can log off the game in-between matches and be able to pick up where you left off when you play again.
The only negative experience I’ve had is playing against the Tricky class of character. These include Boo and Rosalina. The curve they can put on their spin shot is insane. It’s really difficult to gauge where their ball is going to land and literally everyone you go up against online is using these characters. I have been able to win matches against them, so it’s possible, but it’s a hell of a challenge if you aren’t using these characters as well. I really hope Camelot nerfs them in a future update to even the playing field.
After the lackluster Mario Tennis Ultra Smash on the Wii U, the series looked like it was in trouble. It was missing so many things that made me fall in love with the series in the first place. Camelot has eased my mind and Mario Tennis Aces is a blast. It’s a return to form. The newly added adventure mode is a nice change with interesting gameplay dynamics and puzzles to solve. The online tournaments are addictive and with monthly tournaments that will unlock secret characters, you’ll be playing Mario Tennis Aces for months to come. – NVJ