Mario Tennis has always been a staple of the “Mario does other things than plumbing” type of games. He go-karts, golfs, shoots Rabbid Rabbits and generally needs some extra curricular activity in-between fighting Bowser and saving Princess Peach. Not much of that formula has changed over the years, but every now and again, and especially with Nintendo’s newest console, we get thrown a curveball.
Enter Mario Tennis Aces for the Nintendo Switch. Last weekend, Switch players all around the world were able to download a tournament edition of this latest tennis game, and thepoorassgamer is here to give the blow by blow.
First off, I was completely surprised by the complexity of this game. Granted, there are different modes that affect the way you play, but in this latest iteration, it appears that Nintendo has decided to up the ante with way more tactics. You have all of the traditional characters to choose from: Mario, Peach, Yoshi, and Bowser (at least in this demo version). But Nintendo has also revealed such characters as the adorable Chain Chomp, who despite having no arms can still hold a tennis racket in his mouth. What struck me most after playing the tutorial was that this simple looking game is pretty much a fighting game. There are several types of shots to choose from, be it a super charged Star shot, lob shots, and zone shots. And in typical Mario Tennis fashion, you have a lot of ways to deceive the other player.
In addition to these types of shots, each player has a health bar on the top left and right, and this can add some interesting depth to what could otherwise be called a generic tennis game. As you continue to play and use more and more power to feed your shots, your health bar will soon deplete which ultimately, gives your opponent an advantage. Each character has a Special Shot, which can be used once your health bar is super charged. I believe this happens mainly after landing successive points or returning volleys from your opponent. The Special Shot is nearly unstoppable, outside of a diving special shot that can sometimes be timed correctly to return the super charged tennis ball.
In addition to the health bar, zone shots and special shots can be used to destroy your opponents racket. Destroying your opponents racket limits the power they can use on each shot. I really love this dynamic as it add an extra layer of strategy. The best way to describe this is that when a Special shot or Zone shot is activated, the player dives into a first person view that allows you to place where the ball will land, just like a first person shooter. You can choose to simply blow the ball past your opponent, or, you can aim directly for your opponent for a chance to break their racket. You only get a few seconds to do this but this is so cool when you pull it off. It really feels like Nintendo spent a good deal of time making this game feel competitive.
This game is also produced with all the lovely HD polish we have come to expect with the Nintendo Switch. I know that sounds like a bit of a joke, since Nintendo took so long to enter the HD era, but without a doubt, the quality of the textures, animations and the fluidity with which this game plays is front and center. I marveled a bit at how cool looking Bowser is in this game. It’s pretty much on par with Mario Odyssey, but seeing the scales on Bowsers back was pretty stunning.
But despite all of these wonderful additions to this Mario Tennis game, there is one aspect that nearly made me pull my hair out. The competitive scene for this game is going to be brutal. To give you an idea, in the actual tournament section of online gameplay, I only won one match. This, after many a game losing to some very qualified players. So basically, know you buttons, don’t telegraph where you are going to go on screen, and use your power appropriately. But good god, I could not compete with these players.
I also experienced a number of instances of lag during the online tournament. Many times I would just end up throwing a game because my actions on screen were not keeping up with what button I just pressed. I know this is just a demo, but I really hope this gets ironed out before the final release. Mostly, because I can imagine any instance where you are playing this on wifi will result in a few moves being executed out of sync. Seriously, know your stuff before playing the online tournament.
To end here, I really think this will be another great addition to an already wonderful library of Mario games on the Nintendo Switch. I definitely will recommend this game to any Mario fan, but also this seems poised to be Nintendo’s first big competitive game that I think will draw in a crop of new players to the Switch. Nintendo first tried it with ARMS, but unfortunately that game lost it’s steam to the point where the game is being offered for free every time they attempt to restart the competitive scene. Last but not least, I can see me and my friends getting together to play this game. There are plenty of tricks up its sleeves to keep me coming back for the challenge.
Mario Tennis Aces will be released on June 22.