He may not look like much of an athlete but Mario sure has starred in a lot of sports games. His latest brings back the Tennis series but does it make up for the disappointing Ultra Smash?
Mario Tennis has been an enjoyable series since it debuted on Nintendo 64 back in 2000. However, it certainly hasn't changed much since then. Thankfully, Mario Tennis Aces brings back the immediately gratifying core gameplay with a few welcome twists. For starters, you now have an energy gauge that you can utilize for a couple of special moves. The first is known as zone speed which slows down time yet allows you to move at regular speed and the second is a powerful zone shot that lets you aim where the ball will go. The zone shot is so powerful that if your opponent tries to hit it, their racket might take damage and once it's damaged enough and they don't have any remaining rackets, they must forfeit the match. That being said, if they have perfect timing then they can successfully block it. So, whenever your opponent uses a zone shot, you have to ask yourself whether you should risk trying to block it or not.
There are a couple of additional mechanics as well including trick shots that give you the opportunity to jump to where the ball is heading and if you succeed, you gain a lot of energy. Finally, the special shot can be used when you have a full energy gauge and it has the potential to instantly break your competitor's racket yet it can be blocked. Although these additions change up the gameplay a great deal, the core experience is still very familiar. When you consider all of these new gameplay elements and compete online, you're left with a fresh and extremely satisfying experience. I highly recommend playing doubles matches online because having four players in each match makes it so much more exciting. Plus, you can play on a team with a local friend which is a lot more enjoyable.
I may prefer playing Mario Tennis Aces online but it features additional modes, too. Most notably, it has a stage-based Adventure campaign. This mode can only be played by a single player but it's huge and full of variety so if you're looking for some single player tennis fun, you won't be disappointed. Each stage poses its own unique challenge whether it's through court hazards or puzzle-like situations that you have to work out. However, there is no difficulty select and some of these stages can be downright brutal, especially if your skills with the racket aren't up to snuff. I wish there were options for casual gamers because the difficulty spikes have the potential to make gamers simply stop trying which is disappointing because playing through Adventure mode unlocks cool stuff like new courts.
Finally, the amount of variety within Adventure mode unfortunately doesn't spill over to the other modes. You can play tournaments, custom matches, and even a mode with motion controls yet there is no mini-game mode, challenges with leaderboards, or anything outside regular matches. This lack of variety is reflected in the customization options, too. Even when setting up a Free Play match, you can only adjust very basic options. Plus, I would have loved the ability to customize the characters in some way. You can level up in Adventure mode but it's all automatic and is only useful within that mode. Seeing as Mario Tennis Aces has some cool new characters like Spike, Blooper, and Chain Chomp; being able to equip accessories on them and such would have been an awesome feature.
Mario Tennis Aces retains the enjoyable core gameplay of the series while ushering in plenty of fresh and exciting mechanics. It could definitely use more content outside its cool Adventure mode but what's here is still a racket-smashing good time.
- + Solid classic Mario Tennis gameplay with awesome new mechanics
- + Adventure mode is a great inclusion
- + Playing online is a ton of fun
- - Difficulty spikes in adventure mode can be super-frustrating
- - Lacks variety outside of adventure mode
- - Could use more customization options