By Eli Sokeland
Ever since “Mario Tennis Power Tour,” the series has been rather disappointing on multiple fronts. The lack of modes, mechanics, and customization in recent entries pushed me away from playing them entirely. However, with the promises that Nintendo made for “Mario Tennis Aces,” there is a lot that the game has to live up to.
A mode for every mood
The first major aspect of the game is the sheer amount of game modes. These include adventure, tournament, free play, and swing mode. With the exception of adventure mode, all of these are actually able to have local multiplayer. While this isn’t a graphically demanding game, it is a welcome gesture in a world filled with single-player only titles.
Adventure mode is where the actual story of the game takes place. The story revolves around an ancient tennis racquet controlling its users to collect five power stones, in order to take over the world. With this Avengers-esque story, it feels incredibly ridiculous.
The story also progresses in a very linear path, despite the gorgeous map. Essentially each level does have a purpose, but the reason for the characters to play tennis seems absurd. For example, a koopa-troopa won’t let the player cross aboard a ferry unless they best him in a game of tennis. Overall, adventure mode feels like a simple series of challenges that are slightly connected to the story.
Similar to the amount of stones, there are five different areas for the player to explore in the story. These areas each contain a different court, which are unlocked for other game modes when a player finds a stone. These courts are all unique, with each differing in the ball bounce ability and speed of the court.
To top it off, the courts all have a varying amount of hazards for players to utilize. For example, the forest court contains a set of piranha plants that gobble up tennis balls and will spit them out anywhere. These are welcoming because it does change up how to approach an opponent because of how much they can affect each match.
The other major mode that Nintendo heavily promoted was swing mode. This basically makes players each use a singular joy-con to physically swing in real life. While this may sound similar to “Wii Sports,” this version is lacking in several areas.
Primarily, the speed of swing mode is exponentially slow. While the other modes have several types of swings to change the pace of the match, swing mode only relies on the time of the swing. Furthermore, the characters automatically move towards the ball in this mode, making it really simple. While this could be geared towards younger audiences, it is disappointing for “Wii Sports” veterans.
Great new game mechanics
Many typical sports games don’t have many vast improvements in mechanics over the years. However, this is a Mario sports game. The first major aspect of “Mario Tennis Aces” is the introduction of an energy gauge. With this gauge comes zone shots, special shots, trick shots, and a slowdown mechanic.
The most interesting one out of the group is the slowdown mechanic. Draining the energy gauge, players are able to expertly position themselves for a ball that might be difficult to hit back. This is a nice addition to the game because it allows for more concise gameplay.
Zone shots and special shots are both types of shots that allows characters to slam the ball in exact locations using the gyroscope. While gyroscope is usually unwelcome in a game, this small addition does fit rather well. This is because of the short amount of time players have to use this feature.
Lastly, my favorite type is the trick shot. This is when players can maneuver their characters across the court in a unique fashion to get to a ball that might have been out of reach. While this might not seem like much, this is made unique because each character moves differently. For example, powerful characters only move a little for trick shots while speedy characters can cross the entire court.
Despite customization, tennis brings exceptional style
The major lacking point of the entire game is the sense of customization. This is because there isn’t any. If players didn’t manage to get Mario’s classic outfit, every character only has one outfit. This is incredibly disappointing, especially since this gives the players no incentive to work towards outside of adventure mode.
Also, the settings in the game are oddly complex. In order to choose a stage, players have to go into the settings, select custom stages, and adjust a playlist for the game to shuffle the stages. This feels needlessly complex for something that could have been solved with a stage select screen.
The only benefit to the settings is that it lets players easily decide between stages with no hazards and their normal settings. The settings also let players easily switch between the more traditional tennis game (no energy gauge) and the modern counterpart. Luckily, Nintendo does add some flairs towards “Mario Tennis Aces.”
Each character and stage in the game is expertly crafted and detailed. For example, the grass in the forest court makes a crunch sound when characters run across it. Another great example is that players can even see the fabric woven into characters clothes. These small textures and sounds really give the game unique feel.
This level of detail also goes beyond into the redesigns of several characters. While Mario and Luigi have new outfits, the main stars of the show are definitely Wario and Waluigi. In previous games they starred in, both were seen as pretty gruff. However, in “Mario Tennis Aces,” both have stylish hair and crisp clothes.
Featured image from Engadget
Mario Tennis Aces
Overall, the game vastly improves on a lot of the major downfalls of previous entries. However, the lack of customization and incentives does negatively impact replayability. Despite this, the game’s brand new mechanics and style creates a memorable experience that will appeal to all audiences.