Review – Mario Tennis Aces

I’ve been craving for a new Mario Tennis game for years. Tennis is my favorite sport and I have fond memories of playing the first iteration of Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64, arguably the best representation of the sport in gaming history. We haven’t seen any good Mario Tennis games ever since the Gamecube days. Most recent titles felt too much like rushed products developed with the sole intention to give 3DS and Wii U owners something to play after long periods of release droughts.

Suffice to say, I was looking forward to Mario Tennis Aces. The initial trailer looked promising. The betas were decent. The game looked like it would actually have a good amount of content. To be honest, it’s probably the best Mario Tennis game in years and most certainly the best tennis game from this generation (not like AO International Tennis can be considered a fierce competitor), but it’s still far from being as good as its early 2000’s predecessors.

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The controls are excellent.

Some elements in Mario Tennis Aces are promising. The controls are excellent: the game allows you to perform all kinds of tennis strokes with ease. Top spins, slices, lobs, drop shots; everything is easy to perform and you have a lot of control on where you want your shot to go. There is also a motion control-based mode and the responsiveness is excellent! The joycons are finally achieving what the wiimotes tried but failed. The variety is sublime and you can easily play this game just like you play tennis in real life… until you see a star icon on the court…

Whenever you hold the R button when you stand on this icon, you’ll be able to aim a semi-invincible shot in slow motion. The ball will move at an insane speed and the defending player will have little to no response time in order to block the shot. If you by some miracle manage to properly block the shot at the time the game thinks it’s ideal, nothing will happen to you, but if you arrive “too early” or “too late” at the shot (at least according to the game), you’ll damage your racket. Depending on the power of the shot, you’ll break your racket at once. That’s right, Mario Tennis Aces introduces a stupid “health” mechanic to a tennis game. You may wonder if the AI uses this gimmick often during matches. The answer is yes. Balancing be damned, Mario Tennis Aces is all about stupidly aiming at your opponent’s racket HP instead of thinking about playing a proper tennis game instead.

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Fighting a huge boss with a tennis racket? What am I looking at?

This emphasis on an unnecessary gimmick is bad enough, but the most disappointing aspect of Mario Tennis Aces is its story mode; a linear series of puzzle-infused levels coupled with some occasional boss battles and some RPG elements. I know I shouldn’t expect a second coming of the magnificent story mode from the Game Boy Color version of Mario Tennis, but this adventure mode is still a bummer. The boss battles feel out of place and the puzzle segments are confusing. Whenever the game actually tells you to play a proper match of tennis, things are a lot more enjoyable. Then again, there’s the issue with the overuse of star shots…

 

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Thanos is coming for you.

Mario Tennis Aces is excellent in some aspects and a complete failure in other aspects. Its gameplay is amazing. It might actually be the best gameplay ever put into a tennis game… if you take the whole star shot and blocking gimmicks out of the equation. The adventure mode was too focused on boring and poorly explained puzzles as well. Mario Tennis Aces is still a good game without a doubt, but it could have been the best Mario Tennis game since the Gamecube days, if Nintendo hadn’t decided to be Nintendo and shove unnecessary gimmicks into one of its games.

 

Graphics: 7.0

Mario Tennis Aces looks fine and its framerate is excellent, but there’s nothing here that couldn’t have been achieved with inferior hardware.

Gameplay: 9.0

Buttery smooth controls, lots of ways to strike the ball, great aiming, excellent responsiveness, and the motion controls are pretty good, but the entire blocking schtick is poorly implemented.

Sound: 6.0

Your typical average Mario sports tunes and Charles Martinet voicing almost everyone in the game’s roster.

Fun Factor: 6.0

Mario Tennis Aces might feature excellent controls and it’s very fun when it’s just a normal tennis game, but its adventure mode is subpar and its focus on “star shots” completely ruins any semblance of balancing.

Final Verdict: 7.0

 

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