Okay, before I begin, I would like to say I usually don’t like sports video games. Why play a digital sport when you can play it in real life? You even get more exercise, have more fun, get to spend time with friends, all in one if you play the sport in person. One of the few exceptions to this personal bias is the Mario Tennis games.
The reasons are many, but here are a few:
- Tennis is my favorite sport to play.
- Tennis is one of the earliest games to become a video game (somewhat hard to verify if it was the first).
- Mario Sports games usually add something to the sport.
It should be important to note that I had only played the N64, Game Boy Color, and Game Cube Mario Tennis games. I also have the strong belief that a good sports video game needs to include something that the real sport doesn’t offer (Such as power-ups or special moves). So with all that out of the way, let’s get started.
The first thing anyone might notice as they start up the game for the first time is that the game throws you right into the new adventure mode, with a cut-scene. This is odd, as all other times you start up the game, you are brought to the main menu.
Adventure mode is interesting on its own. Mario gets experience for attempting a level, has stats that improve, and additional rackets that get stronger the further in the game you get. It should be noted that the player only plays as Mario here, which seems like a small downer. If there were multiple characters to play as, you might have a better grasp of their different play styles in other modes.
Adventure mode is a little on the short side, and features the game’s tutorials. It also has a few strangely placed difficulty spikes. Aiming a normal tennis shot at a moving target in some challenges is fairly awkward, unless you use the game’s new zone shots and special shots.
Also, the story is a little corny, involving a possessed tennis racket seeking magical stones of power or something. The mode does add some motivation to keep playing, but it lacks enough length to keep playing after it is finished.
Of greater note are the core tennis game modes, involving computer, human, and online opponents. This game does feature some actions that you can’t do in regular tennis. They require energy that builds up as you play, and include zone shots, zone speed, trick shots, and special shots.
Zone speed slows down time, allowing you to hit shots you can’t normally reach. Trick shots are harder to master, as they require precise timing to reach the volleys you can’t reach. If you get the timing right, you get a lot of energy. Zone shots allow you to aim a fast shot at any location, and if the opponent doesn’t time the return properly, will wear down their racket. Special shots are similar to zone shots, but they can return any volley, and if the opponent doesn’t time the return properly, their racket breaks. Special shots require a full energy meter to use. If a player’s last racket breaks, they lose right away.
I managed to win many times by breaking my opponent’s racket. I even set the computer to the highest skill level, and every win I had against them involved them losing their racket. Granted, I lost every match where I didn’t achieve this feat, but it is a little surprising that the computer couldn’t time that right.
The next thing to note is that all modes do not feature regular tennis matches. Free play is either just tie breakers (get to 7 points first), or involve shorter 2-game sets (most pro tennis matches require 6 game sets). I can understand why online matches are like this, to ensure the games are quick, but why are is there no option for this in local play?
The online is mostly smooth, but I think my internet connection had the occasional issue, with 2 connection errors (not sure who was at fault, tennis pun not intended), and 3 slowdowns within roughly 30 matches. The online tournament mode does test the connection before play, which is a nice touch, and Nintendo should feature that more often.
Lastly, free-play mode has some stages that include hazards, which can be a hassle by redirecting the ball, or hindering either player. You would be surprised by the number of times a simple ship mast in the middle of the court can throw you off! It should be noted, that when you choose stages, you have to turn off the stages or hazards you don’t want, as opposed to choosing the one you do want to play. If you enable multiple stages, they are chosen at random.
Here are some play recommendations:
- Play adventure mode completely to play on all courts.
- Break up adventure mode with some free-play, online play, and computer tournaments to get a feel for the rest of the game.
- If you really like this game, play with friends or online to see how tough the game might get.
- There is a motion controlled swing mode. This can be ignored if you didn’t like Wii Sports Tennis, or if you don’t want some sort of workout.
- Sadly, this game doesn’t have much else to do after all this, so you can try to master this game online if that is your kind of thing.
Let’s summarize the Pro’s and Con’s:
- Well crafted core tennis game mechanics, ideal for competitive gamers, and for the possibility of turning into an E-sport.
- Gyro controls for zone and special shots work really well (though it messed up briefly on one occasion).
- Online play is mostly smooth, and includes a leader-board.
- Adventure mode could stand to have more content.
- Racket breaking is too easy to pull off.
- No standard tennis rules, in terms of length of match.
- Not much else to do than play multiplayer with friends, the computer, or online.
7.9/10 Almost great, but suffers from limited content.
This game can get old fast for some players, and mileage of playing in online competitions can vary from one player’s competitive spirit to another.
And that is what I thought of Mario Tennis Aces. What did you think of this game? Would you like to see more from this game? How do you feel about the energy meter and breakable rackets? Tell me all this and why in the comments below!