Reviews

Mario Tennis Aces Review – A Different Racket

The long friendship between developer Camelot and publisher Nintendo has blossomed once again with Mario Tennis Aces. Unlike its ill received Wii U outing, Nintendo and Camelot have managed to return an ace with this title; with the reintroduction of a well fleshed out story mode, online and offline multiplayer and thankfully a separate mode for motion controls. Sorry, the idea of extensive movement whilst playing games does not butter many parsnips for this reviewer.

From booting Mario Tennis Aces up for the first time, players are thrown straight into a handful of training levels as well as being treated to the utterly batty story line. Despite being a bit of a stretch by Nintendo’s standards, players will not or should not be going into a Mario Tennis title expecting a rich plot. The end result is doing a good job of holding up the single player experience and provides motivation for Mario and Coach Toad to wonder around for a while.

I’m going on an Adventure!

Adventure mode is structured in a typical Mario / DK fashion with fixed pathways and levels circled off. Whilst players might be tempted to avoid the excursions and get on with the story, one found the practice areas quite useful. Mario Tennis Aces single player mode is designed to make players better and more engrossed with the new mechanics on display, with practice levels helping to make the most of this.

So for example, just before a boss fight there might be another path leading players to a practice area. The character looking after said practice area may have a new racket to add to your collection or show you a new skill in exchange for completing a mini game or task. Mini games can range from rally challenges to target practice and more. Not only can these areas give you the upper hand, they allow players to practice without feeling the fatigue of level grinding.

Speaking of level grinding, adventure mode does have an auto leveling up system which is nice and simple. Over time Mario’s Speed, Strength and more improve and the results are noticeable on the court. This reviewer’s one gripe about adventure mode is losing a match and having to go through the same scripts over and over. However at the start of the match the script can be skipped. Come on Camelot, this writer is terrible at the game!

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“How’s this for Bananas DK!?”

Unlimited Powaahhhhh!

Whilst in matches, Mario has a circular energy meter around his portrait which builds up energy over time to perform newly designed moves. These new special moves have replaced the Mario Kart style power ups in previous games. One thought a quick list would do the trick:

  • Zone ShotOnce the power meter is at least 1/3 charged, players can perform a Zone Shot which allows a super fast hit to any area of the court
  • Zone BlockZone Blocks have to be extremely well timed in order to block a Zone Shot and to not damage or break rackets.
  • Zone SpeedUsed to slow town time in order to catch up with Zone or Special shots to hit back, again have to be well timed to avoid racket damage
  • DodgeA flip move designed to quickly get from one end of the court to the other, brilliant for trick shot returns.
  • Special ShotA similar move to Zone Shot but with more power required a full power meter or an ultimate power shot.

What a Racket!

The addition of new special moves comes with another addition, deteriorating rackets. During matches only, Zone and Special shots can cause your racket to receive damage, ultimately breaking it. This also introduces the knock out mechanic, no racket no win. A simple addition which adds tension to matches, especially boss battles.

Speaking of boss battles, they are very well done and often come with a free complimentary warm up level beforehand which are sometimes harder than the bosses themselves. Readers, please play the game and tell me all about the ‘Reflection’ room. The rage quit fairy was practically tap dancing on my Switch screen. Again with most Mario games, bosses can be a challenge but hold achievable wins by simply paying attention to their attack patterns. P.S. they all love tennis.

Nintendo, Step away from the Motion Controls!

Mario Tennis Aces has gone back to the drawing board and decided to have a mid life crisis and mess with the idea of tennis. As I’m sure my readers and Nintendo fans aren’t expecting a basic and realistic tennis simulation, Marion Tennis Aces does everything it can to keep the tennis formula fresh. From ‘Piranha Plants’ firing balls or fireballs from the net posts to explosive ‘Mecha-Goombas’ having a stroll along the court, this title certainly turns up the heat and demands fast reactions and a build up of muscle memory.

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“So Baby Piranha plays Tennis now, Unbelieafable!”

Swing mode is where Camelot has boxed up and thrown the motion control aspects of the game, which is quite frankly amazing. Motion gaming is not for everyone and it is great that Camelot have catered to this. Upon first trail, one did not feel like the powerhouse of tech, that is Nintendo’s Joy Cons, were fully realised. Camelot has literally replaced a button press with a swing and that’s it. But again, that is also fine. One believes Nintendo fans are truly over the motion gaming fad by now!

Multiple Multiplayer Options

Players’ can choose to take the fight to their friends with offline split screen or via online tournaments. Online tournaments are all ranked matches with simple and competitive rules. This is all accessed by the free play option on the main menu. Players can host a lobby for their fellow Switch friends to join, from there an array of options appear; from AI, difficulty, court playlists, court options and more.

Online players join a tournament which runs quite smoothly. The matchmaking was quick and no noticeable lag was present in the few matches I played (lost).  Each character also has his or her own stat build ups, for example Yoshi is speed focused whilst Bowser is the king of power shots.

Smooth Running

Graphically, Mario Tennis Aces is lovingly polished from top to bottom. If the Nintendo’s seal of quality still held any water, this title would have one. No frame rate drops, runs smoothly in handheld and docked mode with nice HD textures on environments and characters to boot. The menu system is simple, sharp and fast. Mario Tennis Aces just wants players engaged in the action as quick as possible.

All of the trademark sound effects are back in Mario Tennis Aces, with original voice talent acting for the whole cast. In true Mario tradition, the voice cast only say a word or two to help set the tone of the script. The sound effects are sharp and well balanced, not once did I hear a noise and have to question its source. The OST is also typical of Mario spin off series fashion; it’s catchy, upbeat and safe for the ears. Whilst one won’t be looking for a soundtrack CD anytime soon, it’s not a bad one either.

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“Pow!”

Verdict:

Graphics and Presentation: 4.5

Gameplay: 4.5

Sound: 4

Overall Score: 4.3/5

Mario Tennis Aces is a return to form for the franchise. Whilst one or two points could be improved upon, this is a fun game to play in both single-player and multi-player flavours. This writer is happy to say that Camelot and Nintendo have produced another brilliant title in the 2018 Nintendo Switch line-up.

Formats: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed),
Price: £49.99 (eShop)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot
Release Date: 22/06/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 3+

Review copy provided by publisher

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