When Mario puts his platforming hat down to get involved in some random sport, you can be sure that you’ll be in for an entertaining encounter. While the likes of Super Mario Strikers left us too soon, others such as golf and tennis are mainstays that remain excellent games. Mario Tennis Aces looks set to maintain the standard.
First and foremost, I wouldn’t expect an experience that’s too far from the plumber’s next adventure on the Switch. It’s the arcade joy you know and love, with a few tweaks and additions to underline the focus this time around. With Aces, it’s a combination of power shots that turn events from an ordinary match of tennis to a drug-fuelled experimental madhouse.
Thankfully, the usual shots are present, so you’ll be smashing and forehanding your way to medals. However, you can also slow down time and break other people’s rackets should you be skilled enough – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Before you freak out, such abilities can be turned off if you want to keep the integrity of the sport in tact – which may prove difficult when a giant dinosaur can get involved. However, it’s worth keeping them on, at least for a while, to see how you get on as they really do add to the experience.
A long-running rally remains satisfying, but keeping an eye on the meter in the corner and using it to blast out a winning – and special move – shot is wonderful. That feeling is multiplied if you somehow manage to return the unbelievable trickshot and keep the rally going. The tension and atmosphere is far greater than it ever should be for a cartoon.
This is the reason for the series’ longevity. It’s all bright blues and sunshine on the surface, but the core experience is fantastically put together, and will continue to have you going back for one more set.
This would be the case even without all the novelty, but it’s equally true that these haven’t been added just because Nintendo needed something new. They bring something extra to the table, even if a ball flying towards your face at what must be 45,000mph is enough to drive you nuts.
Should you tire of such events then there’s also an adventure mode in Mario Tennis Aces. In it you chase down some magical racket that has eaten Luigi – or some such nonsense – and you undertake numerous challenges to show off your skills. These may consist of normal matches (at one point I had to try and take down Donkey Kong), but developer Camelot has been far more creative than this. You may be aiming specific shots at a moving wall, or trying to smack down piranha plants – all of which will test your skills in different ways.
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Nintendo has even seen fit to include boss fights, which may irk as many as they impress. Here, it was Petey The Piranha standing in the way of the next mission; your sole goal being to knock him off his feet. You do this by engaging in a rally of epic proportions until Petey gets worn out and goes down, at which point you fire a ball at his stomach. No – I haven’t made it up.
Each phase becomes harder than the last. This isn’t a walk in the park, but this is also the reason it’s so appealing. It takes tennis and brings it outside the box.
It’s multiplayer that’s the highlight, however, even if played with a mate sat right next to you. It’s ridiculously fun while also being competitive, and if we lived in a world where controllers could still be yanked from a console in rage, it would happen over and over. Losing at the last minute because your racket has fallen to bits is likely to end friendships. It’s beautifully infuriating.
It’s business as usual for Mario Tennis Aces, but that’s a good thing. There are few tennis games like it, probably because trying to replicate it would be near-impossible. It’s ludicrously over the top, and that’s all it ever needed to be. Get ready for some crazy action when it releases on 22 June.