Mario Tennis Aces Review

Toad in Mario Tennis Aces

No matter what questionable marketing strategies the factory that churns out twelve Mario games every single day may have, Nintendo clearly knows how to ruthlessly exploit its mascot. Everything related to the infamous plumber turns into at least gold-level success. Super Mario Odyssey, at least into an interesting interpretation of well-known ideas. Even the Switch generation has already seen that any experiments are within the hero’s capabilities – whether it’s racing with him or step-by-step tactic Or here’s arcade tennis. In its raw form, it is strictly for amateurs, but through the prism of Mario, it has been turned into a simple and vibrant entertainment, designed for those who couldn’t care less about tennis.

Mario Tennis Aces doesn’t require any love for the titular sport or corresponding knowledge from you. For the education of complete novices, there is a short but surprising single-player campaign, where we embark on a canonical “Nintendo” adventure in search of X, to defeat Y and save Z, with the twist that every first opponent is now a retired master of the racket, eager for a worthy opponent. Essentially, our task is to become that opponent and take turns defeating all the inhabitants of the continent.

Boss battle in Mario Tennis Aces

The surprise behind the number one is already waiting at the doorstep when Aces explains that local tennis is not so much about running with a ball as it is about resourceful use of resources. You see, for performing beautiful moves, be it a powerful swing or a last-minute save, the participants of the match receive special energy. It is immediately spent on three extremely useful things: slowing down time, precise shots, and a kind of “ultimate” move that allows you to return a serve from any point on the court – so much so that the opponent’s racket may crack. Literally, by the way.

It sounds wild and cumbersome, but it is precisely because of these arcade tricks that the matches acquire tactical charm. It is not enough to rely solely on technique: no matter how much you spin the ball, if you cannot plan ahead, it’s all over. It is important to understand when to unleash the energy scale and when to hold back, what the opponent can do, and how to provoke them into unforeseen expenses. In general, there is ground for natural games of the mind, where the most skillful does not necessarily win.

And it just looks spectacular and dynamic. Not that I diminish the merits of ordinary tennis, but when the screen is constantly lit up with juicy flashes and players perform luxurious somersaults, soar in the air, and generally have a great time, it is hard not to be captivated by this action.

Exciting replay moment in Mario Tennis Aces
Koopa Troopa in action

Returning to the campaign, it is impossible not to note its amazing diversity. Mario’s path lies through trials of the most whimsical kinds – from duels at a busy train station to boss arenas with platforming gameplay – which greatly fuel interest in further progression. Although the role of the story mode is still educational, it is evident that it was not done just for the sake of it and not 20 minutes before the game was sent to print.

I would even say it took about an hour and a half – because they did try, but it seems that they simply didn’t have time to polish some things.

The balance of difficulty, for example, is only nominal. Getting stuck on the initial levels is normal, easily defeating the bosses that follow them is also normal. Moreover, the challenges often put you in a dead end not because of quality, but because of an absurd amount. You say you can return serves? Well, prove it: return two hundred balls, then we’ll talk. You think you’re a master of timing? Well then, place a complicated block six times in a row. Of course, vigilance is dulled in such moments, which even leads to annoying mistakes in the later stages.

Super shot in Mario Tennis Aces

And it would be fine if Mario Tennis Aces had such an incredible feature as a level restart button. Instead, the developers offer to watch a humiliatingly slow defeat cutscene every time, and then listen to a lengthy dialogue like “why are you so clumsy”. Both rituals, mind you, cannot be skipped. Needless to say, how much frustration any failure brings because of this, so I’ll share a useful fact – sometimes it’s faster to just restart the game, luckily it loads quite quickly.

Updated 01.08.2018: Well, a month after the release, they finally added the desired button, so don’t panic. However, the complaint remains, because the campaign has already been completed, and the nerves spent cannot be returned.

The game itself, however, fiercely protests against this, rewarding those who endure with ephemeral experience points, which theoretically make Mario stronger, faster, and better. It’s hard to say how true this is: maybe on the thirtieth level he really starts hitting half a centimeter further and runs the court 0.001 seconds faster than at the beginning, but in practice, such bonuses are not felt at all. Accordingly, the usefulness of this whole system is minimal at best.

RPG elements in Mario Tennis Aces

You can’t succeed with just technique: no matter how much you spin the ball, if you don’t know how to plan ahead – it’s a lost cause.

Although the beginnings of something interesting in the RPG direction are visible. For completing side trials, the hero is even given new rockets, but they differ only in durability and appearance. Why couldn’t they have developed a full-fledged customization mechanic out of this, one can only guess.

Aces truly flourishes, as expected, in multiplayer. There, a whole bunch of characters are offered to choose from, each with their own play style, and a solid assortment of modes: there are battles on campaign maps, rooms with custom rules, “2v2” competitions, serious tournaments with different leagues, and who knows what else. For special enthusiasts, there is even classic tennis, without all this extra stuff – just you and the Joy-Con gyroscope. It is also worth mentioning that it is a worthy pastime.

The only thing that clouds the happiness is the unstable network code, which makes itself known in almost every other match. The connection with players constantly drops, and when it doesn’t drop, it stays at “one bar,” turning intense competitions into an unwatchable slideshow. One wants to believe that the problem will be somewhat smoothed out with the upcoming patches.

Selecting characters from the roster
Princess Peach serves in Mario Tennis Aces

It would be too bold to unequivocally recommend Mario Tennis Aces, but it is perhaps perfect for playing with friends. Recognizable characters, colorful graphics, deceptively simple rules, and a variety of game modes – this combination should be enough to enjoy and pass the time at least until the release of the latest edition of Mario Party.

However, for avid fans of single-player experiences, despite Camelot Software’s commendable attempts to enhance the game with a solo adventure, there is nothing to catch here. A couple of evenings – an optimistic forecast.

Mario Tennis Aces
Multiplayer, Sports
Camelot Software Planning
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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