Quick Review: Mario Tennis Aces

Similar to “A Look At”, “Quick Review” will be another type of post that I will be sharing on this site/blog from time to time.

The first quick review will be of the latest Mario Tennis game, Mario Tennis Aces. Aces is not a good game. Is it better than Ultra Smash? Yep, but only slightly.

The game opens up like pretty much any current Nintendo game is starting currently, sending you directly to the game as fast as possible. With Mario Tennis Aces this means sending you to the start of the new and overhyped Adventure Mode. First thing to notice here is the bad load times. I was honestly surprised at how long the load times are in Adventure mode, specially considering that the Switch doesn’t use discs. While they aren’t really long compared to disc-based consoles, they still feel longer than expected. At one point near the start of the game, I even thought that the game had crashed because it was taking a while and there was no notice that it was still loading. It was just a black screen.

Then there’s also the fact that the Adventure mode is simply a really big tutorial to the new game’s features. There’s really nothing else to it besides that. All of the stages are really simple and each of them try to force you into using the new moves. For some of them (mostly the regular matches), you can ignore the new stuff and play and beat them like an actual tennis game, but for others, which are most of them, you are pretty much forced to use the new Zone Shot and Trick Shot all of the time.

Once you see the start of the Adventure mode, you can also immediately press + to go back to the actual main menu of the game. Sadly, this is also were a lot of other flaws start to become visible and you start to notice that you had already pretty much played the whole game when the Online Tournament was live.

The CPU tournaments, which were mentioned quietly as a feature but never shown, are revealed to be done as rushed as possible. It’s just a modified version of what you had already seen in the Online Tournament, just changed so that you are playing against CPUs. The game does not record what characters you’ve used to beat each tournament, the only thing it saves is if you’ve beaten a tournament or not. There’s also no trophy celebration at all. This shows how bare-bones the game is considering that all previous Mario Tennis games (before Ultra Smash) had trophy celebrations and had a record of characters used for each tourney win. Even the 3DS games had a trophy celebration.

After this, there’s only two options left now, Free Play and Swing Mode.

In Free Play, you’ll notice that, literally, every possible remaining game option has been forced to be inside here. This means that this is the place were you have the option to play locally, local wireless, and free online. Here is also another part of the game where you can notice that the whole thing was rushed. Now with a focus on the free online mode, the two other options end up suffering in the way you can configure them.

First, there’s the issue that, if you don’t look carefully, you’ll very likely miss where the option to configure a match is. It’s a complete change compared to the previous Mario Tennis games. Then, to make things even worse, there’s the fact that there’s no way to easily pick one stage, or even worse, to play a tennis match with the specific length that you want. Something that has always been available in every other Mario Tennis game, even in Ultra Smash and the recently released Mario Sports Superstars, is now suddenly missing in Aces. This is very likely due to the fact that they decided to focus on the free online mode and then just patch those same interface screens to the offline and local wireless modes. It all seems rushed and unpolished.

The only (and surprising improvement) good side about this area of the game is in the online part. Finally, you can now play doubles online with three other random people. The way to do it may be a bit confusing but the option is there. You can either choose to play online doubles with four Switch consoles (1 player per console) or with two consoles (2 players per console). If you choose the second option but don’t have another person to play with, the game will give you a CPU partner. This is similar to how online doubles worked in Ultra Smash, with the difference being that you had to use your amiibo if you wanted a CPU as partner. (Sadly, there’s no amiibo compatibility at all in Aces)

Then, in Swing Mode, there also the the same limitations when talking about configuring your match. Besides that, though, this mode has the exclusive options of playing a Rally game or playing with a big ball. The problem is the fact that these are exclusive to Swing Mode, specially when you consider that these were regular game modes in Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. So, again, another thing that was a normal feature is made worse in Aces.

And that’s it for what the whole game offers. There’s not much else to talk about it. Star characters and any sort of unlockable are gone too, you get all characters right from the start and the secret ones will get unlocked automatically with free updates, probably indicating that they aren’t even ready. Character balance wasn’t touched at all since Ultra Smash so there’s still certain characters which are overpowered (and are already dominating the leaderboards).

Graphically, the game is fine. It’s slightly prettier than Ultra Smash and runs at smooth 60fps. In the sound department, everything is also overall ok. There’s not much track variety and none of the music is as good when compared to the previous games except for Ultra Smash. (It’s, basically, pretty much the same as Ultra Smash or only slightly better). Overall, both of these areas are well done for the most part but that was already done in Ultra Smash.

Also, I almost forgot to mention but it seems that the people at Camelot never thought about using Trick Shots as a defensive maneuver. This is proven by Nintendo’s trailer in which they reveal them. They never talk about them being used in a defensive manner, but more like if they were an alternative to regular offensive moves in which you are risking yourself for a stylish shot. As expected, though, once people figured out that it’s pretty much an alternative dive but that gives you extra benefits, people started using them all the time when ever the ball was out of reach instead of using the intended Zone Speed.

IMO, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash was like Mario Tennis HD alpha version and Mario Tennis Aces is more like Mario Tennis HD beta version. And it’s more like the arcade version where all the configuration is hidden behind secret switches that still won’t alter the game as much as the home console version. The game offers almost the same amount of content as Mario Tennis Ultra Smash, with few removed options and a few added ones. In a way, IMO, the game could even be called “Mario Tennis Trick Shot” as much of the game’s strategy currently revolves about being able to effectively use this new move as much as possible.

Nintendo seems to really want to push this game to their eSports lineup to the point that they seem to be bugging Camelot to actually fix the issues with patches. Hopefully, this means that the game will actually end up being good in the future. Right now, though, the only way I can recommend Mario Tennis Aces to someone would be if they wanted to experience more of what the Online Tournament Demo already offered or if they wanted it for (even though it’s limited) offline multiplayer. Don’t get it at all for any of the single player modes, though. It’s just not worth it.

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