It’s time once again for the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom to grab their rackets and hit the court in Mario Tennis Aces for Nintendo Switch. This time around you’re given powerful new abilities that make this the most competitively exciting entry in the series.
Aces immediately drops you into the singleplayer mode where Luigi has been possessed by an ancient, evil spirit inside a powerful tennis racket. Yes, this sounds completely bonkers, but that’s about where the wackiness starts and stops. The rest of the story mode largely acts as a tutorial getting you used to the different shots and mechanics that are new in Aces. The story mode really ramps up the difficulty to a frustrating extent towards the end. This turns out to be a pretty big bummer, as there’s still plenty of fun smaller moments and boss battles. Hitting hammers back at hammers bros? Very fun! Being bombarded with bombs while a high level AI opponent hits perfect shots? Not fun. I’m happy to see them take a shot at a story mode in this kind of game but it ends up being short, only taking about three to four hours to complete. Combine that with barebones RPG mechanics that really have no bearing on the actual gameplay, and this otherwise makes for a disappointing mode that misses the mark in multiple ways.
While the single player misses, the tennis gameplay makes up for it in a big way. The newly implemented Zone Shots and special abilities add a layer of depth that make each match intense and compelling. Characters now have meters that charge up as you pull off certain moves, like well timed serves, and the new Trick Shots give a unique move to each character. Once
a player’s meter goes into yellow, stars will appear on their side of the court; they can use these to do a Zone Shot, giving that player an aiming reticule to hit a powerful shot where they aim. The other player can react by using Zone Speed, which will use some of their meter to slow down time and help them catch up to the ball and block the shot with a well timed button press. Filling your meter completely gives you a Special Shot, a flashy powerful shot that will break a racket instantly if you don’t block it properly. Your racket will take damage on a poorly timed hit, and rackets can only take up to three hits before they break completely, if you lose all your rackets in a match it’s possible for you to be KO’d, losing you the match. These new additions, when all working together, make for the most fun I’ve had in a Mario sports game, but if these sound too much for you, you can always turn them off and go to traditional mario tennis rules which is just the standard slice, lobs and flat shots. I’d also recommend that to any first time Mario Tennis players if you’re starting with Aces.
By and large you’ll be playing Mario Tennis Aces online or locally with friends in multiplayer, and from the 15 or so matches I’ve played online there seems to be no real major connectivity issues, I had a stutter once or twice, but it never affected the actual gameplay. You can join a tournament, which will match you against random players as you win matches or you can create a lobby for your friends to join in singles or double matches with a rule set you can customize. These are about it in terms of online modes; you have more options in terms of what courts you can pick when making a lobby, but you can only do shorter matches. The tournament mode is pretty much locked to standard rules and courts, which is a shame because a lot of the unlockable courts you get during the single player look great and change up the standard tennis matches: a forest court with piranha plants lining the net or a snowed in town with shy guys running onto the court could make for a great change of pace down the line. These hazards are also optional, so they could also just act as a nice change of scenery. It does look like online tournaments change monthly so rule sets and court options could change in the future, but as of right now standard rules seem to be all you have.
Although I was disappointed with the single player content, the multiplayer and tennis gameplay is the best its been in the Mario Tennis franchise, and with future online tournaments coming that will also unlock new characters there’s plenty that will keep me coming back to play. It easily stands on its own as one of the best multiplayer games on the Switch.
Mario Tennis Aces was purchased by reviewer, footage was captured from a Nintendo Switch console.