Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 10/26/2018 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Mario Tennis is my absolute favorite of the various Mario sports series, and of the sports that have been Mario-fied, tennis is the one I find the most entertaining to watch. With the exception of hockey, tennis games are just generally my favorite sports games. It’s because of that that left me SO disappointed with Wii U’s Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. It was just…okay… That’s it. And that’s coming off the heels of the INCREDIBLE Mario Power Tennis for Gamecube and revised for Wii with motion controls. Thankfully Nintendo decided to make up for the lackluster Ultra Smash and gave Switch owners what may well be the best Mario Tennis game to date (although Power Tennis is a DAMN hard game to beat).
One of my favorite aspects of Mario Tennis Aces which, if I remember correctly, is a first for the Mario Tennis series, is the inclusion of an actual story mode. It’s not a gripping tale with deep character development, but it does have an actual story. There’s this evil tennis racket that possesses anyone who holds it and seeks to collect five power gems to restore its full power to take over the world. By beating people in tennis. Like I said, not a thrilling narrative, but it’s good enough. In addition to standard tennis matches against opponents, the story mode also includes various training/challenges as well as legit boss battles. As you progress through the story mode, you’ll unlock new characters to play as (although you’re always Mario in the story mode), new rackets to use, and new courts to play on.
Nintendo seems to be adding more characters over time as there are two currently on the roster that the game says you can unlock early by participating in online tournaments, one in October (that one unlocked Birdo) and one in November (not sure what character that is). I don’t know for certain if more characters will continue to be added over time, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me. Speaking of the online play, I haven’t done this extensively, but the few matches I have played worked brilliantly. I found matches quickly, and there was absolutely no lag whatsoever; it felt as if I were playing a match against a CPU.
Visually, Mario Tennis Aces probably isn’t pushing the Switch quite to its limits, but it does look extremely nice, especially when playing as a handheld. Motion is fluid, frame rate drops are either non-existent or so negligible that the average person likely wouldn’t notice, and the colors really “pop” on screen. The soundtrack also really excels for a sports game. The various themes – forest, desert, tundra, Boo house, etc – are all varied and fitting. The sound effects are also fitting, although honestly, there are only so many sound effects you need a tennis game. The real start of the audio show is, obviously, the soundtrack, and there’s nothing left to be desired here in that regard.
All in all, Mario Tennis Aces is the game that Mario Tennis fans deserved after the slap to face that was Ultra Smash. Everything wrong about Ultra Smash is fixed in Tennis Aces. What little was right about Ultra Smash is improved in Tennis Aces. The online play works fabulously, the game controls smoothly, the soundtrack is superb, and the visuals look beautiful. I’m not going to go as far as to say that Mario Tennis Aces is a perfect game, but it is definitely a high point for the Mario sports games, and I would call it a must-play for Switch owners.