I have a sort of love-hate relationship with sports games, and the Mario sports titles are no exception. When I’m getting it and winning I love them. When I’m struggling and not winning, not so much.
These impressions are based on the recent Mario Tennis Aces tournament demo.
In true Mario sports style the games played within, this time obviously tennis, can be played both in true simulation or with the wacky flair that only a Mario sports title could offer. And while the game is pretty fun to play in simulation, it’s the Mario style gameplay is where the game shines.
In addition to the Mario themes which exude throughout the game (Lakitu’s acting as ball boy is always funny), there are a bunch of special shots and moves in the game which blend right in and add to the fun. There is the zone shot which allows you to pinpoint any spot you want to aim at using motions controls and send the ball crashing down. Rivals must return shots with perfect timing…or after three hits, their racket will break. There is also a trick shot which lets you leap toward a distant ball and greatly increase your energy. This is a risky shot though and if your timing is late, you may lose the point or some energy. I’ll be honest this was a tough one for me to master in the demo, but was always satisfying when I was able to pull it off.
The special shot allows you to fire a super-charged shot when your energy gauge is charged to full. It uses up all your energy but might break your rival’s racket. You can also use something called zone speed which slows down the world around you giving you a reach those shots which are just out of reach.
You can also use regular shots like topspin shots, slices, flat shots, lobs, and drop shots.
The demo only had four characters to choose from at the start with the standard Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi available. However as you played against CPU opponents or took part in the online tournament demo, you earned points which allowed you to unlock some characters. These scores will apparently transfer over to the full game, so it’s possible that the unlocked characters will as well.
I only managed to unlock Waluigi before the end of the tournament weekend, but he was actually pretty fun to control.
While the demo only had a brief look at single player practice and tournament mode, the game will have many other modes including a single player adventure mode. In the adventure you’ll journey through the Kingdom of Bask. Control Mario to complete missions, take on bosses, and defeat the legendary racket.
Learning from the success of the Wii and taking full advantage of the Joy-Con’s motion abilities, in Swing Mode you can gently swing the Joy-Con controller like an actual tennis racket using motion control, and intuitively play as you use a variety of shots like forehand, backhand, and slice. The game will of course have local and online multiplayer as well.
The demo was a pretty solid look at how the game will feel when Nintendo releases it for the Nintendo Switch on June 22nd.