Released: June 22, 2018
Copy supplied by publisher
The Nintendo Switch is only in its second year on the market, but already we’ve been treated to a handful of excellent Mario titles. In 2017 alone, we got the updated Wii U port Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the surprisingly excellent strategy crossover Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and Super Mario Odyssey, a bold new 3D platforming adventure that is arguably one of the portly plumber’s best. By contrast, 2018 is shaping up to be more of a placeholder year for Mario games, with Super Mario Party out sometime in the fall and Mario Tennis Aces releasing this week. Mario’s sports excursions are generally solid, if not terribly original affairs and with Aces representing the seventh proper installment in the Mario Tennis series, it’s easy to assume that it’s simply another reliable, though inessential game. While Aces doesn’t reach the same bar as Mario’s 2017 Switch offerings, it manages to push its respective franchise forward in unexpected and welcome ways, to the point where Mario Tennis is now just as much a fighting game as it is a sport.
Yes, you read that right.
Much like previous Mario Tennis games, Aces is split up into a variety of modes. For the first time since Mario Tennis: Power Tour on the Game Boy Advance, there’s an actual fleshed-out story mode. Following Mario and Toad as they try and stop Wario and Waluigi after the dastardly duo are possessed by a cursed tennis racket, Adventure Mode’s story is total nonsense but the actual presentation is surprisingly robust. Featuring a world map and a variety of different encounters, Adventure Mode is structured like a casual RPG, with Mario earning experience points and leveling up his stats with each completed objective. You’re not just doing straight up tennis matches either, as there is a wide array of different skill-based challenges such as taking out 30 piranha plants before time runs out, puzzles, and even boss encounters. There are some annoyances, such as random difficulty spikes and tedious text exposition but overall, Adventure Mode is a good way to familiarize yourself with not just the gameplay basics, but the new advanced systems that Aces has introduced.