I can’t say I’m much of a tennis fan. I think it might be something you have to grow up with, and I definitely did not. When the time rolled around to check out Mario Tennis Aces, then, I wasn’t exactly stoked…but sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover. This isn’t just a tennis game. It’s also about murder. Racket-based murder.
Mario and friends are enjoying a leisurely life of nonstop tennis when all of a sudden a tennis-related disaster occurs! It’s all the fault of a cursed tennis racket called Lucian! The only way to defeat the evil tennis racket is to collect the magic spheres that contain its evil tennis power before it does something evil and tennis-related! Yes, that’s actually what’s going on, and yes, there’s an entire adventure mode built around this plot. Video games. God love ’em.
So whether you’re trying to stop the evil tennis racket or, in a shocking twist, just playing some tennis, you’ll find that Mario Tennis Aces has as much in common with fighting games as it does with tennis games. Sure, you’ll rally back and forth using an array of tennis shots, including various types of spin and aimed strikes…but scoring points isn’t the only way to win.
See, by building up energy through successful rallying, charged hits and last-minute saves, you can perform special Zone Shots that slow down time and damage an opponent’s racket if they fail to properly time their return. Damage their racket enough and it’ll simply break. Since you can’t play tennis without a racket, running out means that you forfeit the match right then and there. Yes, you can win a tennis match in Aces by (figuratively) killing your opponent. That’s a serious consideration while you’re playing, especially if you consider each character’s mighty Special Shot that can instantly break rackets if it’s not blocked perfectly.
This leads to a bizarre dual-layered system, since either player could be trying to win on either level of the game. Both effective tennis play and racket-damaging shenanigans are effective choices, to say nothing of weaving both together. It’s an unusual setup, especially if you’re coming in having not played Mario Tennis before as is the case for me, but it works effectively and makes for a fantastic multiplayer experience. Between the adventure mode, tournaments and free play, there’s plenty of combat tennis to play, especially if you can wrangle some friends together.
This is a Mario game so of course it looks and sounds fantastic; the usual cartoony Mario style is in full effect here. Characters’ Special Shots are impressive, the fancy graphical effects associated with racket-damaging Zone abilities look stunning and offer a worthy level of drama and even basic tennis play is snappy and interesting. Likewise, from a sound perspective there’s a lot to love, especially when it comes to the powerful effects associated with more “dangerous” rallies.
If you just want a plain ol’ game of tennis, you’ve got that here. You can turn off all the energy and Zone nonsense and just play tennis as nature intended. If you do that, though, you’re missing out on some of the best of what this game really has to offer – the unique combination of tennis and battle makes for a lot of fun. Gotta say it again because it’s so true: if you can get a couple friends to come by for a friendly, yet bizarrely satisfying game of rackets, you can’t go wrong with Mario Tennis Aces.