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Mario Tennis Aces: My New Addiction

Mario Tennis Aces delivers what I what consider to be one of the most competitive online experiences on the Nintendo Switch as of late. With its simplistic strategic mechanics that are easy to learn and hard to master, it helps people of all skill levels to join in on the fun. While the story mode and custom rules in free play seem the be lacking, they are sufficient enough for my friends and I to play a few matches here and there. Let’s get more into the different modes of this game.

A Ridiculous Story with Fun Challenges

The adventure mode of Mario Tennis Aces is the most ridiculous “Story Mode” I’ve ever played in a game. Mario must go on a mission to collect power stones from different bosses in different zones. I’ll be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to what is going on in the story, simply because the idea of big evil bosses challenging you to a game of tennis makes me laugh out loud every time I think about it. I know it’s a Mario sports game, but come on. The story, while bizarre, has its charm. It is fun to play a round of tennis against beloved Mario characters.
The adventure mode has many unique challenges I’ve never seen in a tennis game before but let me preface this by saying I’ve never played a tennis game besides the N64 Mario Tennis. On some stages you must keep a rally going for a certain period, others you must hit floating nets to gain points, and in one stage you must hit Shy Guys off a train. Some of these challenges are quite difficult and I found myself enjoying them a lot. It’s nice to see a developer trying something new in what would otherwise be a bland tennis game.
Unfortunately, the story mode ends right as you start to get into it. My friend and I tag-teamed it and we were in the last zone after roughly 3-4 hours of gameplay. I am disappointed by this simply because the game doesn’t offer much else outside of this mode. You also can’t play some of these challenges outside of the adventure mode and it would be nice to be able to set your own custom rules for these challenges to give you and your friends something else to do besides a singles or doubles match. The adventure mode could have been so much more, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Free Play Mode Doesn’t Seem…Free

Free play mode is where you go to play with your friends locally or online. Of course, you can’t join a party online, this is a Nintendo game after all. You can only play couch co-op, local wireless, or play online with your couch co-op buddy. The only options you have are to play doubles, singles, or both doubles and singles online.
On one console you can play up to 4 players locally, which is nice, but there isn’t a lot of customization options in the rules. You can only play quick play mode, which is basically a tiebreaker game of whoever gets to 7 points first wins, or an “extended game”, which is 1 set of 2 games. This threw me for a loop, because there are actual full games of tennis in the adventure mode, but not in the meat of this game, the multiplayer. This is a very misguided decision on Nintendo or Camelot’s part. My guess is they wanted to streamline the game based off the singles online tournament mode, the mode everyone loves so much. It is frustrating that I cannot play a full game of tennis because I’d love to test my endurance against my friends in one. You can turn the KO feature off and you can turn stage hazards on or off, which is nice, but the restrictive game lengths take away the potential for more challenging games between friends.

Online Tournament Mode AKA My New Life

Despite my disappointments with free play, Online Tournament Mode has completely sucked me in. This was the mode available in the demo from earlier this month, and thankfully the game mode is still exciting and competitive after the full release. Nintendo changed the match-making feature to search for people with decent internet connections, which is a much-welcomed fix from the demo which was prone to many lag-infested games. Every time I play this mode, I get extremely competitive. I don’t know what it is, but it’s satisfying to outplay your opponents and move up in the tournament.
There are two rule sets in the tournament mode, standard and simple. Simple mode removes the energy mechanic and only allows normal shots. I personally haven’t tried it because I love the energy mechanic and would find the simple rules boring. Zone Shots, Trick Shots, as well as the KO mechanic really sell this game on its competitive nature. You must be strategic with your energy management and you must get the mechanics of each shot down to truly outplay your opponent.
Apparently, there will be an online tournament in July, August and September that will unlock new characters for you if you participate in it during those months. Whether there will be more tournaments after September remains to be seen. I am hoping Nintendo supports this game with some kind of DLC (that better be free) because it’d be nice to see more content added to the game. Outside of the tournament mode, the game doesn’t offer much for its $60 price tag.

Final Thoughts

Mario Tennis Aces is one of those games that you love playing but wish it had just a little more to it. If the story mode had more content and there were more customization’s options for free play, this game would be a 10/10 for me. Each of the characters in the game have their own strengths and weaknesses and for the most part seem balanced save a couple *cough* Boo *cough*. I know I will be putting many hours into the online tournament as well as skirmishes with my friends. If you’re looking for something semi-competitive on the Nintendo Switch outside of Splatoon 2 and Rocket League, this is game for you.