Mario Tennis: Aces Preview

New Balls please! Mario Tennis Aces has a pre-launch event with live tournaments this weekend, as part of the special demo ahead of its release. For a demo, this is a big serving of awesome Mario tennis and all for free! Be sure to grab a racket and fire up your Switch as it’s a tournament not to miss. Anyone for Strawberries and cream?

I always feel that Mario spin-off titles aren’t up to par with the main games (such as Super Mario Striker) and often wondered why Nintendo don’t just concentrate on the main titles instead. Though they have released Mario Tennis games before (along with thousands of other sports games), none have felt as well-balanced as Mario Tennis Aces.

You can either play against the computer (after completing a quick tutorial of the buttons / special moves and different serves) or go online and compete in an online tournament. Competing will earn you points and unlock new characters along the way.

There are several ways to win In Aces – winning the best of 3 rounds of tennis by taking it in turns to serve, you can either volley the tennis ball back and forth, or by using a special move after filling up a gauge to unleash a special serve that can break your opponent’s racket.

You have 2 rackets per game – so unleashing your special move brings a whole new wave of tactics to the match. You can block a special move if one is served your way but takes a bit of practice and good timing to pull it off.

To begin with, Mario, Peach, Yoshi, and Bowser are all available to play as from the get-go and you can unlock more characters by earning points for matches you play – 10 points for playing offline and winning against the CPU or a variety of points increasing for each win online. Participation in the event will unlock Mario’s “classic” suspenders-and-cap appearance (as opposed to the red polo, white shorts, and visor he wears by default in Mario Tennis Aces) as well as extra characters like Toad (300 points), Rosalina (1,000 points) and erm, Waluigi (100 points).

The online tournament can be entered as many times as you choose, mixing with opponents at all levels, progressing through each round to win the cup.

Gameplay is fast, exciting and simple controls make the game easy to pick up. The extra characters are by far the better players – I found myself using Chomp and Rosalina most as soon as I unlocked them. Mario is well-rounded as per usual, while bigger characters like Bowser have more power in their serves. It creates a good mix of balance between play styles, making matches more exciting.

The graphics are bright and typically Mario – looking good both on a big screen as well as on the handheld. Characters are looking just as you would expect – there is only one tennis court to play in on the demo, however, many more are expected in the full release.

I did find myself enjoying the game as a handheld rather than in front of the TV – though not sure if this is because I was closer to the action. The controls felt a little more natural in handheld mode too.

There were a few problems using the online service – there were some connection errors, and during the game, it does display your opponent’s connection strength. In some cases when this was lost for whatever reason, the game would award the winner to whichever player was still connected.

The demo represents a fair chunk of the game – with blistering matches, awesome specials and addictive gameplay. For just a demo, there’s a lot to do and see and it has peaked my interest – I can’t wait to pick up my racket again for when the game launches later this month.

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