Nintendo put out an online preview for their upcoming sports title Mario Tennis Aces this weekend and Andy gave it a look.
The Switch is not a system that’s wanting for a killer app. Nintendo’s little hybrid machine has had no end of quality titles grace its screen over the last 14 months and that looks set to continue this month with the release of Mario Tennis Aces. Aces is set to deliver the double whammy that we’re now coming to expect from Nintendo; compelling offline content sat next to a genuinely deep competetive multiplayer experience. The preview release was online only but that gave players a good taste of what’s to come.
First impressions are important and Mario Tennis Aces does not disappoint with crisp visuals both in docked and handheld mode. The tennis court in the demo buzzes with life, with visuals in the floor displaying player names, dynamically shifting as play progresses. Models cast shadows on both the court and themselves and particle effects accompany shots and moves, and characters sported subtle but rich detail such as the texturing on Mario’s trainers, or the little horns on Bowsers tennis racket. As with most first party titles, the game hits a solid 60FPS with no perceptible slowdown.
Control wise, Mario Tennis Aces is tight and remarkably complex. This isn’t any kind of “waggle” enabled tennis game like Wii Sports (although players will be able to drop into a motion conrolled mode if they want) and Aces makes use of all the buttons available on the Switch controllers. The left stick moves your selected Mario character around the court with the face buttons performing various tennis moves, from lobs to drop shots, adding topspin etc. There’s a degree of lock on at play here – if you’re within a certain distance of the ball, your character will jump in to make sure they make contact, but that’s not to suggest Aces is an easy game. The advanced controls bring out the tactics of play and make the online experience a frantic joy.
Holding down the shot buttons will charge their strength. Hitting the ball while charging will add to a meter in the top left of the screen – the longer you hold the button, the more charge you get, but while you’re holding you can’t move. The trick is to read your opponents shot and get in position to get the most charge in. You can hold the right bumper or trigger to slow down the action and deplete your charge, but once your meter turns yellow, you can perform a “zone shot” by hitting the same buttone when inside a yellow star that will appear in the return path of your opponents ball. This activates a first person mode which gives you a short amount of time to precisely aim the ball for a fast, powerful shot. A full meter will let you hit the left bumper or trigger to perform a special, super powerful move. Both of these are hard to return and run the risk of breaking your oponents racket, so using them wisely can be the key to victory. You can also use a trick shot to hit out of range returns by tapping the right stick in the direction of the wayward ball. This is tough to pull off accurately but again can be a huge advantage.
The online mode, as presented in the preview, is brutal. Playing against bots is one thing, but the unpredictable nature of human opponents turns Mario Tennis into one of Nintendo’s most aggressive online offerings. Position is important, watching for patterns in how your opponent plays is key. Fake them out, try and lure them over to one side of the court so you can get in that all important smash into the opposite corner. I won very few of the games I played and it really was a steep learning curve, but once the controls became second nature, by God did I have fun!
As well as the online mode, Mario Tennis Aces will support offline multiplayer as well as an aparently deep single player RPG mode. Given the pedigree on offer in developers Camelot, who have previously provided famously good single player modes for Mario Tennis and Golf titles, this is shaping up to be yet another Switch killer app!
Mario Tennis Aces is out for Nintendo Switch on 22nd June 2018.