Ace up its sleeve?
Mario Tennis has been a real favourite of mine since right back when the series launched on the N64, and the GBA title is one of the best sports titles of all time. But after a lacklustre Wii U game, does Aces being the game back to the top-tier?
From a plot perspective, there’s plenty to like, with a delightfully silly tale about how Luigi is corrupted by Wario and Waluigi through an evil tennis racquet. Mario then goes on a quest to save them, with some pretty funny ways of shoe-horning the reasons for playing tennis into the cut-scenes (which are mostly rather basic after the first couple of levels). My main problem is that the adventure mode is just too short.
There’s 27 levels, most of which can be completed in just a few minutes (difficulty aside, more to come on that later).
The story mode also has RPG elements, but they make very little difference to the gameplay, and have no effect anywhere but within the adventure mode. And with no New Game +, no new courts, characters or skins to unlock, there’s very little replay value. A skilful player could probably blast through everything in just 3-4 hours, although most people will take considerably longer than this.
Outside of adventure mode, there are some tournaments to play, but again, no reward for actually playing them other than a pathetic little trophy screen at the end. And it’s the difficulty which is my main gripe. This is a seriously, seriously hard game, which seemingly expects you to have to grind and practice your way through things, full in the knowledge that otherwise this would need to be a budget priced game. You can play single matches, but infuriatingly, you can’t do much customising of the rules, and even when you can make changes, it’s impossible to play 6-game sets of tennis, which is a complete own goal.
Aces changes up the gameplay by adding in a number of gameplay mechanics which would be more commonly associated with fighting games. Charging up your shots builds up your energy, especially when you’re in a star zone on the court. When you have enough energy, you can unleash an especially powerful shot at your opponent (or use to defend against one of their shots). If the player doesn’t time their return right, then you may also end up breaking their racquet, which gives you an instant win as a KO (which is both exhilarating when you win and excruciating when you lose this way).
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