What did you guys think of the Mario Tennis Aces tournament demo?


Meter maid

There hasn't been that much hype for the upcoming Mario Tennis Aces. Usually, Nin/tendo markets the living hell out of its big name titles, but this is just coming out in the Summer with little fanfare. That could be either a good or bad thing; Nintendo could know it has a dud on its hands and is washing itself of the whole mess, or it's trying to surprise everyone with a must own title that will live on word of mouth. After playing this weekend's online tournament demo, I'm not quite sure where I stand.

I'll talk about the things I like since there actually is quite a bit of neat stuff going on. I love that the basic controls are a little more complex than usual. In Mario Power Tennis, you just had Light and Strong serves along with your power swing, once you built up enough energy. It was definitely appropriate for the kind of game Mario Tennis typically is, but adding a little more depth just makes for a game with more options. In Aces, you now have Light, Strong and Flat swings along with a dedicated button for doing lobs and drop shots. There are even a trick shots and a super attack, which is where the game starts to become a bit too involved.

Mario Tennis Aces plays a bit like a fighting game, which is not quite what I expected. You're managing a lot of different factors for building a meter that will eventually allow you to unleash a power strike on your opponent. Your opponent can attempt to block this serve, but if they screw up, they'll lose a racket and get one step closer to being KO'ed. Along with that, you even have a health meter for your racket that can be depleted with stronger serves, which starts adding all these different layers on top of what used to be a very simple, arcade-y tennis game.

I also can't neglect to mention that this meter can be spent at any moment on a slow-motion mechanic that will allow your character to speed across the court. It is implemented quite well, never feeling jarring when a player online activates it against you. The thing is, it starts making the game feel a lot more complex than any previous entry and raises the barrier of entry for those that aren't skilled enough. I can understand Nintendo wanting to take the series in a different direction and start catering to a more hardcore crowd, but adding a boatload of new mechanics to Mario Tennis seems out of place.

I'm also not sure how I like the super meter attack. When you unleash this, the game zooms in to play a short animation that will see your character jumping around the court or forming a heart with their racket before slowing the game down to let you aim your shot. This slows the pace of matches to a crawl and often makes the super attacks feel like bloat. The best part about Power Tennis was that everything happened so quickly and smoothly and the game handled most of the heavy work for you. Maybe giving more control to the player will result in a better experience, but at the moment, it just seems drawn out.

I can at least say that trick shots are not done well. The game allows you to quickly flick the right stick to perform a trick shot in a given direction, or double tap X while holding a direction. In no scenario is double tapping a button better or easier than just using the stick, but even ignoring the other option doesn't make for a smooth mechanic. The trick shots feel like an attempt to capture what Power Tennis had with its power serves, but they require precise timing that is often based on guesswork before your opponent serves a ball. It is nigh-on impossible to quickly throw one in and get away with it.

This is mostly what I've gathered from the demo, though, as the final game will have a standard mode that removes all of these abilities. Playing a regular game of tennis could be a lot of fun without these weird gimmicks cluttering the match. The one thing that won't change, however, is the online experience and Mario Tennis Aces is all over the place in that regard.

I definitely had matches that felt rock solid with very little input delay, but when lag crops up, Mario Tennis Aces feels completely broken. You'll get two to three-second delays that give trick shot characters a game-breaking edge and you'll often miss the ball coming at you because your input just doesn't register in time. The load times between scoring and going back to serve are also doubled with lag, so the game just takes ages to conclude and really feels like a test of patience.

At least for the majority of my matches, Aces played fine, but the lag is a real killer in this game. Trying to aim your power shots is futile, trick shots become literally pointless and mind games get compounded because you'll be moving in the opposite direction for a couple of seconds with no recourse. This is a really bad online experience.

Thankfully, the full game includes a campaign mode and offline multiplayer because relying solely on online connectivity might be a death knell for Aces. It can work and it feels great to have competition literally a search away, but this experience doesn't bode well for when Nintendo finally starts charging for its online play. I would not want to pay any kind of money if Nintendo's games are going to be crapshoots with regards to stability.

Anyway, those are just my thoughts so far. The demo didn't inspire confidence in me about Nintendo's online experience, but maybe you guys had a different opinion. What did you guys think of the demo? Did any of you make it to a final round and see the cute Toad commentary? Did you know you could unlock characters in the demo? I'm interested to see what our community thinks of Mario Tennis Aces so far.

As a reminder, you'll be able to play this online tournament demo until 11:59 pm PST tonight. That gives you plenty of time to get some more matches in and unlock Chain Chomp for a test run. He is pretty awesome, especially with that racket in his mouth.

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Peter Glagowski
Peter Glagowski   gamer profile

Former Dtoid staff member. more + disclosures



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