The newest iteration of Mario Tennis from Nintendo makes its way to the Wii U. Just released a few days ago, I had the chance to get my hands on the game and play a good number of hours on it.
The game feels great! Those of you who are used too quick and responsive characters will be glad to know that the new version has nothing to envy on it’s 2 earlier versions. Shots are easy to control and easy to learn, but though to master, which is what makes the Mario Tennis series such a joy to play. The Nintendo characters also look great in full HD. All the models render well and there’s no discernible lag or issues when playing with 4 characters on screen.
Unfortunately, the good list stops fairly short. As much as I would love to say I loved the game and spent many hours playing it, the value just wasn’t there. After only 4-5 hours of play, I had unlocked most of the unlockables and had plowed through all of the game very minimal modes. Like it or not, comparisons have to be drawn between this version and the ones that came before it. Mario Tennis on the 64 had TONS of gameplay mode. Tournament mode, that wall painting mode and whole bunch of others interesting ones that added value to the core game. Of course, you wouldn’t play all of them, but you could tell that time and effort had been put into the game. Mario Tennis Ultra Smash feels like it was an after thought, it feels like it was something Nintendo made in order to cash out before the holidays. There’s literally 4 game modes. Mega Battle, where it introduces the new feature of the mega mushroom mechanic. You basically become a bigger and stronger version of the character you are playing, making your shots almost impossible to hit. Gimmicky at best. Simply because more than half the time, you and your opponent will get a mega mushroom at the exact same time. Making the usage of them almost trivial. Not only that, but there’s no actual way to tell when a mega mushroom will appear. I’d much preferred a mechanic where it rewards the player for doing a good shot, or even reward them both for a good rally, but as far as I can tell, it’s completely random. Then, you have Mega Ball Rally, where 2 opponents need to hit the ball back and forth between them for as long as possible. That’s it, that the game mode. The ball does get smaller as the game goes on, but that’s the only challenge there. There isn’t even a reward a the end, simply an achievement and coins, which are used to unlock achievements that you haven’t done yet. Then you have Classic Tennis, which is your normal Singles or Doubles tennis modes.
Then it gets dicey, the last a quite underwhelming final mode is Knockout Challenge, which you can play with your Amiibo. At first I thought it was an interesting mechanic. Think of it like the tower mode in Mortal Kombat, but without all the interesting challenges between opponents. You simply go up the ladder, facing a tougher opponent each time and try to last as long as possible. That’s it, no interesting features, no in between activities, nothing. You do get to unlock the “Star” version of your characters, but as far as I can tell, the Star characters change in absolutely no way the stats or effectiveness of your character. You basically spend hours to unlock a shiny characters that does nothing. Oh, and you can effectively skip all of this by simply buying the achievements if you have enough coins. I honestly don’t know what they we’re thinking. I understand that it’s a new game and that they probably had to build it from scratch, but this a full priced game. It baffles my mind that Nintendo thought this would be a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, a ton of people will buy this game, either out of nostalgia of because they don’t know better, but we all know that Camelot are capable of delivering solid and interesting games, just look at the Mario Golf series or even earlier versions of Mario Tennis. So what happened there Nintendo?
So there you have it. All and all, I had fun playing the game. I feel that once online mode gets activated and you have a few friends at home, it’ll be a fun game to whip out and just have fun with. Is it worth 50$? No, definitely not. Wait for the next version of Mario Tennis or plug back your GameCube.