Mario Tennis Aces is the first Mario sports game on the Nintendo Switch, which means people have expectations. There is a certain level of quality and whimsy such games must possess. It offers an interesting take on tennis most people will appreciate, approaches the game in a manner that makes it feel like a fighting game, has a story mode that can act as an extended tutorial and has plenty of fighting game options. But, what is also important is how it makes sure to keep characters’ personalities intact.
For familiar characters, Mario Tennis Aces does its best job of keeping them in character in its Adventure Mode. Toad is his overly helpful self from the very outset, even though that means making assumptions about Peach and Daisy’s abilities and suitability to handle certain situations. Peach and Daisy are appropriately regal, with Peach being more demure and Daisy being more blunt in their speech and mannerisms. Wario and Waluigi are jerks that end up so blinded by the thought of power and riches that they allow themselves to fall victim to the Lucien racket. Their actions and words all suit the characters.
Comparing Peach and Daisy’s mannerisms is a good way to show how distinctive they are, especially considering Daisy will be an Echo Fighter for Peach in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Peach can be very dainty when moving around the court. There are lots of twirls and movements that make it almost seem like some sort of ballet. Her special even has her doing little spins and leaps, before finishing with a heart. She shows good form, displaying it in a very “princess” way. She is reserved, but stylish. Daisy comes across as more energetic. Her form is just as good as Peach’s, but she strikes me as more athletic and emotional in a good way. When she gets a point, she will take a victory lap. Her special shot has her running up a staircase and lunging for a forceful swing. It is an example of two people who are clearly masters showing their skills in different ways that suits their nature.
This display of character may be especially appreciated for characters who are normally generic mooks. Mario Tennis Aces breathes life into them. Some of this comes from Adventure Mode. Dry Bones has an over-inflated sense of self. But in most cases, personalities come from behaviors during competitions. Chain Chomp is one of my favorites, because it is so goofy and is basically an animal. It is dropped onto the field in a cage where it is sleeping, with the landing waking it up and angering it to the point where it breaks free. Before it serves, it bounces the ball on its head. It holds the racket in its mouth, because what else is it going to do? Whenever it hits the ball, it “barks.” It chomps when it gets a point and falls over as though it is playing dead when it loses a point.
The same thing happens with Spike, though he gets his personality defined in Adventure Mode and out on the court. This is a character who has been around since Super Mario 3 and is known for being this diminutive fellow who is good at spitting out spiked balls and throwing around spiky, dangerous things that are far bigger and heavier than he is. He is classified as one of the powerful characters. When he serves in a match, he actually spits the ball out of his mouth to serve it. His racket has spikes along its edges. And, when it comes time to use his special shot, he spits out a spiked rod and uses it as a racket. It is super effective! In the Adventure Mode, he helps by making a racket in exchange for completing a challenge. Considering his normal racket is a little more customized than the average one, this feels like it makes sense.
Mario Tennis Aces is a game that makes sure its characters commit to the bit. Each person or monster’s behavior is in line with what we would expect from them, based on previous games. This comes through in dialogue in Adventure Mode, actions during story scenes there and on the actual tennis court. It is fun to watch, and even occasionally funny too.
Mario Tennis Aces is available for the Nintendo Switch.