Mario Tennis Aces is a complicated game. It is tennis, sure, which is far from difficult to understand. However, it incorporates different kinds of shots, energy gauges and even breakable rackets that could result in K.O.s. Some have compared it to a fighting game, and rightfully so. The thing is, this is also a game that seems like it wants people to do well. Its Adventure Mode is this extended training exercise.
The moment a cartridge is inserted into a Nintendo Switch, the game takes you to this mode. It makes you go through some practice matches. Dry Bones shows you the basics. A living monument drills you on different kinds of shots, like lobs. A copy of yourself helps you learn about Zone Shots, Zone Speed, Trick Shots and Special Shots. Then, once you prove you have mastered the basics, you can start facing opponents like Donkey Kong and Boo. It eases you into things, before letting you go ahead and go into regular matches offline or online.
What really helps things stand out are Adventure Mode levels where there is gimmick. I felt like Mario Tennis Aces sometimes understood that a computerized opponent might not always be as cunning as a human one. The AI here can be rather good on later levels. But on earlier ones that might not pose as great a challenge, say against Donkey Kong or Boo, the game compensates by having other things going on. Pipe Grip, the first “real” match, has three Piranha Plant pipes on the field, complete with Piranhas Plants. If one catches the ball, it spits it back at you. The Malicious Mirrors court has a portal effect, sending balls through one and out the other.
The organization of each area also ensures you are well-rounded. You are not just taking part in one tennis match after another. The first match in any area tends to be a rather ordinary match. But as you go further through a space, it asks you to show you are capable of mastering certain skills. Let’s use the first area in Mario Tennis Ace’s Adventure Mode. After fighting Donkey Kong, we go through a Rally Challenge, where we try to earn 200 points by continually hitting a ball back and forth with Toad. When we run into a lot of Piranha Plants, we have to “defeat” 30 in 180 seconds. Then, we have to face a Spike in a Sure Shot Challenge to get an extra racket and get 20 shots past him. Then, it basically tests all we learned against Petey Piranha in 300 seconds at an Ancient Altar.
Yes, Adventure Mode does not feel like a traditional Mario Tennis campaign. It is not like Mario Tennis on the Game Boy Color or Mario Tennis: Power Tour on the Game Boy Advance. There is not a rich world with varied matches that guides us through a story where we advance. But what is here is still more than serviceable and offers some structure, as Mario attempts to clean up after Lucien, a tennis racket that can corrupt people and essentially devastate civilizations.
Mario Tennis Aces is a game with a lot going on. There are different sorts of ways to hit the ball, and the skills characters can employ take time to learn. The Adventure Mode may have RPG elements, but these are really in place to help with the learning process. They better equip you to handle challenges, which then assures you will be more prepared when facing real opponents online, perhaps in upcoming tournaments to unlock new characters, when chances arise. It wants to make you better, and I feel like it succeeds at that.
Mario Tennis Aces is available for the Nintendo Switch.