When Nintendo announced that a new Direct was on its way, one of the key aspects they drew attention to was the extended look into Mario Tennis Aces. Considering we now know that the game is due out on 22nd June, it may well have been one of the final chances Nintendo had to give a deep dive into the game before release. No wonder we got so much information.
To break it down now, it becomes clear that the majority of the discussion centred on the gameplay, as it should do for a game like Aces. While a single player campaign is part of the package, don’t expect to be digging deep into a gripping narrative. The sole function of this is to frame the gameplay in a scenario that opens up more compelling battles against the game's AI.
The showcase began by describing the different shots that could be done in the game, making sure to call out all the staples; basic shot, topspin, slice and lob. However, there was significant focus placed on the reworked zone shot. The player can now aim this by using motion controls to then target the ball into a specific area of the opponent’s side of the court. Additionally, it was described to be a powerful shot that deals damage to a racket that is used to return the ball successfully. Yes, tennis rackets have health meters now. Specifically, three hits and it’s an instant loss for that player. You don't see that at Wimbledon.
That’s not the be all and end all for those struggling against zone shots, however. They CAN be stopped, but only with a well-timed block. Zone speed, an ability that causes the world to enter slo-mo, makes it easier to return these too. Think bullet time for tennis. Something to consider is that both zone shots and zone speed use energy from a gauge. This fills up when completing long rallies. Once it's filled, a special shot can be triggered that could destroy an opponent’s racket in a single hit, though this could leave players vulnerable and does not guarantee a win. With this system, energy can be diverted to either attack or defence based on the requirements of a situation. Players can decide for themselves how they go with this, opening up much greater variance from game to game and the play styles on offer.
For those that find these fancy tactics to be extraneous, simple rules are on offer for the chance to play old-fashioned Mario Tennis. Fantastic. Beyond this, the game facilitates online tournaments or local multiplayer with up to four players, in which boasts a roster of more than fifteen playable characters. Including a Chain Chomp. Holding a tennis racket. With his teeth. Stop, Nintendo!
If that concept is too hard to imagine, Switch owners can give the game a go in a free pre-launch tournament, the details of which will be released later this year. All in all, Aces is shaping up to be far removed from the disappointing Wii U release of Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, and instead be something that can live up to the expectations of longtime fans of the series.