With the recent release of Mario Golf: Super Rush on Nintendo Switch, we wanted to take a moment to look back at developer Camelot’s previous Mario sports title, Mario Tennis Aces. Let’s break down everything we love about this criminally underrated gem!
In the Zone
Mario Tennis Aces is a lot of things at once. It’s a tennis game, to be sure, but some of the new gimmicks in the game like trick shots, special shots, and zone speed introduce a meter management system that evokes the fighting game genre. What’s more, the game’s zone shots temporarily put the player in first-person mode, which feels like a shooter. That all these seemingly disparate gameplay styles gel so well is a testament to Camelot nailing fun and deep game design to a degree that we feel has yet to be fully appreciated.
Beyond statistical advantages (for some reason hidden in this game), the most important factor in creating a compelling roster is differentiating its cast. Mario Tennis Aces does a good job of giving each character shallow – this is a Mario game – but distinct personalities. This is primarily accomplished through two things: special shots, which offer unique animations that highlight a character’s persona, and taunting.
The game incentivizes taunting. Press a button and your character will strike a pose, gaining a small boost. But the provocations don’t end there. You can begin a taunt, cancel it, and start the cycle anew – creating a jarring animation to mock and distract your opponent. You can do the same when preparing for a shot, forcing your opponent to listen to unfinished, recurrent voice clips. Looking to take your trolling to the next level? After winning an intense rally, repeatedly tilt your joystick up over and over to walk stiltedly toward the net, enraging your salty foe! Despite the fact that Camelot nerfed post-point movement, it’s still an effective strategy.
Look, some players hate glitches, but we find the bugs funny. For instance, you’re playing doubles and you go for a zone shot, but your partner hits the ball instead, so your character just FLOATS INTO THE AIR. What’s not to love about that? While we wish Nintendo would give their sports titles the budget they deserve, we can’t help but feel the mystifying occurrences that occasionally crop up on the tennis court are this game’s true service ace.
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