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Mario Tennis Aces Review - Golden Slam

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It goes without saying that Nintendo would bank on the success of Mario and the Switch to rake in some new fans of their Mario Tennis series. I have never been a massive fan of the series as I do not like the sport and tennis games just never appealed to me. However, with the Switch, I am open to playing any game possible as it is my favourite gaming console on the market right now. 

What made Mario Tennis Aces so appealing to me was its unique story mode that added a whole new layer of gameplay to the expected and traditional tennis video game recipe. Instead of it just offering the normal multiplayer mode, Tournament and Free Play mode, Mario Tennis Aces comes with a chunky and fun story mode that sees Mario venture across the island to find powerful spheres that may hold the secret to saving Wario and Waluigi from an ancient evil racket that has possessed them. 

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The story mode in the game is a blast as it takes you across different levels to face off against all the Mario characters we know and love and throws in some new ones too that come in the form of boss fights. These are the true test of skill as you need to use every shot and manoeuvre you have learnt to beat them. Every now and then mini-game levels also pop up such as Piranha Plants that spit fireballs that you need to hit back at them and kill a set amount before the timer runs out to unlocking a secret mirror puzzle by figuring out hidden ways to unlock each mirror. 

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The levels are a great test of skill as the challenge increases as you progress through the story. You start by wondering why you are beating these levels so easily to raging as you miss the last Piranha Plant right before the timer ends. Mario also increases his levels throughout the campaign. Each stage you complete or even fail at grants him XP that goes towards the main level. Each time you hit a new number his stats increase in speed, attack and agility so even failure comes with its own set of advantages. There are even alternative rackets to find throughout the game too and they are only obtainable if you complete specific missions. 

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At the end of the campaign, I felt like a veteran tennis player as the game throws all sorts of challenges at you that improve on your skill and knowledge of the game. The story mode lasts a couple of hours and even with a few failures here and there you can pump a good 6 hours into it. I met some new characters, fought some epic bosses and played tennis on some awesome-looking courts with each of them having some unique arcade-like aspect to them such as mirrors that suck your ball in and shoot it out at a random spot. It was these moments that set the game apart from just a typical tennis game and something I could relate to growing up with some great arcade sports games like Klonoa Volleyball.

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Outside of the story mode, Mario Tennis Aces offer a small, but efficient selection on modes to keep you busy. The tournament consists of three different trophy tournaments where you select a character and compete to win the ultimate label of being the champion. These tournaments are never too challenging but they do steep up the difficulty near the later matches in each trophy set. You just need to compete in three matches to get to the end with each of them offering different sets to beat your opponent in. 

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Free Play is the party version of the game and if you have friends over then this is the mode for you. The Joy-Cons can be used as separate controllers and four players can use two sets of them to fill up the court and have a good old tennis match. Free Play is also home to the online mode which I was able to test two matches while in the review process and it was smooth and the ultimate challenge.

We then have the Swing Mode and if you are familiar with the Wii motions then you will love it. You have to flick your remote in different directions to hit the ball instead of pressing the button on the controller. This is also a fun way to play the game with friends as you all huddle in front of the TV to compete against each other. 

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Mario Tennis Aces has 15 characters available which may change after launch. Each of them has a unique play style to the extent where super abilities and dodges are different to watch depending on the character. They also have different stats such as Mario being a basic all-around character and Yoshi being faster and Chomper being slow but packs a harder shot.

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As you move around the court and predict your opponent's shot direction you will decide what shot you want to hit back with by pressing any of the action buttons on the Joy-Con. A is your traditional hit, B acts as a curved shot, X a lob and Y a lower drop shot. Each shot has its use and pressing the button as soon as your opponent gets the ball will start charging your shot and releasing the button at the right time with the analogue in a good direction will determine where you shoot and how fast and powerful.

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Each character also has a charge gauge that fills up which allows you to perform Zone Shots. These are powerful shots that let you slow down time and aim the camera to where you want to shoot the ball. Each character also has a super-powerful shot which is cool to watch and pull off too. This depletes your gauge but the reward is often worth it. You and your opponent can however simply slow down time and block the shot but that will cost them a racket stamina and needs perfect timing to pull off. Don't worry if you think this is too much to handle. The game teaches it all at a gradual pace and there is also a simple game mode for those who want a pure tennis experience without any of the fancy arcade things. 

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Mario Tennis Aces is probably the best tennis game I have played in a decade. It looks great, feels awesome in your hands and has a fair share of challenges that make you feel like a Wimbledon champion fighting for the ranks. If you had a moustache and ate mushrooms all day. I simply could not put the game down and even after the story mode, I jumped right into everything else to test all the characters out and see who works best for me. If you were even considering a good old arcade sports game then this is without a doubt the one to buy. 

This review was conducted based on a review code sent to us by Nintendo.

Available On: Switch | Release Date: 5 June 2018 | RRP: R749

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