Mario Tennis Aces represents a bit of a return to the basics for the Mario Tennis series. Eschewing both the ridiculous roster size of some of the earlier games and the more ridiculous options of the newer ones, it’s a pretty pure Mario Tennis experience that should please newcomers and series veterans.
With no current major tennis series in regular production, Mario Tennis Aces serves as the de facto multiplayer tennis game of this generation, and fortunately it (mostly) lives up to the expectations that carries. While the game is normally played with a variety of super powers and special shots, you can turn those off for a bit of simple but deep tennis action with your friends. You inexplicably can’t play a full-length tennis match (multiple sets of six games each), but aside from that Aces gets the basics down.
As usual, the characters are divided into various archetypes with their own strengths and weaknesses. The game uses all four face buttons for shots, allowing more powerful versions of three of them by double-tapping. This isn’t possible with lobs or drop shots, which share the X button (and can also be performed via combinations a la the older Mario Tennis games). Your extended set of special abilities uses the triggers and right stick as well, keeping the core controls intact for all modes. The main strategy in Mario Tennis Aces is to get into position for your shot early, to give you the most power and control. Characters are very good at keeping shots within the lines, so the main focus is on outsmarting or outworking your opponent.
While multiplayer is certainly the main draw of Mario Tennis Aces, the game does come with a few single-player modes as well. There are three surprisingly easy tournaments to complete, but the primary mode you’ll play solo is Adventure Mode. You can unlock new courts with optional hazards for use in free play mode, but other than that Adventure Mode is purely optional. New characters are unlocked via participation in online tournaments, though you automatically get the characters that were featured in previous months. Before too long, every character will be unlocked for everyone as soon as they load up the game.
Mario Tennis Aces gets the job done, with that job being serving up some good Mario Tennis fun in HD. Tennis has always translated very well to video game format, and doubles Mario Tennis is hard to beat as a four-player diversion. Aces does lack a bit in the extracurricular activities, which may be a bonus if you’re just here for the multiplayer. The core gameplay that makes Mario Tennis so good is intact, though, and that’s what really matters.