Despite the presence of a story mode and offline tournament play against CPU opponents, Mario Tennis Aces is similar to most Mario sports titles in that it only has so much to offer as a solo affair. The game shines brightest in multiplayer and though the online modes were unavailable at the time of review, Aces’ blend of accessible, but hard to master gameplay make it another great couch multiplayer experience for the Switch, which has quickly become the console of choice for such things. Like the console’s best local multiplayer offerings, Aces offers enough customization options to tailor the play experience to groups of varying skill levels and the game can be played using any combination of Switch controller options.
Speaking of controls, Aces is best-suited to a traditional gamepad like the Pro Controller but since this is a tennis game from Nintendo, motion controls are also a viable option. Accessed from the main menu, Swing Mode lets you play the game using a single Joy-Con like a tennis racket and plays out like a more fully-featured version of Wii Tennis. I tested out Swing Mode in local multiplayer with my girlfriend, who has more real-life tennis experience than myself. Unsurprisingly, she easily defeated me, which suggests that the motion controls do a reasonably accurate job of replicating the actual sport. That being said, we both felt that the game’s advanced moves were much more difficult to pull off in Swing Mode, so traditional controls still get the win here when it comes to functionality.
When it comes to the character roster, Mario Tennis Aces offers up a strong batch of Mushroom Kingdom athletes. All 16 characters are available from the get-go and are divided into six different categories. Mario and Luigi make for good all-around choices, while characters like Bowser, Donkey Kong, and Chain Chomp (yes, the freakin’ Chain Chomp is a character!) sacrifice speed for raw power. While it’s nice to have access to every character from the start, Aces suffers a bit from not having much in the way of unlockable content at launch. Fortunately, Nintendo has already teased their post-launch plans for the game, with five characters – Koopa Troopa, Blooper, Birdo, Diddy Kong, and Koopa Paratroopa all coming free of charge in the coming months. In fact, you’ll be able to unlock them ahead of time by participating in online tournaments (which also will award alternative character costumes) but since the online mode wasn’t available at the time of this review, it remains unclear how all of this will work.