Mario Tennis Open had a facelift and some new tricks thrown in, and Mario Tennis Ultra Smash was born.
I'll say this now: the only tennis game I've played was the one that came with Wii Sports
on the Wii, and even then, it was probably for about five minutes. I vaguely remember playing the actual, physical sport back in school, but I don't remember holding a rally longer than two thwacks. There may have been some sort of tennis on the TV this summer past, but the scoring made no sense and one of the women kept making a strange noise, so I engrossed myself in something else. I suppose it can be said that I'm not exactly a tennis fan.
Mario Tennis Ultra Smash
is a different matter, however. I chose to play this game with my partner as, in my opinion, Mario games are meant to be multiplayer. Unfortunately, we're both extremely competitive and he knows far more about tennis than I do, so I thought I was instantly at a disadvantage. Admittedly, he did win more matches than I did, but that did not take away from the fun factor of the game in the slightest.
When I started this game up and chose a match, I had no idea what the controls were and relied on the intuitiveness that Mario games are known for to educate me. Soon after losing my first rally I got on my way to actually be on my way to becoming a competent player, and after my first match I could hold my own.
The game doesn't have a tutorial, but instead teaches you by using bright colours and in-your face prompts to inform you what to do. Pressing X, Y, A or B will execute a different shot when the ball is close enough. Every now and then a coloured, glowing circle will appear on the floor and a command will appear over the character's head when close to said circle. Inputting the buttons that are in the command will result in what is known as a Chance Shot. Each Chance Shot has a different outcome that will hopefully bring a point in your favour. Mario Tennis Ultra Smash
brings in a new Chance Shot called the Jump Shot, performed by pressing the Y button when prompted.
Pressing ZR will cause the character to dive for a shot that is almost out of range, at the cost of giving the opponent a strong chance of performing a round-winning shot. Whether the risk is worth it is up to you and your itchy trigger fingers.
As the title of the game suggests, there is such a thing as an Ultra Smash. Despite playing the game for hours on end, winning and losing many a match and reading the loading screen hints and tips, I don't actually know exactly what an Ultra Smash is, or how to perform one.
Take some care when choosing which character to play as, as each one has a play style that may not suit your methods in-game. I personally cannot use "technical" players, but Boo and his "tricky" nature seemed to work out great for me. Likewise choose the court material skin carefully, as it will cause the ball to act slightly differently.
When the game is started, you are shown a number of game modes, each with its own little quirks. Each game can be either singles or doubles and up to four players, with the exception of the Knockout Challenge mode.
Mega Battle is the largest option on the main menu, and is the default mode for Mario Tennis Ultra Smash
. The game is a standard match, with the addition of Mega Mushrooms. These power-ups randomly spawn whilst playing and will cause the player to grow in size (as expected in the Mario universe), making them more powerful in both offense and defence. You’d think getting a Mega Mushroom could be only positive, but the mini cutscene that shows upon obtaining one interrupts the flow of the game for all players.
Classic Tennis is another mode, in which Mega Mushrooms will not appear. If this mode is chosen, you can then choose either Standard or Simple mode. Standard mode will allow the use of Chance Shots and Jump Shots, and Simple mode will be standard tennis with no extra shot types thrown in.
Knockout Challenge Mode is the only mode that is purely single-player and is the greatest challenge in my eyes, as you are on your own. You face each of the characters in turn, with each new challenge growing in difficulty. The game is not based on standard Tennis scoring, but instead is based on the winner of seven rounds, leaving you confident in the first few rounds and chewing a hole in your lip by the tenth.
If you've had enough of playing against computers or wrecking friendships, then Online Mode might appeal. Online can be played singles or doubles and alone (locally) or with a friend (or amiibo). When looking for an opponent you can choose to either play a friendly match known as Relaxed, where you just play for fun, or a Serious match that involves ranking.
Due to the competitive nature of this game, Nintendo had to insert a bit of light-heartedness and co-operation, just to make sure that families don't end up falling out by the end of the session. Mega Ball Rally was invented for just this reason - you have to work together to try and get the longest rally you can. My co-op partner and I were still coming down from the competitive modes and messed up a rally a few times through Chance Shots appearing: be warned, these appear but seem to hinder more than help in this mode.
There are 12 characters to choose from with a fresh game save and four you can unlock that I won't spoil for you. Compatible amiibo will unlock a training menu that will allow you to change their stats for coins gained while playing the game.
I will say, this game really is beautiful. I have been impressed with the smooth models and vibrant colours of all other Mario titles on the Wii U, and Mario Tennis Ultra Smash
is no exception. The animations are in keeping with the theme of both the game franchise and the game of tennis, and while the male characters wear their standard clothes, the females have special outfits - let's face it, running around in a princess dress isn't exactly practical.
So I went into this game not knowing anything about tennis, and I have come out understanding the scoring system and actually having an appreciation for the sport. Will I play this
on a weekly basis? No, but I will bring it out to settle disputes and to have some fun with my family members, as with all Mario games.
+ Beautiful appearance
+ Intuitive gameplay
+ Breathing new life into an old game
- Could be more characters (no Shy Guy!)
- Getting to know character styles can be troublesome
- Mega Mushroom cutscenes are infuriating
SPOnG Score: 7/10