Tennis with Mario and Friends
The latest iteration of Mario Tennis, Mario Tennis Aces, has some fun new mechanics.
Throughout the match you can fill an energy gauge by doing charge shots. This happens
When your energy is completely full, you can do a special shot. Each character has a different animation and name for their shot, but they all let you return a shot from anywhere on the court and place your shot pretty much anywhere on the other side. This shot is extremely fast and difficult to block.
Zone shots are similar to special shots in that you can aim where you want to, however to execute these you only need around 40% of your energy gauge. You also have to be in just the right location, this location is denoted by a star on your side of the court, and is only available when your opponent hits the ball just right. It comes up fairly often though.
Zone defense is a way that you can slow down the ball so you can move to intercept it. This costs energy though, so you'll have to decide if you want to use your energy for offense or defense.
Trick shots can either earn you more energy, or cost you energy depending on your timing. You can do a trick shot left, right, or backwards. When doing this, the ball slows down and your character moves to intercept it in some sort of animation. Like special shots each character has their own animation and name for the shot. If you time it just right you'll gain more energy. You can still return a shot with poor timing, but it'll cost you energy.
When your opponent hits a special shot or zone shot at you, you can block it if you hit the ball at the right time. The game will say either block or too early if you hit the ball.
Rackets and Durability
In each match you start the game with a specific number of tennis rackets. Each racket has a set amount of durability. Poorly timed blocks take away from the durability. When it takes too much damage your racket breaks, and your opponent gets a point. If you run out of rackets, you lose the match via K.O.
Adventure mode is a single player storyline. It contains a combination of regular matches and different types of challenges as well as some boss fights that each have different mechanics. This mode gives you some time to learn the mechanics and slowly get better at them.
This mode also includes a player leveling system, and every time you complete a challenge, pass or fail, you gain experience. The further into the challenge you get the more experience you gain. This is supposed to affect your shot speed, run speed, and agility. I didn't really notice a difference as I was playing however.
While completing challenges you sometimes get different rackets, each of these has it's own look, Attack level, Defense level, and Durability. The biggest issue I had with the challenges, and Adventure mode in general was the lack of a restart button. I know you wouldn't gain exp if you restarted, but it would have save a lot of time when you mess up early on in a challenge and know you won't make it through. This is especially exacerbated because the load times seem insanely long.
Adventure mode is a story based mode. The premise is that Wario and Waluigi have found an evil tennis racket that can take over weak minded people who touch it. They're trying to get needed items to increase it's power, and you have to get these items and defeat the racket. It wasn't the most engaging story, but it was pretty decent.
COM Tournaments (vs Computer Players)
There are 3 different levels of tournaments: Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, and Star Cup. Each changes the difficulty of the computer opponents, and changes how many matches there are per round. Each tournament has four rounds. Each of the rounds has a specific number of sets, and every player has the same number of rackets to start.
Online tournaments are similar to the COM Tournaments in rulesets, however the player can choose between standard, which has all of the new mechanics, or the simple mode, without the new mechanics. There are a few DLC characters it seems like will be free. You can unlock them early by playing the online tournaments, and for everyone else they'll be available the month after that specific tournament ends.
Matchmaking seems a little improved over the initial demo version, and the servers seem more stable as well. Hopefully the more tournaments that happen the better they're able to make their matchmaking system.
Each tournament has it's own specifc leaderboard that shows how many points the players have earned, their win/loss ratio, and how many tournaments they've won.
Free play allows you to pretty much play under whatever ruleset you want, whether it's tiebreaker mode or extended matches, any of the unlocked courts or multiple other choices to change the game. This mode can be played by 1-4 players, one one system, locally with 2 copies of the game, or online.
Swing mode is also available for 1-4 players and allows you to use a single joy con and swing it to play the game. You can change the size of the ball or participate in a rally challenge in this mode.
This is probably one of the best iterations of Mario Tennis in quite some time. The new mechanics add some extra depth to the strategy of a match, and the Adventure mode was entertaining. The meat of the game is going to be the online tournaments and using it as a party game when family or friends are in town. There's a few minor issues that I had especially with the Adventure mode, but it's an enjoyable game and I'll be spending a lot more time with it before I put it down.