Mario games have managed to maintain a relatively high standard, and I’m excited to see how historical horse tennis will evolve on the Switch. I didn’t hesi tate to pick up Mario Tennis ACE after experiencing it during a pre-release testing session.
The Grand Slam of Mario Plays Tennis
However, after spending two nights playing the single-player story and a few rounds in online tournaments, I wasn’t able to «blow out» my friends as much as I had hoped.
Many of Nintendo’s games were not developed as Mario from the start, but when the gameplay was proven to fit the Mario style, they became Mario games for commercial purposes. The fact that the game was given the Mario name was a sign that Nintendo recognized the quality of the game and that it was time to sell it to customers.
The best of these is of course Mario Racer, as long as the 10 million sales figure is set, and the Switch 8DX cart has achieved the highest first day sales and highest MC score in the series’ history, and is on par with Mario proper.
The somewhat less popular Mario RPG games, Paper Mario, Mario Party, etc. also have loyal followings due to their unique charm and high quality, and the previous Mario Mad Rabbit collaboration with Ubisoft was also a sales success. Even Mario Basketball and Mario Pinball, which were only released once or twice, had a good reputation, at least at the time.
Mario play Tennis, on the other hand, was a little less present. It’s gone seven or eight generations from handheld to console, and while it’s still a mainstream ball game and a Mario IP that can sell hundreds of thousands or even millions if it does well, there are rarely gamers who say they particularly like Horse Tennis. The previous two titles on the 3DS and WiiU also received mediocre reviews, but this time I thought it was time to give the game a chance, as it’s portable for home, single player online, for hardcore casual gamers, and uses the physical and HD vibe features of the NS for a quality title that would put a nice spin on things, right?
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have set my expectations so high, because Mario Tennis ACE isn’t that challenging.
The Mario Tennis battle system is already pretty mature, with topspin, sidespin, flat hit, high hang and small ball, five different hitting effects that cancel each other out, as well as power buildup, it’s fair to say that a great job has been done to recreate the fun of tennis, it’s not hard to get into, and there’s enough depth to keep you hooked, and the skill differentiation between players is very high, so it’s fair to say it’s a classic A Ren-style hard system.
Variety of punches, Mario Plays Tennis
The new energy system, however, is not quite as «mature» as it could have been, as the accumulation of energy to trigger «snipe» and «special strikes» is reminiscent of fighting games. The pause moment when the «snipe» and «special punch» are activated is a great way to boost player morale. However, with the addition of «resources» to the game, the «hardcore» aspect of the game becomes inevitably uncontrollable. Mario Plays Tennis
Take, for example, the «technical shots.» If a player is fast enough (before the ball goes over the net), he can greatly increase his strength after catching the ball. If you are slow, you will catch the ball, but lose some energy. This design allows players with average skills to passively use technical shots to compensate for positioning errors, while experts can actively forego normal positioning and use their quick reactions to take technical shots to gain energy quickly. The bonus system is already sufficient for the expert to overwhelm the average player and increase the energy gap, and the fact that technical kicks seemingly can be used to save the ball exacerbates this situation. Even I have a very high success rate at catching big moves if I have enough energy to accelerate.
Not to mention that a special stroke can also replace positioning, walking a tennis ball can be ignored, what is still called tennis?
Tech Strokes as Dancing
Two of Nintendo’s most popular PVP games in China are Mario Racer and Splatoon, both very hardcore, but they’ve always had a salvation system for the weaker side: the lower in the ranking the horse cart, the better props drawn, and Splatoon has a rollback point to the last 10 seconds, something you don’t see in the horse network, where fighting games can at least increase their gas tank if they get hit! It’s great when you can send a strong move to smash your opponent’s racket, but there has to be a system that the weaker side can rely on, even if the player is down to his last racket, can there be a «lower power» system? Each sub-system of the net serves to improve technical differentiation between players.
The reason Carriage, Splatoon, or DOTA, or Chicken is so popular is because there are many ways to lessen the competition, rely on luck, rely on the player to bump and run, avoid combat, have teammates to share pressure or bank, and so on, while still providing a basic level of skill differentiation.
Mario Tennis ACE is the kind of game that needs the weakest confrontation, because the essence of the game is «instant 1V1 confrontation,» it is a game full of «confrontations» and «choices,» and it is already very confrontational. With the addition of the energy system, it’s no different than fighting games-except that you don’t have to sprawl your moves. Many gamers may prefer a more hardcore game, but I think because of the name Mario it’s aimed at a wider audience. When I couldn’t parry a «tech move» every time I used it because I was too old for it and couldn’t add energy, I really felt like «this game rejects me.»
The second thing I’d like to talk about is the single-player story mode. If the online battles are too hardcore, the single-player mode makes up for it nicely. True, the single-player storyline in HorseNet ACE is pretty good compared to the 3DS HorseNet, but it’s not quite at the level that complements the game.
I like this kind of plot.
The story is about an ancient civilization that left behind a thousand-year-old racket that can rule people’s hearts. For the sake of world peace and to seal the millennial racket, Mario and his storytelling friend Vagan the Grybo-head go on an adventure to collect five endless gems in the forest, foreign museums, snowy mountains, the sea and volcanic islands.
There’s not much to complain about in the storyline for Mario, but the map is just one book and a few challenging levels, with very little content. Obviously, this single-player episode is designed to be a great tutorial on Mario Tennis, with a good difficulty gradient, and once the episode is completed, the player can say they’ve completely figured out the equestrian tennis combat system, and will have no problem reaching 4,000 points in online tournaments. Even if they face the best and hang in there, at least they’ll know where they’re weak.
But you’re a Mario game! It’s Nintendo! No exploration or hidden elements in the story levels? And no recurring challenges for the player? And no characters or costumes to unlock? Rackets that can only be used in episodes? When it was first announced that Mario would be able to upgrade and collect rackets in the Equine Tennis ACE story mode, I really thought it would make a mini-RPG like Equine Tennis on the GBA, but instead the game just added upgrades and some rackets! Would removing them have any effect on the game? No, zero. I never thought I’d see such redundant design in a Nintendo game.
The height attribute and the racket, in fact, play mostly independently
The third is the online mode. These are mostly standard, easy tournaments (no energy system), i.e. 32-player knockout matches, which seem to have an internal player selection system, and at least most of the players I’ve encountered have played each other. The main driver for the average online player is to win a championship, and winning once a day is not easy. More advanced players play for score and ranking. This online mode seems simple and useful, but it’s not even ranked, it’s really a game to play! Carriage 8DX even adds an extra battle mode! The network connection works well, most opponents have a lag of 3 frames or more, and random opponents with a large lag can be skipped.
The last thing to mention is the physical feel. Nintendo is probably the best at making physical games. Wii Sports Tennis was well received for its intuitive, simple and realistic motion controls, but it lacked a bit of depth. Skyward Sword and ARMS proved their ability to make hardcore games with physical controls, so I had high hopes for Mana’s physical mode. However, reality once again disappointed me.
The physical mode is only available in offline mode, and it’s a free-to-play game separate from the other modes, and you can’t play episodic mode or offline tournaments (yes, there are offline tournaments that are no longer available, and I had almost forgotten about them). In Carriage physical mode, you can play network matches and control buttons together, so why shouldn’t there be a HorseNet physical mode? There is only one reason why HorseNet physical mode is not the same game as button control.
Physical mode, which was advertised as the main selling point
The physical feel can only be controlled with a single joystick, which means that the energy system has completely disappeared, leaving only the traditional mode, in which several hits correspond to several different swings. Character movement is automatic, so why is it automatic? Because the player has to concentrate on «hitting the ball.» In physical mode, the player’s swing time is very strict, and the quality of the recoil is completely different if you hit the ball earlier or later. My personal experience with the game is that the mechanics are very difficult to immerse in the sport because there are some fixed swings and you don’t have to move, the only thing you can do is focus on timing your strikes. The timing of your shot has the highest priority, and the accuracy of your swing determines whether the ball flies out of bounds. As a result, alignment, swing strength, swing angle, and swing timing become disjointed and there is no sense of coordination. Mario Plays Tennis
Sure, you can control your own positioning, but you cannot turn off autopositioning! So you have to compete with the AI’s auto-positioning…
So this instinctive mode is very uncomfortable, you want to fight hardcore, but you can’t go online and play matches, and as a party mode it’s hard and uninteresting to play. It feels like the game is done right and added to the mode later.
In fact, the whole game has the feeling of unfinished resources, not a lot of content, and not «small and pretty», not the usual Nintendo «every detail of the game is carefully designed around the core gameplay» feeling, but instead the game was released after the core system was completed. While Nintendo’s «Just Do It» is guaranteed to be a passable game, for a gamer like me who has high expectations, it will inevitably disappoint.
Perhaps I was expecting too much from this game, but if you meet the right opponent, Maben ACE can really give you a tense and exciting tennis match. Give it a score of 75 for players who like to dive into PVP. I’m looking forward to Mario Party.