Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash Review (Wii U)
If Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash were a book, it would have the cover of an epic novel and the pages of a children’s book. What was billed as a fun and engaging Mario sports game is lacking in both, and instead presents a shallow game that takes all of twenty minutes to fully experience. In a year where Nintendo seemed to make massive strides, delivering a major new IP and finally showing some understanding of how DLC can make games better, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash serves as an unwanted reminder of how Nintendo used to work.
Mario Tennis Ultra Smash offers five different modes, some standard like Classic Tennis and Online modes, others trying to change things up in Mega Tennis, Mega Ball, and amiibo Knockout modes. In the weeks leading up to the game’s release Nintendo tried to make us believe that this would be a brand new way to play Mario Tennis, one of the most revered Mario sports games ever made. Unfortunately all five of these modes are the same basic thing, just with different twists put on them, and the sum of those parts is really weak.
The two biggest focuses – if the main menu is to be believed – are the two Mega modes Mega Tennis and Mega Ball. Mega Tennis is nothing more than standard tennis with Mega Mushrooms thrown in once in a while. The Mega Mushroom makes my character grow to double the size, affecting his or her power when hitting the ball. That’s it. There’s no special Mega Mushroom shot or anything else, just a larger character running around the screen playing tennis. It’s not quite as revolutionary as I was led to believe.
Mega Ball mode sounds like it should be Mega Mushroom mode reversed, where the ball is huge and makes for more powerful shots instead of the players getting larger. Instead it’s a game of “keep the ball in the air,” counting how many times I and either an AI opponent or second player can volley the ball before it hits the ground. The game ends as soon as the ball inevitably hits the court, giving me one coin for every successful volley. Cool; thanks for the riveting gameplay experience.
The amiibo Knockout is interesting, but only because I can build up an amiibo character and play against it whenever I want for a real challenge, not unlike Super Smash Bros. The difference is fighting in Super Smash Bros is fun and exciting every time I do it, whereas this tennis game isn’t quite as interesting with every go-around. Plus if I want to use an amiibo I’ve already built in Smash I have to delete that data to make room for the Mario Tennis character, and that’s incredibly silly.
There is some fun to be had when playing tennis against another person. The in-match mechanics are solid, designating a different type of shot to each of the four buttons and giving each character particular attributes that affect playing on the court. Hot spots will also appear on the court every once in a while, and stepping on one then following the button prompt will result in a special volley that normally results in a point. The basic tennis experience is indeed fun, I can’t deny that, but that fun is completely overshadowed by the meager offerings in the rest of the package.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is one of the most disappointing games I’ve played this year. The tennis part is pretty fun, but the rest of the game is so light on content it’s hard to recommend this to anyone outside of children or tennis fans. Gaming is in an age where content is key – the more that is offered, the better the game usually is for it – but Mario Tennis Ultra Smash tries to buck that trend with less-than-stellar results. Ultra Smash might think it’s an ace, but it’s little more than a double fault.
This review was completed using a retail copy of Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash provided by the publisher for the Wii U.