Game! Set! Match! The next entry of the Mario Tennis series is nearly here, and the crowd is going wild… maybe. Ultra Smash introduces new moves and HD visuals for the first time in the series.
Will Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash ace expectations, or does the racquet just have a massive hole in the middle? Check out our review after the break!
Before Ultra Smash, I have only played two tennis games in the past, one of the Virtua Tennis titles and Mario Power Tennis. The main reason I enjoyed those game are all similar, they are very fun to play, unlike Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, don’t get me wrong, Ultra Smash is fundamentally a solid tennis game, but that’s it!
Like every other tennis game, the aim of the game is to hit a ball back an forth and try to win the most points by making the opponent/s fail to return the ball. Depending on what shot you make affects how the character hits the ball and how the ball moves. For example, a topspin will accelerate the ball forwards and causes it to bounce really high, a slice make the ball move at a lesser speed but has a curve in direction direction, and a flat shot just smashes the ball at a high speed with no spin. Chance Shots make a return in Ultra Smash. Sometimes a coloured marker will appear on your side of the court, if you press the correct button/s at that spot, and effect will be added to your shot. For example, performing a topspin will cause the opponent to be pushed far back, and performing a drop shot will cause the ball to have very little bounce. A new shot has also been introduced in Ultra Smash, the Ultra Smash… funny that. If the ball is moving slowly and is relatively high up, then you have a chance to perform an Ultra Smash. This shot is super powerful and, if the opponent is able to return it, it will push them far back and temporarily stun them. All of these shots add some great tactical play to the game, it’s extremely satisfying just watching your opponent being pushed back and then forcing them to try and run towards the net to try and return a drop shot!
Ultra Smash brings another nifty new feature to the series, the Mega Mushroom. The Mega-Shroom first debuted in New Super Mario Bros. in 2006 where it would cause Mario and Luigi to grow to an exponential size and strength. It does exactly the same in Ultra Smash, making it easier for you to hit the ball, and allowing you to perform more powerful shots. This acts as the main gimmick of the game, and it is quite a fun one at that. There is nothing more satisfying than growing to a ridiculous size and making your opponents sweat. Be warned, when your opponent obtains this shroom, prepare to feel the burn as they will constantly push you back when returning the shots. Though the Mega-Shroom is a neat little power-up (maybe little is the wrong word), it appears way to frequently for how powerful it is. They just are randomly thrown onto the court every few minutes so it really doesn’t feel as rewarding.
The content of Ultra Smash feels extremely lacking. Though there are five modes, they are all essentially the same. Mega Battles allow you to play in single or double matches with up to three other players. This mode includes the use of chance shots and Mega-Shrooms. There is no sign of a story mode or a tournament mode, instead we get Knockout Challenge. This is essentially the same as Mega Battles, though you can only play single matches and it tests you to see how many opponents you can beat, each one getting more intense in difficulty. One thing which I find neat about this mode is that you can use any Mario and Friends Amiibo to play alongside you. Every few matches they play will also level up the Amiibo character. Classic Tennis is the same as Mega Battles but without any of the gimmicks, just pure tennis. One of the more interesting modes is Mega Ball Rally, this tests you to see how long you can keep a rally going. The ball starts off large and slow, but gradually shrinks in size and increases in speed, making it more difficult to keep the rally going.
Finally, you can also set up matches to play online, you can choose if you want to play casually or more seriously, playing more seriously will cause your rating to go up or down. From what I have played online, it played pretty smoothly, which is always a good thing in a tennis game. The mode is fairly disappointing though as, though you do have quite a few options to choose your play style, the mode does not include, lobbies, communities, or Friend matches, you are literally just put against a random opponent who has chosen the same options. It can also take several minutes to be matched with a player too.
When you play a Mario Tennis game, you tend to expect there to be several gimmicks to shake things up, but other than chance shots and Mega-Shroom power, there’s not much zaniness in Ultra Smash, it’s definitely a game for a more serious tennis gaming experience. The courts feel completely uninspired, instead of being based in different environments and including several events and gimmicks like ghosts chasing you round the court, instead they are just basic courts where the floor is made out of different materials which change the speed and bounciness of the ball and, sometimes, the players too. This is also the first Mario Tennis game (not including the Virtual Boy title) where there are no special games or mini-games to test your skills and techniques., nada!
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is an okay tennis game, yet a pretty poor Mario tennis game. The gameplay is pretty solid and the chance shots can add some tactical play, but the entire experience just feels way too light for it’s price tag. The variety in courses is poor, there is no real tournament or story mode, and there’s nothing to really test your skills with (no mini-games). If you are looking for an expensive tennis game where you want to play more seriously, then it might be good to think about purchasing Ultra Smash. But if you are looking for a tennis game that is worth its price tag and includes fun modes, then I would stick with something like New Play Control Mario Power Tennis! 4/10
Have you been able to hit the courts in Ultra Smash Yet? If so, were you also expecting more? Tell us in the comments below!