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Monday, June 4, 2018

Mario Tennis Aces Pre-Launch Online Tournament — Very Convincing Experience!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Mario Tennis Aces has been promoted from meme to real purchase contender.

Once upon a time (a little over a month ago), Nintendo described Mario Tennis Aces as a “key” and “major” title in their presentation overlooking the fiscal year from March 2018 to March 2019. I thought it was such a lame claim that I didn't even mention Mario Tennis Aces in the article.

From June 1 to June 3, the Nintendo Switch hosted a Mario Tennis Aces online tournament. It was sort of like a Splatoon Global Testfire or ARMS Global Testpunch, but much more engaging for reasons I'll discuss later in this article. This was the public's first experience with Mario Tennis Aces, and hey, it was free, so we all tried that. And it was... amazing. Two weeks ago I wrote that developer Camelot needed to rebuild their credibility. I say they have.

Far from some loose, casual experience, Mario Tennis Aces is an intense, competitive experience. The stamina metre that we thought was from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn't just some forced gimmick like Mega Mushrooms from the previous game. They actually add enormous strategy and risk-reward dynamics — they're integrated into serves (you can do a Zone Shot as a serve, which uses a third of the metre), defence (Trick Shots, which are a very risky defensive manoeuvre and may add to or reduce your metre; Zone Time, which slows down time for the user so they can better time shots, allowing you to block racket-breaking Zone and Special Shots, and get to farther-away balls before they're out of play, which reduces your metre quickly while you're using it; and the Special Shot, which drastically depletes your metre but lets you return a ball from anywhere on the court), positioning (do you sacrifice mobility and do a Charge Shot, which builds up your energy metre and gives a more powerful shot, or do you freely run around to just return a hit with less risk?), and of course, your offence (Zone Shots, Special Shots, which both allow you to control where you want the ball to land, at a very fast speed and with racket-breaking capabilities — Zone Shot does one damage, while Special Shots do three damage. Rackets have three hit points).

Here's a video from Rawk which illustrates these dynamics at play:

Both Rawk and his opponent risked doing Charge Shots so they could both build up their metres to full, so they could perform a Special Shot. Rawk then did a Special Shot to try to bait his opponent into using their Special Shot and waste their metre. It's sort of a mutually assured destruction play... or a mutual nuclear disarmament. They both then used the last of their energy to Zone Time or Trick Shot to the ball, and then they each had run out of energy. Rawk's opponent decided to try to regain it as soon as possible by charging instead of running for the last part of the rally, but Rawk anticipated this and hit the ball away from where Peach could return it.

The decision whether to Charge Shot or not is particularly important if your opponent likes to do Lob Shots or Drop Shots, because you will simply not get the ball, and charging is rather committal and you can't do anything else. (Cancelling it isn't instant.) So you have a lot to pay attention to: Your positioning, your opponent's, your metre and your opponent's, the hit points of the racket, and what kind of hits each of you are doing. (For charged hits, topspins counter slices, slices counter topspins, and flats counter each other.) You need to know when you're in the opponent's head and can do a mix-up properly, because otherwise you can just sit and do rallies all night. And when that happens, the game gets very fierce. I was drenched in sweat after playing it! I hadn't felt that drenched since I was training for the Olympics for table tennis!

The game has a few problems. Like the lag. You can get into Super Smash Bros. Brawl-esque situations in this game, which is really bad for an action title. Like this:

(I subsequently blocked the guy afterwards from my Nintendo Switch system settings. I'm convinced he was intentionally lag-switching me.)

If even the audience is lagging (they're usually jumping up and down), you know it's bad. You also get jerks who just take half a minute to do each serve just to annoy you and try to get you to ragequit:

The controls are also a bit frustrating. A, B, and Y are for topspins, slices, and flats. L and ZL are for your Special Shot. R and ZR are for Zone Time, and then Zone Shot if you are standing in a star or serving. The left control stick moves your character and also aims your hits. Double-tapping A, B, and Y power them up, and holding them down gives a charge shot. Now, get this: The right control stick does a Trick Shot in the direction you input it. Holding the X button plus up on the left stick does a lob shot, while X plus down does a drop shot. What happens if you double-tap X? You'll do a Trick Shot. What ends up happening is that you end up doing Trick Shots when you meant to lob or drop shot, and then you lose because Trick Shots only work in specific positioning circumstances and timing.

So there are some problems to work out with the controls and lag, which hopefully can be fixed for the game's release, and by Nintendo Switch Online.

Why was this demo for Mario Tennis Aces so effective? There was a goal to work towards, unlike the Testfire or the dreaded Testpunch. You were put in a tournament where you had to win five times in a row to get the honours and see the special cutscene(s), along with “Round 2.” I... never got to the finals. For all of his bemoaning of competitive multiplayer, Rawk did.

Mario Tennis Aces pre-launch online tournament round 1 results record Bowser wins losses
These were my final Mario Tennis Aces pre-launch online tournament stats. Never won a finals match.

The other demos were basically a glorified retail demo stand where every match was in a vacuum — there was no compelling cumulative result. This tournament-style gave every match real stakes to it!

Also, unlike the ARMS multiplayer demo experience, you know that Mario Tennis Aces has a lot more to the game than what is just in the demo. The final game will have different modes, like the much-anticipated Adventure Mode. Plus, the smash the ball in Mario's face mode.

Mario Tennis Aces head shot body shot Bowser Mario hit in the face ball
I enjoyed picking fights with enemy Marios just to do this. (Full video here.)

I am also a big fan of game content being branded with your Nintendo Switch name. That meant, throughout the whole weekend, everyone saw stadiums filled with “KoopaTVorg”! That's the kind of advertisement that this website deserves! Best of all, it's only $60 for a potentially infinite number of events! Super bargain.

There will be much more to come of Mario Tennis Aces in the coming weeks, since now the game has, in one weekend, become a KoopaTV darling. Anticipate seeing that manifest itself on KoopaTV. The game releases on June 22.

Because of this demo, Ludwig bought Mario Tennis Aces on June 22.


  1. I was INCREDIBLY confused by the "trick shots"--there seems to be no clear indication of what the "correct" timing that gives you energy is, and it's very possible to overshoot the ball entirely going for that.

    Also, I only had four characters and lost the second PvP match I played to someone playing Rosalina who I couldn't even figure out how to deal with, and so determined to stop playing the demo and pick the game back up again when there was enough 1 player content for me to ACTUALLY figure things out before being thrown to the lions.

    1. I'm very iffy on Trick Shots so I can't help you about that. I trust the Adventure Mode will help make people more confident on it.

      That said, the basic gameplay fundamentals and the correct choices you should have made are intuitive and apparent, even if you're looking bad at videos of your gameplay. You know what you should've done and how to improve. That's a good sign.

    2. I dunno what I should have done against Rosalina though...her shots seemed to curve when they felt like and not curve when they didn't feel like.

    3. Yeah, her special class is all about curving.

      You need fast reaction times and stage control and maybe play as Waluigi.

      Also, whoa, you're back on KoopaTV! Yay!

  2. This was my first Mario Tennis game and I was overwhelmed by how many moves there are for this game. I probably will not get it just because I feel I cannot keep up with others players.

    1. I ask you reconsider your fear of being overwhelmed by the game, though I can't really give you a reason why that I haven't already said.

      Perhaps when they show this game on Nintendo Treehouse Live|E3 2018, you'll feel better?


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