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Review: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash  

The Wii U was supposed to have an unforgettable Holiday Season this year. With games as Star Fox: Zero and a new Zelda, the system would have one of its best Holidays for sure. Too bad those games got delayed to 2016 and Nintendo had to figure out what to do during the Holidays. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash was one of the answers but feels a little bit too rushed in order to release in time.

New Mario Tennis, new gimmick

The Mario Tennis franchise started rather strong on 3D consoles. The Nintendo 64 game still is a fan-favorite and we understand why. Mario Tennis 64 was all about tennis and the usage of different shots and precise calculations to bring home the cup. The later installments of Mario Tennis went for a more Mario Kart-esque approach. Nintendo felt the need to update the new 3D games with gimmicks and power-ups. This is done so many times the company simply can’t go back to the classic tennis experience. Each Mario Tennis came with a new gimmick, some were smart and others were useless. The gimmick in Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash feels unfair, unneeded and useless all at once.

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The Mega Mushroom and other power-ups

The gimmick here is a giant Mega Mushroom, which transforms your player or opponent into a giant. Playing as a giant version of yourself feels weird and controls awkward. The precise shots get lost in this Mega form. Each ball you hit, automatically has a lot of power so you won’t need to use your tennis tactics.

Playing with Mega characters is fun when your opponent is in its mega form during the same time as you. Two giant characters competing against each other works rather well. Sure, it’s still unnecessary but we understand why this gimmick can be fun to use. The gimmick loses all its fun however when only your opponent was able to grab the Mega Mushroom. Playing tennis against a mega opponent is unfair and will most likely always end in a lost set.

 

Fun but lacks content

 

Unlike other updates in the past, this one feels a bit unnecessary and that’s a shame. Other Mario Tennis games introduced more fun power-ups and those still remained active in Ultra Smash. Remember those Change Shots (introduced in Mario Tennis Open) that appeared randomly on the field? By standing on those and pushing the right button, you could perform a special shot. Those were a lot of fun from the start so we’re happy these power-ups stayed active in Ultra Smash!

Besides this, characters can also perform a jump shot by timing their jump and shot precisely. If you hit the ball at the right time, with the right amount of power, you’ll perform a Jump Shot. Unlike the other power-ups, this one requires some skills to master so you’re always pleased if you manage to perform a perfect Jump Shot.

The other modes

Sadly, the biggest mode of the game is the Mega Battle, a mode that’s all about the Mega Mushroom. In Mega Battle, you play against a CPU or friend and use the Mega Mushrooms to your advantage. We’re not really a fan of this mode due to the unfair power-up. Sure, it’s fun to mess around with it, but after a while, it becomes rather frustrating.

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To keep the Mega atmosphere alive, Nintendo also added Mega Ball Rally, the sole mini-game in the entire game. The goal of this mode is to hit the Mega Ball as many times as possible without misses. Based on how many times you were able to hit the ball, you’ll get coins. Coins that can be used to unlock extras, more on that later.

If you’re looking for a challenge however, you can play the Knockout Challenge. This mode replaces the classic Tournament mode and lets you ‘battle’ against fifteen characters. You go to the next round by scoring seven points. The opponents grow stronger each time you defeat one, defeating them all will prove a challenge. This mode supports the Mega Mushroom and Change Shots. It’s only playable in solo play but you can scan an Amiibo to help you out during the match.

The best mode for the fans is without a doubt the Classic Tennis mode, which actually brings back some of the Mario Tennis 64 magic. This is a mode played without Mega Mushrooms. You can go for Standard mode, which still features Jump Shots and Change Shots or you can select Simple mode which takes away the Jump Shots and Change Shots. If you’re looking for old-school Mario Tennis, where skills were most important, this is a mode you’ll enjoy without a doubt. We’re really glad this mode was added since we had most fun playing this classic Mario Tennis.

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The last playable mode is the online mode, which isn’t that special. No communities or lobbies here, just tennis. You can play for fun or play for glory. Matches for fun aren’t ranked while glory matches rank your achievements on a global leaderboard. You can play singles or doubles and even use your Amiibo as partner online. You can go online in Mega Battles, Classic Tennis and Simple Tennis. Find other players, set the rules and start your tennis! It’s easy and it works but it’s nothing special really.

Rewards and unlockable content

Mario tennis wouldn’t be Mario Tennis without unlockables. Ultra Smash isn’t an exception. You unlock some all-star characters or hidden character by competing in several amounts of matches. By winning enough matches or by completing the Knockout Challenge several times, you’ll be able to unlock the characters in no time. Can’t wait for them? Each character can also be unlocked by spending the money you earned during your matches.

This money can also be used to unlock fun new courses, Amiibo training and extra difficulty settings for you Mario Tennis experience. Compared to older Mario Tennis games, the unlockables aren’t as plenty as we’re used to. These extra features offer a little more content for your money but the game still isn’t as big or extensive as older entries. It’s a mystery why this game doesn’t support a single player adventure for example if you know the Game Boy Color game had such a mode.

Amiibo support

Nintendo did include Amiibo support into the game but it’s nothing really that special. In Amiibo Training you can scan a compatible (Super Mario-line) Amiibo to help you on the field. This Amiibo can be used in the Knockout Challenge and the Online mode. The more matches you and your Amiibo win, the better the figurine becomes. You can spend the points you earn to improve certain criteria of your figurine. Thanks to this, you can for example create an Amiibo that’s fast and uses tricky shots most of the time. It’s not bad but it would have been better if we could use our Amiibo in the other modes.

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Conclusion:

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash isn’t a bad game but it lacks more content. The classic Mario Tennis action is in there but you’ll need to find it. We aren’t a fan of the Mega Mushroom gimmick but we’re sure some will have a lot of crazy fun using this item. Ultra Smash is a disappointment when it comes to content and replay value but it isn’t a bad game. If you’re hungry for a new Mario sports game, this is one you need to get. Hardcore Mario Tennis fans will be disappointed although the Classic Tennis mode is a blessing for the game.

7/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.