NS Review – Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Nintendo are pretty good at implementing strange and quirky algorithms into already established games and sports, and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is no exception.
Right off the bat (ha) the game opens with a handful of different modes readily available to play. Each mode differs from the last, providing a unique enough experience each time. I think it would have been better if they had started with two or three options to begin with, and then let you unlock the rest, rather than just thrusting most of the game at you as soon as you open it and expecting you to find everything, but the variety is nice.
Visually this game is very well rounded. The starting menu interacts in a rather delayed and clunky manner, but aside from that most of the rest of it is very smooth. The shiny and polished models with their limited movement and spiffy animations, combined with almost nothing but the ground to interact with means you’re looking at some of the most realistically behaving models yet in terms of whether clipping occurs, and the tennis rackets themselves dip well into photo realistic territory. Dynamic cinematic sequences and vibrant colors make for a wonderful viewing experience and overall the game is just very pleasant to look at.
The music isn’t bad, but I didn’t find it too noticeable or memorable. This doesn’t mean however that it doesn’t serve well as decent background noise, which it does. The sound effects are decent, but naturally the constant repeating of the character noises (which happen at least every hit) can get very grating- especially if it’s a character you’re not too fond of. Following on from Mario Party 10 Nintendo have included some bizarre characters for their roster, which I shan’t spoil for you.
It would have been nice to see the power-ups being a bit more incorporated into the game, rather than just shot changers and a Mega Mushroom, but what is there does make for some decent gameplay. Unfortunately it did feel like the game was mostly playing itself and I was making little contribution quite a hefty amount of the time. Earning medals is, in my opinion, a bit too easy as you can just unlock them for a small fee, and grinding coins isn’t too difficult. Speaking of Mega Mushrooms, this power-up makes the match feel extremely unbalanced and I felt downright sorry for the opponent every time I got one. The game does encourage you to switch it up a bit and also rewards you for taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone though. There’s nothing quite like smacking Waluigi square in the face- and scoring points for it.
The NPC is shockingly competent (though maybe my standards have just been lowered that much by Resident Evil) regardless, Intermediate and above provides some decent challenge solo, and I found if I wanted to lay back and just let my partner do the work in a doubles match I actually could for the most part. Amiibo on the other hand are like bringing in a newborn to perform brain surgery. I’m not sure if this is just because I haven’t trained my amiibo to maximum stats yet (training incidentally takes an awfully long time), but I found myself having almost no trust in letting it carry my team. There’s also limited modes which you can use an amiibo in unfortunately, despite the rest of them allowing for a doubles option, which I found rather odd.
The online matchmaking system is extremely limited, once again, following Tri Force Heroes and the region lock, Nintendo have made a questionable choice in regards to who you can play with online, but with even worse options. Friend Lobbies don’t seem to exist and the only people you’ll be playing against online are whoever you get partnered with randomly depending on whether you’re in the friendly-match lobby or the score lobby.
Overall Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash provides some very pretty and surprisingly addictive real-life-sport-substitute. It’s a nice spin on sports video games with a lot of neat little details and highlights, and serves very well as a time-killer. It may not be the best release of the year, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good game.
What are your thoughts on Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash? Which feature are you looking forward to most? Does the online matchmaking system put you off? Drop us a comment, or tweet me @MattiasMay. Thank you for reading!
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is out on the 20th November 2015. Thanks to Nintendo for providing a copy of this game for me to review.