Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is one of those games where you look at it, look back at the copy of Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 sitting on your shelf, then return to the Wii U game and slowly shake your head. (Because naturally, you have a copy of Mario Tennis 64 sitting nearby. I mean, you’re an intelligent individual.) It has issues. But, while the latest entry in this established series may not be as illustrious as other offerings, it isn’t entirely without its merits. If you go in with low expectations, you can still enjoy the game.
I mean, it’s beautiful. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash has the prettiest face. Every player looks so vibrant and alive. Their personalities shine through as they play, and it’s enchanting to watch. My favorite part is the loser animations for villains. Their character shines through in their exacerbated actions. Wario slams his racket down in frustration, his brow furrowed as he throws a little tantrum. Boo is even better, as it covers its face and blushes in shame. Because of the detailed and impressive visuals, we can really enjoy the effort put into bringing iconic characters to life.
It’s also a great game to enjoy in small doses. Don’t get me wrong, training up my Toad amiibo so it would reach the third rank was brutal. (Especially since I had to throw a match to get the images for the “story!”) Going through an endless number of training matches without any additional point or purpose, with some repeating before new characters appeared, got old fast. But going through a few single matches is refreshing. If you break it down to fifteen or thirty minute sessions every few days, it ends up being a positive experience.
Especially if you have people to play with. That’s the most important part of any Mario Tennis game, really. It’s about playing the game with someone, savoring those smashes and witnessing firsthand the light going out of their eyes as they realize you were the real prince (or princess) of tennis.
Yes, there are only four modes. It’s a shame. Especially since only three offer local multiplayer, and two of the modes are practically identical. Both Mega Battle and Classic Tennis are standard tennis matches, with one offering Mega Mushrooms, Chance and Jump shots, and the other offering the option of ordinary tennis without special features. Mega Ball Rally is the cooperative mode, where up to four people hit a ball back and forth for as long as possible. None of the modes are incredibly taxing or involved, but do they really have to be? Sometimes, something simple is as satisfying as a more complex release.
It just means people have to be prudent when it comes to welcoming Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash into their home. Is it a good idea for $49.99? Probably not, given the amount of content it has to offer. It isn’t a bad game, though, just basic. People who enjoy game nights with friends should keep it on their radar in the event of a price drop. For about $25, this installment could be an ace.