Title: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Version Tested: Wii U
Available on: Wii U
Developer: Camelot Software
Official Site: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Release Date: November 20, 2015
Where to Buy: Retail, Nintendo e-Shop
As a kid when most sports games were a little too complex for my liking and abilities like Madden or MLB games, the Mario and Nintendo sports titles were the place to be. I was all in with the N64 games like Mario Golf and the original Mario Tennis, so my excitement for Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash was pretty high. Unfortunately, the game served my expectations a hard 95mph pace and I was pretty disappointed.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is the first foray into the HD console world, we haven’t seen the sport on a Nintendo platform since 2012 with the 3DS version (very good game by the way!). So right off the bat, it’s a great looking game. As always the colours and life of the roster and courts just pop off the screen. Unfortunately, as you can see from the list above, there aren’t a whole lot of characters on that roster to enjoy. The classics and now expected heroes, heroines, and villains are all there, but nothing more. Each character has their own unique “trick shots” and plays a little differently, but again, we’ve seen that before as well. We’ve seen most of them in Mario Tennis games before too, it would’ve been nice to see some additions like Larry, Shy Guy, or Iggy in there as well. No sign of DLC yet, but it’s possible the roster could expand as it did in Mario Kart 8.
You can get a little more life out of your Amiibo in the game too, which can flesh out a complete roster. I have only had limited experience with Amiibo’s in general, but here the game allows you to use them as teammates or opponents in order to upgrade them and eventually take them online. Unfortunately with the way that the Amiibo system works, I couldn’t use my favourite one in the game; 30th Anniversary Mario: Classic Color. Instead, I was limited to the only other I own, Donkey Kong.
Now down to what really matters most, the gameplay. As previously mentioned, the game is still very tight and ultimately fun to play. There are the typical court selections like grass, clay, hardcourt, and they all slightly change the way the matches are approached. Playing singles was the most fun I had, the doubles courts just felt a little bit too crowded, especially when the Mega Mushrooms came into play, but we’ll get to that later. Simple controls go a long way to helping even the less-experienced gamer have a chance and enjoy themselves from match to match. Some wrenches are thrown in the mix when an opportunistic shot is presented to the player, and a small button combo can be pushed to smash home a hard spike or ace shot.
Ultra Smash seems to have gone only halfway when it comes to the added power-ups and game changers. It’s no secret or surprise that Mushrooms, Shells, Flower Power Suits, and any other classic Mario power-up could be used in the Nintendo sports game. Somehow in Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash they decided to add only one to the game, the Mega Mushroom. Look Mega Mushrooms are cool, they make you, well, mega! But as the only randomly selected power-up in the game, it feels like it was an afterthought. The biggest downside to even using the Mushroom is that while your character is big and powerful, they cover most of the screen, making it hard to see the far half of the court and properly prepare for your return shot. Don’t even get me started when there’s a doubles match going on and there are four giants trotting around the court, oh boy!
In all honesty, most of the gripes I had with the game came when playing single player. I played for 3-4 hours with my cousin on the couch beside me over the course of a weekend, and it was a blast! Something about Nintendo, the Magic Kingdom, and couch co-op or competition, brings out the best in my gaming memories. Whether we were playing doubles or singles, power-up matches or not, we had a great time. Online wasn’t too shabby either, but I had much less experience with it. Playing alone, or just alongside my Amiibo buddy, was a pretty thin experience. I unlocked all the characters fairly quickly, and once I had a taste of the few modes that were offered, there wasn’t much else bringing me back into the game.
Maybe that approach to the game is ok for a much younger crowd or gamer, but for me it just didn’t work. For the most part, it felt like a missed opportunity for Nintendo to grab sports fans over the holiday season and encourage them to play a family-friendly competitive game. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash made me feel like I’d played half a game and there was something missing. If I could score it in tennis terms, Ultra Smash would lose 15-40.
- Graphics: A great looking game, the Magic Kingdom characters continue to shine in HD.
- Gameplay: Mostly solid. Tight controls go a long way in helping along the thin content Ultra Smash offers.
- Sound: The usual Mario & friends sounds and music here. Fun stuff, but nothing too unique.
- Presentation: Again, a good looking Nintendo aesthetic, but it doesn’t hide the minimal amount of features in the game for very long.
- The usual, tight, Nintendo sports game controls and mechanics
- Graphics look very sharp
- Very little content overall
- Limited amount of modes
- Small roster of characters
- Where's all the other power-ups?