Is that it?
Mario Tennis has always been my favorite Nintendo sports series. The simple gameplay and over-the-top mechanics made it the perfect multiplayer game with friends. The series has been on a long hiatus, but has now returned for the Wii U as one of Nintendo’s tent pole titles for the Fall season. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash delivers that same addictive game play, but also feels like a hollow shell of its former self. A lack of modes and unlockables really stand out in an otherwise extremely enjoyable experience.
Let’s start with what does work. The game plays extremely well. The controls are very intuitive, and getting a good volley is as addicting as it has ever been. Ultra Smash is also gorgeous. The novelty of colorful Nintendo characters in HD has still not work out its welcome. Wii U games may not be the technical marvel players have come to expect this generation, but the art direction and style go a long way. The game is a joy to look at, and the various courts are fun to play on.
Platforms: Wii U
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
There are also a plethora of characters to play as, but to be fair none of them feel significantly different. Some are unlocked using the game’s currency system, and there are star versions of each character, although for the life of me I could not figure out how they were different. Courts and an extra difficulty are also locked behind this system, but it takes very little time to knock them all out. The entirety of the game can be unlocked within a few hours.
What really drags down Ultra Smash is its criminal lack of content. Players can jump into singles or doubles, or the new Knockout mode, but that is about it. There is no campaign/career mode, and the only mini-game available has players seeing how long they can keep a volley going. That’s it.
Knockout is the most interesting mode and it is the only one that makes use of the amiibo functionality. Think of this like a ladder in a fighting game, where players are pitted against various characters leading up to a boss. I could scan certain amiibos to use as my partner, but much like the core game AI, they are rarely helpful. It was almost worth playing solo.
I really wish I was kidding, but that is it. There is of course an online mode, but it also comes with its own problems. The matches I played were pretty smooth, but there is no option to play with friends. It is entirely random matches. So unless I had friends over locally, there was no way to enjoy the game with people I knew.
I had a lot of fun playing Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, but it fizzled out way too soon. The game play is excellent, but the lack of modes and diversity really suck the fun out of it after a couple hours. Not being able to play with friends online is a drag, and the AI is simply not enough to keep me coming back. I wanted to love Ultra Smash, but it fought me at every turn to keep me from wanting to play more of it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.