Monday 18 January 2016

Mario Tennis Ultra Smash

Out now on Wii U comes Mario Tennis Ultra Smash, which was released at the end of November, just in time for Wimbledon – which, er, takes place in June and July. Hmm. Okay, Mario Tennis is to real tennis what Battlefield Hardline is to actual police work, but you'd think that they'd at least try  to put it out there while people were talking about the real game. Okay, there's the Davis Cup, but did you even know that was a thing? What makes the relatively late arrival all the more baffling is that, while it's an extremely polished product, there's a sore lack of content. There wasn't exactly a last minute rush to cram it full of modes and extras.

The bread-and-butter mode is Mega Battle. If you need me to explain the rules of tennis then you're probably reading the wrong review, but this mode gives it a generous dollop of Marioness. As with any other mode, you begin by choosing your character and court. Cult favourite Waluigi is here as is Boo, who disconcertingly teleports towards the ball whenever he goes to hit it from any sort of distance. Your choice of character has a subtle effect on play, too; for example, Bowser is good at powerful shots but, being a lardarse, has no hope of reaching a ball in time if he has to run for it. It's Toad you're after if you want to be able to dash across the court at speed.

As for the courts, you get the standards such as grass and so on, but you can also unlock the likes of Mushroom, Ice, and Carpet which all have different effects on ball behaviour (oo-er missus, etc.). Once you've made your choices, you play your singles or doubles match (your choice of how many games and sets) in Mega Battle with the full set of extra bells and whistles. This means Chance Shots – press the correct button or button combo within a coloured circle when returning the ball for a tricky-to-return shot – and mushrooms. Mushrooms are thrown to either side now and again, and remain on the court until collected or until the rally is over. Pick one of these up and your character increases to the size of David Cameron's love for pigs. Until the effect runs out or you're hit with the ball, each one of your shots will push your opponent back. This is the case even if you're both supersized.

There's a knockout survival-style mode which surely doesn't need much explanation. Interestingly, though, if you have a compatible Amiibo you can use it in this mode to go 2 on 1 against your opponents. This might sort of seem like cheating, but it certainly comes in handy against the later opponents. Then there's a mode where the objective is simply to keep a rally going for as long as possible and, finally, there's a mode without mushrooms where you can also, should you so wish, choose the option of playing something much closer to proper tennis. There's also online play – full of people to play, and with the silky smooth connection we've come to expect from Nintendo – but without lobbies or rematches. There's the option to block players, but how and why the hell this would ever be needed is a mystery.

That's it. No story, no tournament, no selection of fun minigames. It plays and looks great, but the lack of the aforementioned is disappointing; as is the fairly small selection of characters which, even after unlocking the 'secret' ones, is sparse considering the huge population the Nintendoverse has built up over the decades. Mario Tennis Ultra Smash is good but, y'know... there should be more of it.

Gameplay is Ace, but the amount of content is balls. 3/5


Luke Kemp

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