Michael Leparc On January 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm

WiiU_MarioTennisUltraSmash_logo_smallThere hasn’t been a lot of noise on the Wii U front since Super Mario Maker came out earlier this year to much acclaim. We were supposed to get a new Star Fox, but that got delayed to 2016, so Nintendo put out Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash to try and smooth things over. Now normally, despite our mixed feelings about so-called “rehashes”, we’ve found plenty to like about these sorts of releases as they tend to build on a tried and true formula and give us something better. Unfortunately this time the tactic strikes us as far too cynical and unambitious to recommend.

The main new gimmick in this edition of Mario Tennis is the addition of Mega Mushrooms which randomly appear and slide across the court. Pick one up and you become huge, which gives you more powerful shots and obviously makes it easier to reach any shot your opponent makes. It’s by no means a guaranteed win. If you can manage to stay alive against it, the power wears out. A body shot also can remove the effects, and your opponent can often grab a mushrooom at the same time, so it’s not quite as cheap as it sounds, but still it can imbalance the game. Honestly it becomes old hat rather quickly. The other new thing is the introduction of jump shots which can be executed by pressing the same button twice. Hitting the smash button twice can result in the titular “Ultra Smash” which is practically unstoppable. Just like previous Mario Tennis games though, consistent success is a matter of knowing when to apply the various different shot types (A for top spin, B for slice, Y for smash, or combinations thereof) indicated by the glowing circles below where the ball is scheduled to land. Do it right and you execute a Chance Shot which can be difficult for your opponent to counter. Of course you can turn off all these extras for a more realistic game where it doesn’t tell you what shots to do and then the game becomes far more tactical.

A huge disappointment is how few other game modes there really are to play with. Besides the Mega Battle mode which contains the aforementioned Mega Mushrooms there’s only really one truly different game: the Rally Mode, which is utterly pointless in single player as the objective is to keep the shrinking ball in play as long as possible and the AI refuses to cooperate to that end. There’s a Knockout Challenge which is the closest thing you’ll get to a campaign or tournament, and that’s simply playing a match against each character in the game for more coins to unlock stuff. The Simple and Standard tennis modes are the ones which take away the crazy shots and power ups but not really new game modes on their own. Finally you have the Online mode which is pretty straightforward. It works without issue but again there’s not much variety to it like the main game. We’re missing the Item Battle and Ring Shot modes from past iterations of Mario Tennis. As it is, Ultra Smash strikes me as an utterly spartan affair. There isn’t even a tutorial for crying out loud! I had to refresh my memory of the controls by digging into the in game manual, which is kind of pathetic for a Nintendo game, not usually known for assuming its players are hardcore and already know everything.

At least the game looks pretty enough and runs at a silky smooth 60fps and high resolution, but it must have been terribly easy to optimize considering there’s only one stadium to play in. Different court types yes, but the stadium is literally the same no matter what you choose to play on. 16 characters is a pretty small roster for a Mario sports/racing game, too. The music and sounds are nothing special either. Everything feels bland and just sort of barely passable overall.
Unless you’re desperate for a new multiplayer game for your Wii U (is Splatoon not enough for you?), I find it hard to endorse Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. It feels pretty phoned in compared to what Nintendo normally puts out, so I was quite disappointed. It’d be worth picking up discounted on the eShop down the line hopefully, or maybe they will expand it with some DLC. Right now though I would pick up the 3DS version, Mario Tennis Open, over this one.


Just way too basic overall. Mega Mushrooms don’t really add much, and there’s not enough modes.


Smooth and slick, but not much variety to it.


Can’t say I found the soundtrack very memorable.


Only for the most diehard Mario Tennis fanatics.

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