MARIO TENNIS ACES releases on June 22 for the Nintendo Switch. Judging by its fantastic, action-packed demo, this game looks to be another standout title for the console.

MARIO TENNIS ACES represents an evolution in the long-running MARIO TENNIS franchise. ACES’ improvements are necessary after its predecessor, MARIO TENNIS ULTRA SMASH, which released to middling reviews all around. This new release promises to bring many changes to gameplay, such as new special moves, new characters, and a whole single-player campaign, which calls back to the series’ earlier handheld iterations.

ACES has recently been released as a free demo, which is currently downloadable from the Switch’s eShop. This demo allows players entry into the pre-release tournament, playable from June 1 until June 3. While this demo does not contain the single-player campaign that I am itching to try, the gameplay in the demo will hold me over until June 22 and then some.

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MARIO TENNIS ACES — Presentation

I won’t dwell much on ACES’ presentation, but the game style enamored me. This is not at all surprising, especially for a modern Nintendo game, but it is still worth mentioning.

The graphics are fun and vibrant, and the music is exciting and befitting of a tennis game. Each and every animation is oozing with charm. Seeing Waluigi moonwalk across the court to return a ball instantly brought a smile to my face. Unfortunately, ACES’ demo grants access to only one of the game’s locales. However, I am very excited to see all of the other arenas within the full release, assuming they look as amazing as the one in the demo.

MARIO TENNIS ACES title screen
Even MARIO TENNIS ACES’ title screen is pleasing to look at.

So, the game looks and sounds great, but does it feel great to play? Spoiler: It does.

MARIO TENNIS ACES — Changes to Gameplay

As mentioned, one of MARIO TENNIS ACES greatest strengths is its gameplay. While I am not going to break down all the rules of tennis here, players should have at least a basic idea of how to play the sport before picking up ACES — though I guess that can be said about any sports game.

Mario faces off against Yoshi, his long-time companion.

MARIO TENNIS ACES is, admittedly, my first foray into the MARIO TENNIS series. Let me tell you, it’s no WII SPORTS. Every match is fast and intense. I would like to give a special shoutout to the user JaminApple, the friendly Toad who I ended up playing a whopping 30-minute match with. Though the game went on longer than either of us expected, it did not lull for even a moment.

Most of MARIO TENNIS ACES’ high intensity boils down to the implementation of the new special meter.

The Special Meter

Players now make use of a special meter that appears in the top corner of the screen. Hitting the ball at full power, returning shots from star spots which appear on the court, and even taunting when given a second of down time all charge up the meter. So, what does this meter do, exactly?

First, players can use the meter defensively to slow down time, which is vital in returning some shots from across the court. This, in conjunction with the game’s trick shot mechanic, makes some rallies look like they’re straight from The Matrix.

Next, the special meter is also key for a good offense. When the meter is at least ⅓ of the way full, players can go into first-person and directly aim their shot. These shots are difficult to return and can even destroy the opponent’s net if returned incorrectly.

Lastly, players can exhaust a full meter for a devastating special attack, complete with a flashy animation. Much like the previous shot, these are aimed in first-person, and they’re even harder to return.

MARIO TENNIS ACES special shot
Mario gears up for a special shot.

My favorite part about these special moves is that they directly counter one another. I’ve had many a rally where my opponent launched a special attack at me, then I returned the ball with a special attack of my own. Moments like these make me want to keep on playing and improving.

Now that we’re done with specials, let’s take a look at what the demo has to offer.

MARIO TENNIS ACES — The Demo’s Contents

As I mentioned earlier, MARIO TENNIS ACES has the most extensive demo I have ever played. Game demos are usually simple, opting to include one brief section from early on in the game’s story. Nintendo, however, has a great track record when it comes to demos. Games like SPLATOON have had prerelease tournaments similar to ACES’, and some POKEMON games have demos which give players daily rewards. ACES, in my opinion, takes the cake.

MARIO TENNIS ACES’ prerelease tournament’s main draw is, unsurprisingly, the tournament. Players are placed in a bracket where they must face off against concurrent winners in order to climb the ranks.

A preview of MARIO TENNIS ACES’ tournament bracket system. 32 players compete together!

Winning successive matches grants the player points. Upon reaching certain point milestones, players will unlock more characters to play as in the tournament. Unlockables? In a demo? That’s unheard of! Well, these unlocks are what kept me coming back for more — I was curious to see what familiar face was lying just past the next milestone.

I’m not going to spoil all five of the mystery characters here, but I was elated to see that Waluigi is unlocked first.

Waluigi is truly the gem of the MARIO franchise.

MARIO TENNIS ACES — Looking Into the Future

MARIO TENNIS ACES’ demo is a complete success. The gameplay is a blast and the unlockable characters encourage more playtime. The best part is that this demo only scratches the surface of MARIO TENNIS ACES’ content. The full release will contain a simplified mode, which removes the use of specials, the aforementioned story mode, as well as more courts and characters.

Prior to this demo, I was completely indifferent to MARIO TENNIS ACES — I thought it looked good, but that’s about it. After playing, however, I cannot wait for June 22 to roll around.

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