Tag Archives: Mario Tennis

Why Waluigi Could Have Worked in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually a little disappointed that Waluigi is only an Assist Trophy and not a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Unlike a lot of people, I wasn’t rooting for Waluigi to make the roster due to his nature as a meme these days. In fact, I never thought of him as a worthy inclusion as a playable character on the Smash Bros. roster until after Ultimate was revealed. He still wouldn’t be one of my most wanted characters, mind you, but after some consideration, I can’t help but feel Waluigi is being treated rather poorly (at least, when we consider certain circumstances).

Now, some people complain that there are “too many” Mario characters in Super Smash Bros. But that’s nonsense. Exceptionalist that I am, I think the most accomplished series deserve the most characters, and seeing as Super Mario is Nintendo’s most accomplished series, it can have however many characters it damn well wants. Zelda and Pokemon have achieved similar success, and would be the two other series that could potentially keep adding characters and I don’t think anyone could make an actual argument against it, though I understand that Zelda has less notable characters to work with than Mario or Pokemon.

My point is that Waluigi was not someone I considered to be a worthy character to be playable in Super Smash Bros., seeing as he only exists for the purpose of giving Wario a tennis partner, and he only ever appears in the Mario sports games and Mario Kart as kind of a filler character, leaving no real impact on the series other than to be the butt of jokes.

But then, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate revealed Princess Daisy – a Mario character who is basically a filler character in Mario sports titles and Mario Kart who has left no real impact on the series – as a playable fighter in the upcoming Switch release. If she can make the cut, why not Waluigi?

In fact, I can think of two (somewhat connected) reasons why Waluigi actually makes more sense than Daisy. The first is that Daisy, being a clone (I refuse to call them Echo Fighters from here on out), doesn’t bring anything new to the table. I know, apologists like to claim that the clones “don’t take too much data to make and don’t get in the way of other fighters,” but they’re still just lazy, copied-and-pasted additions that don’t add anything to the game. I’d rather see less characters and have them all be distinct, than see the number of characters rack up simply because the developers were able to copy enough existing characters. Waluigi wouldn’t have to be a clone though (I guess Daisy didn’t have to be one either, but here we are). Considering Wario’s moves are primarily built around WarioWare – a series which Waluigi has no involvement in – it’s easy to separate Waluigi from the Wario that’s already present in Smash Bros.

This leads me to the other reason why Waluigi would be a decent(ish) inclusion compared to Daisy: his differences from Wario – and subsequently, the less likelihood of him being a clone – could mean drawing on different inspirations for a unique moveset, which could then lead them to draw from the Mario sports games themselves.

Why would this mean anything? Well, because the Mario sports games have no representation within Smash Bros’ character roster, and while it’s a series that may not need representation, the Mario sports titles have been around long enough and have had enough entries that it doesn’t seem undeserved to have a single character represent it.

I know, people could again argue that he’s “another” Mario character (but again, it’s a series that’s earned it), but the thing is the Mario series isn’t a singular series, but a franchise that encompasses various series within different genres, with the Mario sports titles being among the only Mario series not represented in Super Smash Bros. People could also argue that Daisy does represent just that (again, the sports titles are basically where she shows up), but because she’s a clone of Peach, Smash Bros. missed the boat on that one. Waluigi more easily avoids the clone possibility, and could have been given a Mario sports titles their Smash representation.

Think about it, moves based around tennis, golf, baseball, basketball, go karting, hell, maybe they could even throw in some kind of Mario Party inspiration in there. If Waluigi were even considered for Smash, that is.

Waluigi’s exclusion from the playable roster isn’t a major loss for Super Smash Bros. Like I said, I never even thought about him being a worthwhile character for the series until after Daisy’s reveal. But once Daisy was revealed to be just another clone, while Waluigi remains an Assist Trophy, it made me realize that, if Sakurai and company were willing to bring in C-tier Mario characters, they missed a little opportunity here for a more unique character, and an aspect of Nintendo’s biggest franchise that has yet to get acknowledge in Super Smash Bros.

Also, WAAAAAAAAH!

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Mario Tennis Aces Review

Although they’ve never produced any all-time classics in the way the primary platformers of the Super Mario series, the Mario RPGs, and the Mario Karts have, the Mario sports title may be the best example of the franchise’s unique ability to seemingly make any genre more fun simply by having its name associated with it. Even those who have no interest whatsoever in any given sport should still be able to find enjoyment out of it when it’s given a Mushroom Kingdom twist. I mean, when you add in characters like Luigi and Donkey Kong, and then throw in some crazy gimmicks and special moves, something like golf suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. Perhaps the most consistent of Mario’s sporting endeavors are his ventures into tennis. The newest entry, Mario Tennis Aces, perhaps polishes up the core gameplay more than any previous Mario Tennis title, though it does come at the expense of a relative lack of content.

“Rosalina is best girl!”

Mario Tennis Aces seems to be all about refining what we’ve come to know about Mario Tennis. In this sense, the game is a roaring success. Mario Tennis gameplay has simply never felt so smooth and fluid. No matter which character you pick, the game feels great to control, with slight differences given to each character based on their weight class (don’t expect Bowser to move as gracefully as Rosalina). Mario Tennis Aces features a variety of control styles, all of which feel comfortable, though my personal preference is a Joy-con in each hand.

“Waluigi is here. That’s one thing Mario Tennis will always have over Smash.”

Different types of shots are mapped to different buttons on the controller, while combinations of those buttons (one to prepare to strike the ball, one for the strike itself) add to the mix. Should you charge a shot long enough before striking the ball, you build up energy, which can be used to slow down time, perform a quick counter-shot, and – if the energy meter is completely full – a special move. Additionally, stars appear on the court from time to time, which allow players to perform a “zone shot,” which briefly brings things to a first-person view for player’s to throw an exceptionally fast ball.

This brings me to one of the more disappointing elements of Mario Tennis Aces’ gameplay: the zone shots and character specials are more or less the same. The only difference is that the special moves come with a unique animation beforehand, and do more damage to your opponent’s racket. If a player (or the CPU) doesn’t time the ball just right after their opponent hits a zone shot or special, their racket will take damage. With enough damage, your racket will break, thus ending the game early.

It’s easy to imagine this being a divisive mechanic. On one hand, it provides a unique spin to the series, and adds a different element of strategy to the proceedings as you gain energy and plot to build up to the point of destroying an opponent’s racket. But on the other hand, it kind of makes a drastic change to the very game of tennis. But if you’re among those frustrated with the mechanic, you can always turn it off.

Though this leads to another questionable design decision for the game. While you can choose whether or not your rackets can break during a match, you cannot change the length of a match or set in a game of tennis. And, bizarrely, you can’t directly select which court you wish to play on, instead having to “deselect” stages you don’t want on the options menu, which seems unnecessarily arduous. Perhaps in another tennis game it wouldn’t be a big deal, but given the unique themes and gimmicks of Mario Tennis courts, it would make a basic level select option all the more ideal than in normal circumstances.

Thankfully, the core gameplay is so much fun, that if you’re playing multiplayer (whether online or next to a friend), you might not mind the limited options. Single player, however, does leave a bit more to be desired.

“Mario Tennis Aces brings back the odd Mario sports tradition of resurrecting Super Mario Sunshine bosses.”

The primary single player mode in Mario Tennis Aces is an adventure mode that sees Mario on a journey to collect five power stones to stop the power of an ancient, evil tennis racket, which has taken control of Luigi, Wario and Waluigi. It’s a surprisingly humorous story mode with its wacky plot, and it features some fun RPG elements to it (Mario can gain experience points and levels, and additional tennis rackets can be obtained through optional stages). Not to mention it provides a fair bit of variety in its challenges. The downside to the story mode, however, is its severely fluctuating difficulty curve.

You would think that the stages would gradually get more progressively difficult as you go, especially seeing as this is a Mario game, and that’s an area in which the franchise usually shines. But the challenge of the story mode in Mario Tennis Aces is all over the place. You’ll go from a ridiculously easy stage to a ludicrously difficult one at any given time, with seemingly no warning as to when the difficulty is going to spike to a new high or drop to relaxing low. Two stages in particular – against Blooper and Boom Boom, of all characters – gave me a considerable challenge. The story mode does provide some solid fun in the gameplay, variety and RPG elements, but the inconsistent difficulty may be too jarring for some.

“Chain Chomp FTW!”

Even with these issues, however, Mario Tennis Aces is an undeniable good time. The sheer polish that exudes from its gameplay marks a new high for the series, while free play and tournament modes give multiplayer a huge amount of replay value. Add in the fact that you can not only play as series regulars like Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser, but entertaining newcomers like Spike and Chain Chomp, and you have one of the most distinctly ‘Mario’ of all Mario sports titles. If Nintendo and Camelot can take this core gameplay for the next entry, while refining the single player campaign and adding more play styles and customizable options, and we could have the Mario Kart 8 equivalent of Mario’s sports titles. As it is, well, the pieces are in place.

 

7.5

Mario Tennis (N64) Review

Mario Tennis

The late 90s and early 2000s saw something of a boom in Mario spinoffs. The capabilities of 3D gaming allowed for more immersive and realistic sports titles, and Nintendo capitalized on this during the N64 years, creating their own series of sports titles with a Mushroom Kingdom spin through developer Camelot. Most of these titles were successful enough to spawn sequels that continue to this day. Of this early lot of Mario sports games, the best was arguably Mario Tennis. Though it may feel a tad small when compared to more recent Mario sports titles, Mario Tennis remains a solidly fun game due to its core gameplay, which has aged gracefully.

Before I divulge into the game itself, it should be noted that Mario Tennis holds the dubious honor of introducing Waluigi into the Mario series. This lanky, dastardly villain was created as the Luigi to Wario’s Mario. Unfortunately for Waluigi, being created for the sole purpose of giving Wario a tennis partner has prevented him of making much of an impact on the greater Mario series, and he’s been stuck as a filler character reserved solely for Mario spinoff titles ever since. But he’s a character so comically lame he’s become pitiable and, dare I say, even enjoyable (if ironically so). Mario Tennis’ character introduction may not be much to boast about, but it’s still a notable mark in Mario history. Though the game’s re-introduction of Daisy and Birdo into the franchise is less forgivable.

Onto more important things. The gameplay of Mario Tennis features the ability to perform different shots by pressing one or both of two primary buttons (A and B in the original N64 release, but this is changeable in the Wii U Virtual Console version). Each button performs a different type of shot, and pressing the same button twice, or pressing the two buttons in different orders, can produce alternate, more powerful shots. It’s a simple setup that provides a surprising depth, as it gives the game a good sense of “easy to learn, difficult to master” that should make it appealing to players of various skill levels.

Additional variety is added by the different characters, courts and modes.

Mario TennisThe character roster consists of many Mushroom Kingdom mainstays, who each take on different play styles (Mario and Luigi are well-rounded, Bowser and Donkey Kong are strong, the Princesses fall under the “technique” category, and so on). The differences in character abilities aren’t quite as prominent as they are in later Mario sports titles, and there aren’t any wacky special moves, but they all add a nice dose of versatility to the experience.

The different courts lack the fun gimmicks that Mario sports games would later adopt, and feel more grounded in realism, with the differences in courts being based on how they effect the bounce of the ball as opposed to Mushroom Kingdom motifs (with the exceptions of some secret stages, though they too feel mundane when compared to later entries).

Thankfully, the additional modes add some Mushroom Kingdom charm to the equation. Along with the standard exhibition and tournament modes (which provide both singles and doubles variants), there’s also Piranha Challenge, in which a group of Piranha Plants spit tennis balls at the player, who must then hit them past their opponent without missing too many of the Piranha Plants’ shots. Then there’s Ring Shot, a surprisingly addictive mode where you must hit the ball through a set number of rings, with your collective ring shots only counting if you score the point against your rival. Finally, there’s the simply-named Bowser Stage mode, where players face off on a shifting court that affects the players’ shots, while also giving players Mario Kart-like items to slow their opponents down.

The game also has some pretty impressive AI. If you set the computer-controlled opponent on easy it’ll be a cakewalk, but if you up their difficulty you’ll be in for some tough tennis matches.

Being a Nintendo 64 title, the graphics of course look dated and clumpy, but the colorful Mario aesthetics make it look more appealing than other titles in the genre of its time. The music is similarly more enjoyable than you might think out of a tennis game. Notably, the music in the game’s menus can be pretty soothing.

The drawbacks to Mario Tennis include the aforementioned missed opportunities to fully capitalize of the Mario brand, as the game can sometimes feel more like a tennis game that happens to have Mario characters in it, as opposed to a full-fledged Mario tennis game. Some players may also long for more game modes, since the ones provided  may not hold the interest of those more accustomed to the versatility of contemporary Mario sports titles.

Mario TennisAn additional downside to the Virtual Console release is that all the additional features provided by connecting the game to the Gameboy Color Mario Tennis title are absent, since the feature itself is no longer applicable. Without the transferring capabilities between the two games, Mario Tennis now feels like a good chunk of its content has been gutted.

Still, even these drawbacks aren’t enough to deter the simple delight of the gameplay. For a sports game of any kind to hold up this well after fifteen years is impressive in of itself. The fact that it stars Mario and friends is just a huge bonus. And yes, that even includes Waluigi.

 

7.0