Mario Tennis Ultra Smash Review
When the topic of Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash comes up on the internet, emotions range from disappointment to rage. After playing the game for a lot longer than I should (on my own that is) it would be hard for me to disagree with what a lot of people are saying. That being said, the sub-5 scores I have been seeing seem overly harsh, especially when I look at the number of hours I spent playing locally with others. Mario Tennis does do a lot of things wrong, but when compared to other party games, it works as well as you would want it to.
I usually begin most of my Nintendo reviews by pointing out the few flaws a game might have before gushing over what Nintendo is doing so well. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. The game does only a few things right, leaving so much to be desired. As a party game, in a local setting, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash has been a big hit with my group of friends and my family. We have spent more than enough time playing round after round of tennis.
The game also looks fantastic, and sounds great as well. Although you are limited to only one stadium and a few different court types, Nintendo’s reputation of having great looking games lives on here. Do these few positives justify the high price tag? Perhaps not, but if a deal came up I would recommend Mario Tennis to someone who would strictly play with friends, locally.
I stress locally because as of right now, the game does not allow you to connect with your Nintendo friends online. Sure, Nintendo readily lets you partner up with complete strangers, but won’t allow custom matches with friends. This is very surprising, especially coming from Nintendo, who champions safe, online interactions. What could be more safe than playing with the individuals you have OK’d to view your profile and communicate with you online.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash doesn’t offer up enough content for someone to spend more than a few hours playing solo. The inclusion of Mega Mushrooms in both single and multiplayer is a nice addition across all the modes, but not enough to actually entice someone to spend ample time with the available game modes. The Knockout Challenge single player mode attempts to be the meat and potatoes of the single player experience, but you are left playing random opponents – Daan Koopmans from Nintendo World Report stated he played Toad three times straight – and when the going eventually gets too tough – and trust me, it will – you can buy your way out of your failure.
That is the common theme throughout the game. You can buy your way out of everything. There are 25 collectibles that can be unlocked….or you can buy them. It is an interesting way of doing things. On one hand, I like the idea of being able to pay to get something, especially if you don’t think you will be able to complete the corresponding challenge. On the other hand, it feels like cheating. Whether people choose to pay or not shouldn’t be Nintendo’s problem, however, and many reviewers have tried to pin this on them. I like the inclusion of having an option to buy a collectible or unlockable; if someone chooses to do that exclusively, that is their prerogative.
Disconnect Between Reviewers and Consumers
A couple things should be noted here. This game is not getting bad reviews because it looks bad, or because of graphical issues, or lag problems. It’s getting bad grades because of content.
So yes, the game lacks modes, lacks venue options, lacks character selections, and many other things. But it is still a damn fun tennis game when played locally. Here is where I see the disconnect. I’ve been running a weekly, hour long “Game Reviews Seminar” for 8-10 students in grades 5 and 6. For a few weeks now, these kids have been putting Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash through its paces. They played every mode, tried all the characters, and played on all the courts. Last night we turned the game off and sat around the table to discuss the game. After all, the purpose of these events – part of a larger kids program run out of a local church – was to let kids have fun and teach them something valuable, in this case, critical thinking and writing.
The reactions I got were not 100% positive, which is why I myself could never justify a 7+ score. However, none of these kids felt Mario Tennis was disastrous, and all would eagerly ask for it as a Christmas gift. Naturally, the sub-5.0 scores and my experiences with kids – who, perhaps, this game is ultimately aimed at! -highlights the disconnect between reviewers and consumers. Reviewers – myself included – look at the franchise, look at past titles, look at the options, and assign a score. When it comes to Nintendo products especially, a good segment of the consumer base doesn’t care what options Mario Tennis: Open had, or how the character options don’t line up with offerings in other Mario Nintendo titles. They care about the product and whether it is fun. When played locally, Mario Tennis is fun.
Overall, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is disappointing, despite a bright light that is local multiplayer. Playing with friends can be really fun, and I actually highly recommend this as a great party title. However, if you are picking up Mario Tennis hoping for a great single player experience, it’s probably better that you move on. When playing alone, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash just does not offer enough.