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Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (Wii U) Review

by Daan Koopman - November 18, 2015, 7:00 am PST
Total comments: 18

3.5

Disappointment is just a few smashes away.

When I first played Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, I wasn't kind to it and my opinion on that front hasn't changed. It is a game married to a variety of problems and the weakest Mario sports game in a very long time. How did this happen? It left a disappointing taste in my mouth at E3 2015, but I was still hopeful. Ever since touching the review copy, that feeling has left my body. There is nothing more than sadness to be found here.

To change things up a little, let me first talk about the things that the game does right in my eyes. In passing, it can still be a decent local multiplayer game. You won't play it for long, but a couple of rounds is enough to get something out of it. The tennis mechanics are alright, even if it isn't level with Mario Tennis Open's feature set. The game is lovely rendered on the Wii U and everything seems well enough put together on the court. That being said, there is just one court and the character selection isn't crazy exciting.

This is my main gripe with Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. Even within the things it does right, I still find problems or nitpicks that doesn't suit the way I would play this game. The title is one without energy or excitement, which is why I would play it to begin with. Even when you look back at the N64 game, there were more stages on display, even if it was in the different modes of the game. Heck, the GameCube and Nintendo 3DS versions of Mario Tennis had a good amount of stuff on offer, despite the problems both games had. They gave the game flair and substance, which is the things lacking from the Wii U game.

When I look at Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, I don't see a fresh new take on a series I really enjoyed in the past. I see a gap filler that has nothing on offer for me in the slightest. There are five options and not one of them carries the weight this package so badly needs. Mega Battles, the big selling point of this game, is nowhere the game changer that it pretends to be. Mega Mushrooms are thrown to the court, you grow to gigantic proportions and you are somewhat stronger. All that it does is force the other player to defend a whole lot more. It is alright the first couple of times, but after that, you just really scratch your head in amazement.

Naturally, there is the regular tennis, which should be more exciting than it actually is. The lack of different stadiums is a visually draining experience, despite this stadium having various courts on offer. These courts have some neat effects, Morph Court in particular is cool to toy around with, but the overall atmosphere doesn't get the boost it requires. It causes a strange disconnect where I wanted to like what I was doing, but simply couldn't. That is the biggest disappointment overall I feel.

What doesn't help matters is that the offline single-player experience is a bad one. Knockout Challenge is a mode that sees you battling random CPU opponents until you give up or it becomes too challenging to handle. Even when the latter happens, you can buy your way out of your defeat with coins and continue to play where you left off. After going through that mode twice, I have no intention of ever returning back to it. The matches are all Mega Battles and tiebreakers, with the first 15 matches all being on the most basic courts. The random CPUs are chosen in the worst way possible. At one point, I had three Toads in a row and the energy felt zapped out of my body.

The sole minigame doesn't get a whole lot of mileage either. In Mega Ball Rally, you just keep hitting a ball back and forth and reach the highest score possible while doing so. Once you get the reward from this mode, it is likely that you’ll never return to it. Speaking of rewards, there are 25 and most can be purchased with coins. Never mind that they have required ways of unlocking them, because you can buy your way out of any possible effort. I mean, it is nice that they are saving you from another chore, but that is a little on the nose I must say.

Lastly, there are the online elements of this game. Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash doesn't feature any way for you to play with friends, fans or faraway family alike. There are no online lobbies or communities, and the basic functions of the Nintendo Network aren't even used. What is left is playing singles and doubles against random opponents all across the globe, which is once again not the way I would play. They had the decency to let you play ranked or friendly in three modes (Standard, Simple and Mega), but options remain limited in some crazy ways. You don't have any control as it comes to the length, which is available to you in the local multiplayer. In doubles, you can play together with a local friend or an amiibo of your choosing, but that is the only freedom Ultra Smash is giving you. Not that I consider using an amiibo freedom, because it is just a slightly better CPU partner.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash isn't good in the slightest. While the game can be decent in passing, it’s a horrible value when you stop and think about it. There is just one stadium, limited online options and less features than the previous two entries. This is nowhere near the satisfying entry in the series I was hoping for. The elements that they have added result to nothing, which makes the meat on this game's bones extremely thin. Wherever you stand on Mario sports titles, Ultra Smash is not worth your time nor money.

Summary

Pros
  • Buy your way out of any work
  • Local multiplayer decent in passing
  • Looks fine
Cons
  • Amiibo support is nothing spectacular
  • Knockout Challenge is plain boring
  • Mega Ball Rally doesn't last
  • Mega Mushrooms add nothing
  • Not even on par with Mario Tennis Open's standards
  • One stadium makes it visually draining
  • Online doesn't feature any friend options

Talkback

fred13November 18, 2015

Thanks you just saved me $50

EnnerNovember 18, 2015

Daan dishing it out raw!

Disco StuNovember 18, 2015

Beyond all its other problems, it's unconscionable that this game has only one court.  Like, seriously?!

SorenNovember 18, 2015

There are e-Shop only titles that have more content than this dumpster fire. Save your money and go play Power Tour instead.

MythtendoNovember 18, 2015

Even the N64 original had multiple courts, how does this one only have 1?

Ian SaneNovember 18, 2015

There are games that try hard to be good but just fail.  Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. for example.  This just seems like no legitimate effort was made to make it worthwhile.  It's just product to get on the shelf for Christmas that hopes to grab suckers on the Mario Tennis name.  Frankly I find that dishonest and Nintendo should be ashamed.

In terms of review scores this has got to be one of Nintendo's worst years.  This, that Animal Crossing Amiibo nonsense, Mario Party 10, S.T.E.A.M., Fatal Frame, DEVIL'S THIRD - all raked over the coals by critics.  What the hell is going on at Nintendo?  At least games like Splatoon, Mario Maker and Xenoblade balance it out.

KhushrenadaNovember 18, 2015

Quote from: Ian

There are games that try hard to be good but just fail.  Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. for example.  This just seems like no legitimate effort was made to make it worthwhile.  It's just product to get on the shelf for Christmas that hopes to grab suckers on the Mario Tennis name.  Frankly I find that dishonest and Nintendo should be ashamed.

Ooof. If there was one person I thought who might still be positive about this game, it was Ian Sane but even he's got a negative reaction to it.

Quote:

In terms of review scores this has got to be one of Nintendo's worst years.  This, that Animal Crossing Amiibo nonsense, Mario Party 10, S.T.E.A.M., Fatal Frame, DEVIL'S THIRD - all raked over the coals by critics.  What the hell is going on at Nintendo?

They're still grieving the loss of Iwata. Their hearts aren't into right now.

Mop it upNovember 18, 2015

Players tend to like games a lot more than reviewers do, so I'd think the problem has more to do with the reviews. Plus, a score isn't really rating how fun is a game.

Ian SaneNovember 18, 2015

Quote from: Mop

Players tend to like games a lot more than reviewers do, so I'd think the problem has more to do with the reviews. Plus, a score isn't really rating how fun is a game.

It's all opinion of course but Nintendo games usually get high review scores.  It's not often they get averages dipping under 70%, let alone multiple in one year.

Luigi DudeNovember 18, 2015

Quote from: Ian

It's all opinion of course but Nintendo games usually get high review scores.  It's not often they get averages dipping under 70%, let alone multiple in one year.

Well Mario Party 10 got reviews similar to previous Mario Party's so it's not like the series has hit a new low.  Critics have never been big fans of the series.  Hell, the Mario Party released for the 3DS a few years ago got reviews that were much worse.  S.T.E.A.M and Fatal Frame are both at 68% with most reviews actually in the 70 or above range, it's just that a few terrible reviews brought their average below 70%.  Fatal Frame was also a Summer 2014 title in Japan, that just took over a year to release in the West so it's a little unfair to use that as an example of too many lower quality games being released in 2015.  Plus in S.T.E.A.M's case Nintendo did patch that games biggest issue so if reviewers were to re-review the game now, the quality would be higher.  So Nintendo clearly had some concerns over that games quality and at least tried to fix it.

Really, if it wasn't for Mario Tennis and Animal Crossing Amiibo Nintendo's lineup quality wouldn't be that different from previous years.  It's just with Zelda and Star Fox delayed they needed something for the holiday rush and those were the only major franchises they could managed to rush something out in time for.  Had Zelda still been coming out this year or Star Fox in better shape, they probably would have delayed Mario Tennis, but without Zelda they had to make a choice between other Mario Tennis or Star Fox being sacrificed for quick holiday profits.  Since Mario already had an amazing title released just a few months earlier with Mario Maker, a sub-par Tennis game isn't going to hurt that franchise in the long run while if the new Star Fox ended up being crap it probably would have killed the series.

Hence why Star Fox was delayed to make better which the newest Nintendo Direct shows it is, while Mario Tennis had to take one for the team this year.

EnnerNovember 18, 2015

Quote from: Ian

In terms of review scores this has got to be one of Nintendo's worst years.  This, that Animal Crossing Amiibo nonsense, Mario Party 10, S.T.E.A.M., Fatal Frame, DEVIL'S THIRD - all raked over the coals by critics.  What the hell is going on at Nintendo?

Bad games and bad years happen. Nintendo decided to roll the dice they made and it came out like this. Of all the Nintendo critical clunkers this year, I would only fault Codename STEAM, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, and Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival for having questionable design decisions and goals.

I'll grant you that is a few games too many for any publisher, and four games too many for Nintendo.

famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Associate Editor (Japan)November 19, 2015

Wow. Daan really can't escape the Kusoge can he!

tyto_albaNovember 19, 2015

This guy should not be reviewing games. Both this game and Devil's Third a 3.5? He's just trying to impress. Neither game is that horrible.

Quote from: tyto_alba

This guy should not be reviewing games. Both this game and Devil's Third a 3.5? He's just trying to impress. Neither game is that horrible.

I still behind anything I wrote about of these games. If I wanted to impress, there are more effective ways to do that. Maybe you should try reading the reviews before you judge someone like that.


Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash and Devil's Third are terrible games in my book. If you like them, that is totally okay. That doesn't make you a horrible person, or someone I can't relate to. I am however sick of this argument, because it wasn't an easy thing for to decide. In both instances, I discussed at length in their respective previews why I disliked them.

SorenNovember 19, 2015

Quote from: tyto_alba

This guy should not be reviewing games. Both this game and Devil's Third a 3.5? He's just trying to impress. Neither game is that horrible.




They probably are.

ejamerNovember 19, 2015

Quote from: tyto_alba

This guy should not be reviewing games. Both this game and Devil's Third a 3.5? He's just trying to impress. Neither game is that horrible.

Scores are arbitrary. I think it might score higher than a 3.5 on my personal scale... but the arguments Daan makes against the game are convincing and his rating certainly isn't "wrong" or just an attempt to impress anyone.


If you like the game and think it deserves better, tell people why you feel that way in a comment instead of attacking the person who was disappointed with most aspects of the game.  What does Ultra Smash do that makes you love it?

PhilPhillip Stortzum, November 23, 2015

Quote from: tyto_alba

This guy should not be reviewing games. Both this game and Devil's Third a 3.5? He's just trying to impress. Neither game is that horrible.

Pretty disrespectful and shitty post.

NeifirstNovember 24, 2015

I really appreciate the reviews of the game - they did what they're supposed to do, which is inform the audience as to what exactly they're purchasing.  Despite the scores, I bought it anyway, because I really just wanted a fun multiplayer tennis game in HD.  Even though there haven't been any promises of future DLC, the fact that this title doesn't release in Japan until the end of January gives me some hope that there will be additional modes, characters, etc.  But I'm generally satisfied with that I've got, especially the amiibo training since I have the entire Super Mario Bros series, but never got Mario Party 10.

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WiiU

Game Profile

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash Box Art

Genre Sports
Developer Camelot Software Planning
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Release Nov 20, 2015
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Release Jan 28, 2016
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Release Nov 20, 2015
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
Release Nov 21, 2015
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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