Nintendo and Camelot’s latest foray into the world of Tennis, Mario Tennis Aces, is pretty good, you’ll be pleased to hear. But if there’s one thing that does really bring the overall experience down a notch, it’s a difficulty spike here or there.
For most of the game’s Adventure Mode (read: Story Mode), it’s plain sailing. You’ll breeze through the optional mini-games, and the boss battles rarely put up much of a fight; ultimately being about pattern recognition. But there are two matches that will test your staying power to breaking point, and tempt you to break your Switch over your knee: the Blooper and Boom-Boom matches.
Understanding Blooper’s tactics
It’s during the Blooper match on the open seas you’ll first encounter Mario Tennis Aces’ rubber-banding issues. Like in Mario Kart, if you’re doing well, the game will decide you aren’t supposed to be, and pretty much cheat him back into contention. What this means in this game, then, is that you might be 30-0 up via some good tennis play, but then the large mast that sits in the middle of the net will come into play.
He’ll regularly hit the ball at the mast, meaning a shot going diagonally from left to right will bounce off the mast and cause it to to from left to right, then back left off the post, confusing you and feeling brutally unfair. On top of this, Blooper is fast, powerful, and fills up his power meter at an alarming rate.
The thing is, if Mario Tennis Aces’ story mode is to be considered a tutorial for the online play, it’s here you need to understand that while it may feel like cheating, the game is trying to teach you a vital lesson: you do not not have to win by beating your opponent at tennis.
Blooper will regularly hit Zone Shots at you on top of this, and is able to find the corners of the court with relative ease. But what our least favourite Squid-type Mario universe character will hardly ever do successfully is block a Zone Shot that you hit at him. The key to winning this match is to forget about the tennis, and think of it as a fight. Make sure you’ve done all available mini-games leading up to the Blooper match, so you’ll have the maximum (at the time) three rackets yourself.
First of all, pre-load every shot you can possibly manage. Every time he hits the ball at you, hold the return shot (topspin (A) or flat shots (Y) are preferable) and get as much power into it as you can. This is so you can load your power meter up quickly. If you can hold out until you’ve well over half a bar, it’ll make winning even easier.
The key is to break his racket. At most it’ll take three Zone Shots to break his racket, and he’s got four of them to destroy. You have to hold on in there, keeping him at the back of the court and building your meter up, but you can finish him off within two sets if you concentrate. Remember to aim your Zone Shots just to the side of Blooper, rather than at him: you want a broken racket, not a body shot!
An alternate method is to use slow-motion to return his serves, but this means you’re using a lot of your meter up and can’t break his racket. If you fancy taking him on this way know that you’re going to have to be content with his “cheating”, and that you’ll need an enormous amount of luck to do it this way. It’s advisable to try and get your service games won easily, and try and ace Blooper, but if you’re doing it via our racket break method, use sliced serves to put him on the back foot in the corners. While we’re here: don’t be tempted to use your trick shots to defend his Zone Shots too often, because unless your timing is incredible, you will waste meter you can’t afford to. Part of winning this battle is learning to let points go. Remember: you’re winning a fight, not a tennis match.
Understanding Boom-Boom’s tactics
As if it wasn’t bad enough contending with the mast on the ship against Blooper, Boom-Boom actually has mini mecha-koopas on court that explode, causing you to freeze up for a few valuable seconds. Boom-Boom is large and powerful, making it very difficult to put him on the back foot. With other opponents you might try to find the back of the court, but he’s so big it only takes a few footsteps for him to get there.
The mecha-koopas are a distraction technique and, if you are to beat him via our racket break method, you’re going to have to try your best to ignore them. They will automatically come to your feet in order to both distract, and destroy you, but you can hit them back at Boom-Boom to try and delay him instead.
The truth is, though, that if you re-apply what you’ve learned from beating Blooper, and go for the racket break, you’ll find yourself far less frustrated. Build your meter by keeping the rally going and pre-loading those shots, and hit the ball slightly to the side of your opponent.
Similarly to Blooper, Boom-Boom will very rarely block the shot, but he does take more damage, and you will have to be on your game to defeat him. Expect to be taken to a third set in this one as he’s got more rackets to break, and takes damage slower.
You will have to play some tennis as well in this one, and you will definitely lose a few times along the way, but remember that losing points isn’t the end of the world. In fact, one method to get your meter up even quicker is to throw points. If you manage to get 40-0 up, don’t go for the game win; go for rallies and build meter. Think of it tactically: it’s not a tennis match, it’s a duel.
Don’t get sucked into power levelling
While you may think you can go off and power level Mario up so his stats are way higher, that’s not the way to do it. Firstly, you’ll be losing out on a valuable lesson regarding alternative ways to win a match. Secondly, there isn’t enough content in the story mode that is fun to play repeatedly, and you’ll sour on a good game quick if you do this. Thirdly, even then, the rubber-banding effect means you won’t find the match a cakewalk.
If you get stressed trying these two fights, know that they’re the toughest in the game, and that you can do it. Break the racket, forget about the tennis. But don’t forget to hone your skills on the way by doing the mini-games and optional matches, because the final part of Adventure Mode is one that you can’t rely on our racket-breaking technique to win. Aces.