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Two Months Later, ‘Mario Tennis Aces’ is Already a Disappointment

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Picking on Mario Tennis Aces seems kind of unfair. It feels like saying Charles Barkley isn’t an all-time great NBA player because he failed to win a championship: short-sighted and failing to consider all of the factors involved in the end result. It feels wrong to be criticizing a game that is so mechanically sound for flaws that have nothing to do with gameplay, but everything to do with the game design surrounding that gameplay.

However, my disappointments with Mario Tennis Aces go far beyond a lack of critically-acclaimed game design; after all, the Mario sports games aren’t exactly considered Nintendo’s greatest achievements in landmark game design. No, Mario Tennis Aces’ flaws are more nuanced than that and they deserve a deeper dive into their shortcomings. 

No Reason to Play

Games like Blizzard’s Overwatch and Epic Games’ Fortnite: Battle Royale are able to succeed because they give the player an incentive to keep on playing. Overwatch has competitive play, loot boxes to unlock, and a diverse and interesting metagame that is constantly changing. Fortnite has a plethora of skins, excellent social integration, and overwhelming popularity to keep players engaged. Even Nintendo’s own Super Smash Bros. series has a collection of trophies, characters, stages, and other goodies to unlock in order to motivate players to play the game more. mario tennis aces

Mario Tennis Aces has none of this. Excluding the characters that are unlocked by playing in online tournaments, there isn’t anything of value that the player gains from actually playing the game. No alternative costumes (besides the test tournament exclusive for Mario), no leveling system for progression, and, most of all, no real incentive for players to keep playing the game.

With some games, this sense of progression can be ignored simply because the base game is so much fun and the player’s sense of progression comes from getting better at the game. However, Ace’s matches, while fun, aren’t long or varied enough to stay fun after dozens of hours. Indeed, even the best matches, played in the midst of an online tournament, are too short to feel fair, watering down the game’s overall strategy. 

A Poor Single-Player Experience

Adding a story mode to Aces was a smart move by Nintendo and something that seemed destined to succeed. However, at times, the story mode feels like nothing more than a glorified, hastily-assembled tutorial that is often more infuriating (looking at you, Mirror Room) than it is fun. Camelot had a chance to really improve the quality and depth of the Mario sports series by adding an expansive story mode to Aces, however, it’s hard to call the final result anything but “tacked on.” It’s tolerable, but nothing special.

The same goes for the game’s offline tournament mode. Tournaments have usually been pretty solid in previous Mario sports games, with a wide variety of difficulties and sizes to make it a fun and engaging experience for players of all skill levels. Unfortunately, the tournaments in Aces are far from this ideal. Lackluster snooze-fests that are a chore to get through simply because of their length, Aces’ offline tournaments don’t live up to the standard set by previous Mario sports games. The three built-in Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Star Cups are all easily beaten. Also, unlike in other Mario-based party games, the AI is incredibly lackluster, failing to put up any sort of a fight in tournament mode.  

mario tennis aces

When not in tournament mode the AI is a nightmare. Alternating between too-easy and too-hard opponents that would give Goldilocks a scare, Aces fails to provide an adequate challenge for players without subjecting them to frame-perfect bots that feel more like the products of a tool-assisted speedrun than a genuine opponent. While other Mario games have had their issues with difficulty (i.e. rubberbanding in Mario Kart 8: Deluxe), it’s never felt this bad before.

Additionally, matches end much too quickly and there’s no option to extend the match beyond a single short set. Such a lack of options feels like a ludicrous oversight on Nintendo’s part and a shame for consumers interested in playing tennis as intended. The fact that this option was available in previous Mario sports games, such as Mario Power Tennis, is especially egregious. After all, sequels should build upon the feature sets of previous games, not erode the foundation upon which they stand.

Conclusions  

There isn’t one glaring issue that makes Mario Tennis Aces a disappointment, but, rather, a combination of smaller, more nuanced problems. A poor story mode, lack of single player options, and a lack of serious progression makes Aces stand out as one of the few truly disappointing Switch titles.

Indeed, it’s become something of a worrisome trend for the big N to release a plethora of online-focused games (i.e. ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Mario Tennis Aces) and not offer a whole lot of enduring content afterward. There’s hope that Nintendo Switch Online, coming in the latter half of September, will fix this and provide the necessary incentive for Nintendo to finally invest in a puissant online presence.

In the end, Mario Tennis Aces is disappointing, not because it is a bad game mechanically, but because it thoroughly fails to keep the player invested. With so many great games on the Switch, having one title that, unfortunately, falls short is not that big of a deal. However, if Nintendo continues to release games like Aces, ones that, a mere two months after their release, feel dead and lifeless, then that could pose a significant threat to their established brand of hand-crafted, timeless experiences.

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ricky D Fernandes

    August 19, 2018 at 12:55 am

    I haven’t played this game since the week it was released. I do like it but I think the problem is, there are just too many other games to play and too many better games. This game needs some serious DLC soon for me to come back to it.

    • Izsak Barnette

      August 19, 2018 at 10:09 pm

      Totally agree. The DLC that they’ve released so far is too paltry to adequately support the game.

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‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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