Opinion: Mario Tennis Aces should have been more like Golf Story
Nintendo picked the wrong club to join
Mario Tennis Aces is the latest big Switch release from Nintendo. After a relatively low-key 2018, and with Wimbledon right around the corner, it couldn't have come at a better time.
If you've read my review, however, you'll realise that I have mixed feelings on the game.
While it's an immensely enjoyable local multiplayer experience, Mario Tennis Aces simply doesn't offer the meaty single player adventure that I longed for - and which the series used to offer in its early handheld years.
There's one Switch game on the eShop that really shows the way that I feel Nintendo and Camelot should have gone, and you probably haven't played it. It's a little game called Golf Story.Batting ideas around
Golf and tennis have little to do with each other, of course. But the single player adventure of Golf Story strikes precisely the kind of breezily engrossing tone that Mario Tennis Aces should have been aiming for.
It gently places your aspiring ball-thwacker into a charming JRPG world where golf is the lingua franca. You'll wonder around a colourful map like any SNES-era adventure, but rather than delve into dungeons and fight with dragons and ogres, you'll enrol in tournaments and take part in golf-themed side-quests.
Where Mario Golf Aces gives you a wafer-thin Adventure mode filled with shallow bat-and-ball mini-games, all held together by flimsy story scenes, Golf Story throws you headlong into an actual sporting adventure.
Here, your character's development is intrinsically linked to your on-course achievements, while the golf itself takes the place of a battle system at the heart of the game. It's a proper role playing game, basically, and the golfing action holds much greater meaning as a result.Oh, the irony
The irony, of course, is that the maker of Mario Tennis Aces knows Golf Story's tricks all too well. You see, Golf Story openly takes its inspiration from the Mario Golf series, which was made by Camelot on behalf of Nintendo.
Yes, that's the same Camelot that made Mario Tennis Aces and indeed the entire Mario Tennis series. Those initial handheld Mario Tennis games shared similar JRPG-lite trappings with their Mario Golf equivalents - and were all the better for it.
It's slightly maddening to think what kind of game Mario Tennis Aces could have been if Camelot had returned to the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance versions for inspiration rather than the more gimmicky Nintendo 64 and GameCube equivalents.
We might even have had the Switch's next must-have title, rather than the fun but inessential trifle we ended up with.
As it is, I find myself hoping for one thing when it comes to playing virtual racquet sports on my Switch, and it isn't DLC for Mario Tennis Aces. It's for Sidebar Games to crack on and make Tennis Story.