Nintendo released the Mario Tennis Aces 3.0 update over the weekend and it’s a pretty sizable addition to the sports title. It finally completes Aces’ roster of Mario mainstays by adding Dry Bones (although he won’t be available until May), a new offline game mode, and a proper introduction cutscene for the story mode. These are all great additions that make the game finally feel complete. It’s just a year too late.
There is a fine line that developers have to walk with any games as a service release, and it seems clear that Nintendo is still learning with the rest of the industry. This specific situation is less that a great game got additional content for a year, and more that the development on Mario Tennis Aces finally wrapped up. It’s easy to say with hindsight, but the current package really is what should have been in the game from the very start.
Despite a solid core, many complained that the tennis title lacked content and had an underwhelming roster when it released last year. All of these issues have been rectified but games only get one chance at a first impression. Those that bounced off the game quickly after launch or decided to not purchase it due to a lukewarm reception aren’t going to suddenly pick it up thanks to a year’s worth of small upgrades that combined into something sizable.
This isn’t the first time that Nintendo has struggled with supporting multiplayer games. The original Splatoon suffered a similar issue where there just wasn’t enough content upon launch. Thankfully, the gameplay and idea of the paint-based shooter was unique enough to retain players as they waited for new content, but it wasn’t until Splatoon 2 that it felt like a finished product.
The sequel has been an example of games as a service done right, as updates have continually added weapons and maps while not feeling like the game was rushed out too early. The same can’t be said for one of the Switch’s earliest titles, ARMS, as it was basically the prototype for Mario Tennis Aces‘ model of adding new characters at regular intervals
Mario Tennis Aces Update 3.0 | What’s new
For as frustrating as it is for a game to feel incomplete upon release, it’s worth commending Nintendo at least a little bit for actually fixing many of the game’s flaws. It originally released with 16 characters, and while that is a sizable amount, it wasn’t a pretty generic selection of Mario characters besides the spirited inclusions of Chain Chomp and Spike.
Since release, Nintendo has added an additional 14 characters into the game to round out its roster to 30 playable stars once Dry Bones is added in May. This has included fan favorites like Diddy Kong and Birdo, but also more unique picks like Pauline from Super Mario Odyssey, Boom Boom, and Luna. This makes the roster much more enjoyable, as you can only play as the same couple of plumbers and princesses for so long.
Another common complaint was a lack of content, which has been addressed by adding new modes. There wasn’t much to do beyond playing match after match after completing the fun, yet non-spectacular, story mode. While there isn’t any addition quite as fun or unique as Mario Tennis Open‘s Super Mario Tennis mode that allowed players to hit blocks, enemies, and coins in 2D platforming levels reminiscent of the NES original, the addition of being able to play Ring Shot whenever you want is a nice touch. Plus, there’s a special Yoshi variant that will allow players to unlock different colors for Mario’s dinosaur pal. These were previously used as seasonal events, so to see them added full-time is a definite bonus.
Finally, the Mario Tennis Aces 3.0 update also added a new opening cutscene to the story mode. This seems quite a bit late (who really wants to watch an opening of a story they completed nearly a year ago?), but it’s still a fun cutscene that shows Wario and Waluigi getting into some dangerous antics. This sets up the story nicely, but it should have been included in the original release. Mario sports titles have a long history of fun opening cutscenes, so it always feels out of place when it’s not there.
Mario Tennis Aces Update 3.0 | Nintendo going forward
For as much fun that players have had with Mario Tennis Aces over the past year, it’s clear that there is a lot more to enjoy now than when it launched. This shows that Nintendo needs to take a long look at its development pipeline and figure out a better balance. Supporting an active multiplayer game with new characters is great, but it shouldn’t feel incomplete when launching as a result of this decision.
The biggest issue that Mario Tennis Aces faced was a lack of modes. Even now with the updates, it feels like there is less to do in Aces than in Mario Tennis Open or the earlier handheld titles that featured full-blown role-playing game story modes. If the title had kept the customizable gear system from the 3DS entry, it would have given players plenty of reason to keep playing in order to unlock new items. Alternatively, a more fleshed out story mode would have kept players entertained. There are a lot of ways to address this issue the next time out, and hopefully Nintendo will answer the call. Other traditional AAA publishers don’t always get the benefit of the doubt like Nintendo, despite having released some similarly barren titles.
The Mario Tennis Aces 3.0 update is a great milestone for the game and is a fantastic entry point for anyone that passed over the Switch exclusive upon release. The excellent tennis game finally has a roster worthy of the Mario name and there’s plenty to do outside of online matches. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t become the norm for Nintendo to finally wrap up games nearly a year after release. For a company that so often does its own thing, it’s disappointing to see it following negative industry trends.