Buried in the far corner of the Nintendo booth this year was a gem I hadn’t heard about – Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. Mario Tennis has always been a fun, casual entry in the Nintendo lineup, and I was intrigued if they’d made any significant changes to the Wii U version of the franchise. Nintendo did not disappoint!
I played against another convention-goer as Bowser, facing off against his Mario. Ultra Smash has thrown in the addition of power-ups to Mario Tennis, and while there was only one on display in this version of the game – the mega mushroom – it was still a nice quirk of the gameplay. Occasionally a mega mushroom would be thrown into the court from the side, and it would turn the character that grabbed it into a massive form of themselves. Grabbing it as Bowser, I nearly took up half my court. This not only makes it exceedingly easy to hit almost every shot thrown at you, but it gives you a decent advantage in the return swings, as you can hit them very far away from your opponent.
Another large change to the gameplay was the addition of animated, colored circles on the court where the ball was headed. Standing in these circles and pressing the correct button executed different forms of racquet swings. For example, power swings, curve-balls, and slow balls were the only ones I saw, but I’d like to think there’s more coming.
I was roundly defeated in the match, sadly playing against a fellow who was on his eighth turn at the demo. Nintendo was giving out special edition Mario pins to the winners of each match, and he had a neat little pouch of them behind his E3 ID. The very short demo was nowhere near enough gameplay to make a definitive statement or prediction, but it sure felt like Mario Tennis – and that was enough for me.