It’s been established that Mario Tennis Aces is definitely a fighting game, so like any good fighting game, players have come to despise its strongest character.
Unfortunately, that character isn’t someone cool like Street Fighter’s Cammy or Dragon Ball FighterZ’s Cell. No, the most powerful member of the Mario Tennis Aces roster is freaking Bowser Jr.
Mario Tennis Aces has only been out for a couple of weeks, but players’ hatred for Bowser’s spawn has reached a fever pitch.
The central subreddit has filled with anti-Bowser Jr threads since the game’s release. While some users simply ask for ways to counter the tiny athlete, others openly refuse to face Bowser Jr players they match up with in online competition.
The reason is simple: Bowser Jr is a defensive powerhouse.
“He essentially has every good trait in the game with nothing to offset it,” Mario Tennis Aces competitor Jonathan “Accel” Conaway told Kotaku.
“This allows him to legitimately have no situation where he cannot get the ball. He has a superb reach that lets him hit balls without breaking form that other character types would have to dive for, which lets him get his [regular shot] off instead of a weak shot.”
Mario Tennis Aces classifies each character under one of six archetypes: All-Around, Technical, Speedy, Powerful, Defensive and Tricky. As the only other Defensive character, Waluigi enjoys many of the same gameplay benefits, but Bowser Jr’s particular cocktail of skills and innate talent for building super meter make him a much bigger problem.
Accel noted that the character has “good angles” on his shots, allowing him to easily put a ball outside the opposing character’s range. Bowser Jr can also drift towards an incoming shot as he charges up without losing much speed, a trait shared by fellow hovering characters such as Boo and Rosalina.
And if you do manage to get a ball past Bowser Jr, all he needs to do is use Aces’ comeback Trick Shot mechanic to easily return the ball and get back in the game.
Naturally, the overpowered Bowser Jr has seen a lot of use in competition. A recent online tournament saw five of its eight finalists use the Koopa prince, and at the end of June, Bowser Jr players made up 45 per cent of Mario Tennis Aces’ worldwide rankings.
And while a Yoshi won the game’s first major offline event at Community Effort Orlando last weekend, the rest of the bracket was packed with Bowser Jr players.
One such competitor, third-place finalist Geoff “Geoff the Hero” Mendocino, admitted to putting very little thought into his play, jumping on the house mic after a win and shouting, “I literally got through doing nothing but Trick Shots with Baby Bowser. This game is trash and you’re all dumb for playing it.”
What can be done? Mario Tennis Aces competitor Wesley “Cat Fight” Garland doesn’t see much hope beyond outside intervention.
“I think Bowser Jr is very clearly a cut above the rest of the cast by a large margin. He’s dominating with relative ease,” he explained.
“There doesn’t seem to be any clear answers for how he should be countered. Personally, I’d like to see his charge movement speed reduced, as this would have an effect on multiple aspects of his current strength. No longer could he just stay at the back of the court and cover both sides for free, which would allow for the opponent to have a better chance.”
A future balance patch may come at some point from either Mario Tennis Aces developer Camelot Software Planning or publisher Nintendo, according to a small bit of text at the bottom of the last update noting that “there will be further adjustments to game balance in matches and character performance”.
Until then, players will need to find a definite way to counter Bowser Jr, pick up the character themselves to remain competitive, or perhaps even ban him altogether. A Mario Tennis Aces tournament organiser has planned a "suspect test" for July 7 to run Bowser Jr through his paces and decide how to proceed.
The situation does have one upside: Hatred for Bowser Jr has expedited competitors’ natural learning process.
“[Bowser Jr’s] existence is troubling, but since it’s such a nuisance, he’s accelerating the discovery period of the game where we’re all scrambling to find something we can do against him that is meaningful,” Accel said.
“I look forward to everyone trying hard to pick apart this character to find something to exploit or the advancement of other character strategies.”