Sometimes, a good cheap peripheral is all you need for hours of fun.
Most of the chatter around Mario Tennis Aces has been on the game’s competitive online modes. That’s all good fun, even though Bowser Jr’s reach is still hilariously broken and Chain Chomp is a very good boy who remains hugely underrated.
But amongst all of that, we’ve kind of neglected talk about the game’s Swing Mode. Swing Mode is basically a Wii Tennis-esque take on the game, removing all the energy metres, bullshit trick shots, and replacing it with a more wholesome form of tennis.
That just happens to have Waluigi, Koopa Trooper, and King Boo’s hilariously bendy slices.
So that’s all well and good.
But holding one of those tiny JoyCons as a racket can be a precarious experience. Mario Tennis advises users attach a strap before playing, because it’s incredibly easy for the JoyCon to fly out of your hand.
So instead of doing that, there’s another solution.
Just before Mario Tennis Aces launched, we got a couple of plastic rackets in the office. They’re produced by innoAura, and they’re essentially just snug holders for the JoyCons, allowing you to swing them around with abandon.
I set up the Switch last Friday, and after finding two people with a modicum of spare time that I could use as test dummies, I handed Haoran and Byron a pair of rackets and asked them to work the rest out.
Neither had any prior experience playing Mario Tennis Aces, in or out of swing mode. And that’s pretty much what you want: something anyone can pick up and play, although Mario Tennis isn’t as instinctive as Wii Tennis was.
The way characters charge can throw people off a bit. It’s also bit uncomfortable to cancel the charge while your JoyCon is wedged inside a plastic racket: in regular gameplay, you’d just hit L on the left JoyCon or Pro Controller, but with a single JoyCon you have to tuck your hand in to press the down button. The game also doesn’t tell you that your character will automatically move towards the ball, provided you don’t hit the joystick — although you’ll want to manually move to the centre of the court after each shot.
Anyway, let’s talk plastic rackets.
Byron mid-serve, while Haoran waits to receive. Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)
These rackets are the kind of thing that are great for busting out on a Friday night with friends, and they don’t cost a lot. InnoAura’s one are priced at $US19.99 on Amazon, and JB Hi-Fi are running a deal where you can get a set of similar — although I couldn’t confirm whether it was the same brand — rackets for $15 with Mario Tennis Aces.
That’s not too bad, even if you only get one or two nights of silly joy. I’d also consider it a cost-saving measure: if you can’t find the additional straps for your JoyCons, which is always a possibility, an extra $15 or $20 is a lot less than the cost of searching for your JoyCon after it accidentally goes flying out the window of a second-storey apartment. Or dislodging it from whatever part of the room it will inevitably end up in. You’re also probably likely to scone the person next to you with a plastic racket, but I’d rather bet on the durability of your friend’s anatomy than a JoyCon.
As for Swing Mode itself, it’s not quite the Wii Tennis everyone wanted. You don’t get the same kind of nonsense rallies you used to in Wii Tennis, and there’s not as much leniency with the timing as Wii Tennis. It’s more skilled, and while that sounds nice that’s not really the kind of experience you want from a causal mode like this.
That said, adding cheap rackets to the mix does improve the experience. And it helps people who haven’t used a Switch or JoyCon at all — and if you’re running a games night, that’s probably worth the $15 or $20 right there.