Mario Tennis Aces devs on the game’s mechanics, story mode, how new characters were decided, name, more
A recent issue of Japanese magazine Nintendo Dream had a massive interview with some of the developers behind Mario Tennis Aces. Nintendo producer Toshiharu Izuno as well as Camelot president Hiroyuki Takahashi and Camelot vice president Shugo Takahashi participated in the discussion.
The interview had lots of talk about the game’s mechanics, including the energy system, Zone Shot, and breaking rackets. We also get some interesting insight into the story mode, how certain characters like Chain Chomp were decided, an explanation of the game’s name, and plenty more.
Our full translation is as follows:
Mario’s an Adept Now!? Camelot Tells All Regarding the Story – A Story Not Unlike an RPG’s!?
Even though this title is mainly supposed to be a cumulation of the great aspects of the Mario Tennis series, it also comes off as a testament to Camelot’s work as a whole. The Temple of Bask’s Japanese name translates into Sol Sanctum, the “Energy” mechanic too… Everything is very reminiscent of Golden Sun.
Shugo: I bet you were thinking a Djinn could pop out at any moment!
I probably thought something like “Mario’s an Adept now!”
Hiroyuki: Aaah, is that so, huh? There’s also the Energy mechanic in-game: it’s very similar to the “Psynergy” mechanic in Golden Sun name-wise, so I can understand why some people might make a connection between the two.*1 (laughs)
Maxing out your Energy and performing a Special Shot is a lot like unleashing a skill in Golden Sun, if we’re keeping with the references! (laughs) Something was even sealed away in the Sol Sanctum, just like the Temple of Bask!
Shugo (to Hiroyuki): I thought about Golden Sun’s “Psynergy” too! The Energy mechanic in Aces almost seems like psychic energy, or ESP.
Hiroyuki: I usually just use「エネルギー」 (enerugii) when I’m writing, and I say 「エナジー」(enajii).*1
Right, even as a game for a home console, it’s that kind uniqueness that makes the single player Story Mode interesting.
Izuno: Yep – up until now that was really the main distinction within the Mario Tennis series: Story Mode was reserved for the handheld titles. To that end, since the Switch has a handheld mode, we felt it appropriate that the game had a Story Mode.
Hiroyuki: At first, I spent some time wondering what I was even going to write. In the end – as you can see from the opening movie – I settled on something that wouldn’t normally happen in a sports game, or even in a Mario game! (laughs)
So, how did you go about writing this game’s story, then?
Hiroyuki: The image I had floating around in my head was crucial to the story’s creation – it was like I was unraveling a mystery that I myself had created! Where did the racket “Lucien” come from, why did it take Luigi, etc. Those were the kinds of questions I had to answer.
About that: why is Luigi featured so prominently in the story? Is there a specific reason for that?
Hiroyuki: That…at her Seems like it’d be a challenge to write, doesn’t it?
Hiroyuki: I wanted the story to have an element of surprise to it! I’d eventually conclude that having Luigi – who’s usually stuck in his brother’s shadow – fill a larger role would be surprising enough! Writing Mario was a bit complicated too. It’s easy enough to understand Mario’s relationship with Princess Peach; it was his relationships with the other characters that were a bit more difficult to expand upon. Of course, among them you have Luigi, Mario’s precious younger brother – but what about everybody else? How would Mario interact with the world? He really is a thought-provoking character.
That’s interesting, it’s quite the deep subject.
Hiroyuki: I felt like as he set out on this next adventure, Mario would be burdened with a sense of sadness for his brother that’d come from a pretty deep place. Even when I saw the opening movie for the first time, I felt that it’d come as a big shock to a lot of people.
Shugo: It looked like Luigi and the others had been wrapped up like the grip on a tennis racket!
Hiroyuki: Not only were they wrapped up and taken away, but it looked like they had become evil versions of themselves! I thought that something like that would definitely catch peoples’ attention.
So, there was a purpose behind it being the way that it was, aside from simply being an opening cinematic… I see.
Hiroyuki: In all of my previous Mario-adjacent works, I haven’t written a story in which Princess Peach gets kidnapped. As for why this game’s story is so unique… The whole “Mario goes on a journey to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser” rigamarole is fine in and of itself, but how could that be resolved through sports?
Hiroyuki: I wondered if something as leisurely as sports would be a good backdrop for all of that! (laughs) I figured that if it could be played alongside any other Mario game it’d be fine. After I considered all of that, though, I had to actually write out the story. A difficult thing, too – there’s a delicate balance between gameplay and story that you have to strike. In that sense, it’s almost more difficult than writing a novel! Fortunately, I’ve written scenarios for quite a few RPG’s, so I think it turned out fine. (laughs) I honestly think this game’s story is not unlike an RPG.
Shugo: Even as a Mario Tennis game, the story definitely feels like something Camelot made!
Izuno: The game’s ending, too – ah! I can’t say too much. (laughs) I’ll just say it was as I expected.
We Wanted a World Tournament – “Resetting” the Series’ Course
In-game, a lot of the “Energy”-based mechanics are quite risky to execute; was development risky in the same way?
Hiroyuki: With this game, we set out to “reset” the series’ flow – we wanted to change what had become typical of a Mario Tennis game. Recently, “eSports” and similarly competitive games have gained a lot of traction among both those who play them and even those who just spectate. So, we resolved to make a title that we felt could – as a sports game – stand alongside those games; we simply had to.
eSports, is that so?
Hiroyuki: We felt a strong need to change the nature of the game itself, and tried to change things where we felt they could be improved by adding features, etc. At the same time, though, the fact that changing things so suddenly could cause some longtime fans of the series dissatisfaction was a source of anxiety for us. When we were first shown the Nintendo Switch and learned about the driving concept behind it, however, we felt that it was an opportune time to try and appeal to new consumers as well.
Izuno: Up until the Nintendo Switch Presentation in 2017, the way in which a year’s lineup was revealed had a completely different atmosphere to it; the reaction to that change was incredible.
Hiroyuki: Yeah, that really lit a fire under you, didn’t it? (laughs) You really leapt into it for this game, I remember you said something like wanting to see how far you could go without braking, even!
Shugo: I had heard something similar from Izuno-san as early as December of 2016. Of course, we had a rhythm going with everything we had made up until that point, but suddenly in the January of last year everything had changed – including the team’s organization itself!
And that was when you had decided to “reset” everything you had previously made?
Shugo: Be that as it may, it isn’t like everything that we had made before this big shift ceased to be. We focus on Research & Development, so every new product is the sum of previously acquired knowledge.
So, before this big “reset,” was Aces meant to follow suit to the previous Mario Tennis games?
Hiroyuki: Let’s go into that a bit; each new game we made presented an opportunity to do something new. On the home console games, for instance: players could enjoy a straightforward tennis experience in Mario Tennis for the N64, whereas Mario Power Tennis for the Nintendo GameCube introduced the new “Power Shot” mechanic. The mechanics of the N64 gained more popularity in Europe and Asia, whereas the Power Shot mechanic was more popular over in America, for example. So, after those two games the series was more likely to go in the direction of the N64 game.
Izuno: We pursued a flow of gameplay similar to the N64 game with Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash for the Wii U. Those that expected gameplay similar to the GameCube game – particularly those in America – had a lot to say about that title.
Hiroyuki: So, for this title, we consulted with Nintendo numerous times to see what exactly they were looking for and, based on that, made a new game to the best of our ability! We really pushed ourselves past our own limits this time, no holds barred – and that game design philosophy resulted in Aces; that’s why the game is so unconventional for a Mario Tennis game!
Izuno: Of course, the playstyle – such as the Swing mode – and some of the rules are unique to the Switch, and you can play with 2~4 players as well… We spent a good bit of time polishing all of that up.
The mechanics definitely leave the impression that they’re quite different from past entries, but that’s the Switch for you, switching things up!