It takes 120 seconds for Luigi — the Mario universe’s most put-upon, unheroic sad sack — to screw everything up in Mario Tennis Aces.
The latest Mario sports game is one of the best in years, in spite of a lackluster story mode. Despite all the excitement around it pre-release, Mario Tennis Aces’ story is told through missions on a map with the lightest RPG leveling features. It’s disappointing, but somehow less so when taking into account just how weird and effed-up that story is anyway.
Here’s how the story opens: Mario is playing tennis at the lovely Marina Stadium, kicking butt and taking names with his racquet. This is par for the course for the ever-talented Mario. Soon after his win, Wario and Waluigi — who are very obviously under some evil spell — stop by, looking to mess up everything. They offer Mario a “legendary tennis racquet from the Temple of Bask,” which obviously means it’s cursed or maybe a bomb or something. Mario declines the offer, because of course.
Luigi, however, is far more gullible than his brother. With the grabby hands of a baby looking for milk, the Mario brother swipes that racquet from enemy hands, causing a dark spell to fall upon the entire Mushroom Kingdom. He even gets possessed by this haunted racquet, which is wild.
Good going, Luigi. Ten seconds of selfish impulsiveness undoes years of peaceful tennis playing, which is a total pain for Mario and the rest of the actually competent citizens of the land. Mario goes from being a proud tennis champ to being the obligated rescuer of his baby brother. Worse still, that racquet leads Mario down a bizarre rabbit hole of ancient ruins and mystical powers, which is indescribably odd to see in a Mario sports game.