The Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash review embargo has passed, but we're yet to post our own despite having had plenty of access to the game for quite some time. Simply put we've opted out of going for the initial 'Score Pending' approach this time around while we wait for launch weekend online play on live servers.
We've used 'score pending' in the past when a title's online features have been potential score changers and there's been inadequate access to them prior to the embargo. It's case by case, and in the past couple of years Nintendo's also done a better job of ensuring review code has online features enabled along with testing opportunities. We judge whether the live retail code could be much different before deciding whether to score these games or apply a 'score pending' while we wait for the game to launch.
The fact is that with Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash online will be vitally important to our overall assessment, even the general tone of the review, and despite some online 'sessions' being arranged there's not been an adequate opportunity to test it out. Arranged play periods have had very limited numbers playing and have stuck to unrated matches, so we have no sense yet of how that balancing shapes up with rating matches, for example. We've also had a mix of smooth and fairly laggy matches despite our own connection being extremely fast; considering the limited numbers on the servers this concerns us, so we need to wait until the game launches on 20th November to truly see how the online's shaping up.
What we can say is that the online infrastructure feels lacking, and like its 3DS predecessor this game doesn't even let you go for an immediate rematch, never mind a Friend's match. It seems barebones, but the fun of Mario Tennis - including this entry - is always in multiplayer, so the servers holding up and providing smooth matches is vital to what we have to say.
It'll be important for the review's tone, as said above, as the single player offering simply isn't good enough; it's painfully lacking in content, even compared to this game's predecessors. Our extensive preview makes this point pretty clearly.
As it stands this writer expects to have the scored review ready on 22nd / 23rd November after a weekend of online play with early adopters. We're hoping that online multiplayer will join local matches as a saviour of what is, aside from those modes, a surprisingly bare offering.