Mario Tennis Aces has a lot of flaws, but one of its best strengths has surprisingly gone unnoticed. For the first time in years, Mario’s supporting cast is dripping with personality. Everyone’s animations and voice lines not only creative, but specific to their character. However, it kinda reminded me of one of the Mario series biggest flaws. What do any of these guys think of each other?
How does Daisy feel about Mario? I don’t know about you, but I really had to think about this question. They’ve coexisted for over two decades in one of gaming’s largest and best franchises and yet. But despite being practically brother and sister in laws, as a massive fan of Mario I don’t know if they have ever even had a single interaction.
Meanwhile, I could very easily tell you about Sonic’s feelings towards almost all of his friends. Amy? He’s annoyed by her sometimes , but as much as he hates to admit it he might actually return her feelings. Shadow? He doesn’t always see eye to eye with him, but depending on the incarnation they usually have a mutual respect.
This isn’t to say the Sonic franchise is amazingly written or that all of its characters are great. It took Amy until the Sonic Boom reboot to gain more character than just being Sonic’s fangirl and for their possible romantic relationship to resemble anything more than toxic. Sonic Forces’ storyline is so awful I don’t even know how it got out of the door. However, that isn’t to say there hasn’t been great stories told in the Sonic universe.
I’ve long held the belief that the best things in the Sonic universe aren’t in the games, but the cartoons and comics. While they have their fair share of downright terrible storylines and incarnations, there’s also been some amazing work done there as well. In the largely comedic Sonic Boom cartoon there’s a kinda psychologically scary episode dedicated to the codependency Sonic and Eggman have for each other. The most recent issues of the new IDW Sonic comic have an amazing moral dilemma that works incredibly well because it builds off more than a decade of character’s relationships with each other. There’s even a fight between Sonic and Tails in the Archie comics that manages to not feel forced at all and works a perfect payoff to about a hundred issues spread out between different creators of differing degrees of sanity.
None of this is to say Mario’s characters are bad. Their strengths, like the Mario series itself, lies in their simplicity. They’re all fun and silly characters that I love. But why does Mario even save Princess Peach? Because he likes her? Because she might bake him a cake? What even are they together? Are they a couple, are they married? They could be just friends for all we know. And while there probably is a scrap of info hidden on some promotional website this all seems to change on a whim and even then Nintendo never seems to give straight answers to anything regarding to the Mario world. (For example: canonically Shigeru Miyamoto is Bowser Jr.’s mother.)
I won’t deny a lack of canon isn’t occasionally a strength of the Mario franchise. But doesn’t it feel weird we don’t really even know the primary protagonists’ motivations?
· I feel like this is controversial so I’m curious to see people’s thoughts. I tried to frame this as best as I could as my feelings and not objective fact. I won’t deny that the simplicity of Mario’s characters make them more easily lovable than Sonic’s crowded friend group, but I don’t know. I love Sonic and Tails’ brotherly friendship and Sonic and Knuckles’ friendly rivalry. Does Mario even like Luigi and Yoshi? He might not for all we know!
· I feel like Nintendo did a much better job at characterization back in the early 2000s when all of these characters were still fresh. It wasn’t much, but you’d get little nuggets like Waluigi having an unrequited love for Daisy, whom vehemently hated him. Or something like Mario jealously rubbing Luigi’s foot into the ground if he beat him in tennis.
·The IDW comic certainly got better didn’t it? The first four issues were fun, but kinda generic so I ultimately just lost interest. But now that they’ve gotten into their groove and a monthly format they’ve really hit their stride. I was pretty against just copying the game’s canon, but after the last issue I definitely see the benefit of using the long history of the series in its favor.
· I won’t deny that this is a very subjective topic, so if you like the Mario characters more you aren’t wrong!