Nintendo surprised everyone when the company announced Mario Tennis Ultra Smash at E3 2015. This is the seventh game in the series following the original Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64, Mario Power Tennis on the GameCube and several handheld titles, including the most recent release, Mario Tennis Open for the Nintendo 3DS. The upcoming Nintendo Wii U title looks very similar to the previous games in the series, but after getting in some play time with the game, it's very clear that there have been quite a few changes to mix things up.

The biggest addition to the series is the ability to grow into a giant version of your character thanks to the new Mega Mushroom item. This gives the player a significant advantage because it's much easier to cover the entire court. In fact, it's almost impossible to miss a shot during the temporary size boost. With that said, you still have to pay close attention to the ball, even in this powered up state. Due to the size of your character, it's very easy for the ball to get lost. If you're not keeping a close eye on the ball it can easily slip past you despite the enormous size of your character. Once we grew in size it was more beneficial to head to the back court so we had more time to find and return the ball.

Another change that is likely to please gamers who plan to play co-op at home is the ability to use the screen on the Wii U GamePad. When playing two-player co-op, player one uses the GamePad screen, while player two uses the TV. This allows both players to have their own unique perspective on the court. It's an issue that has plagued tennis games since the dawn of time where one player almost always had a slight advantage thanks to the shared perspective. Online play helped this, but now the Wii U GamePad allows two players sitting on the couch to have their own perspective of the tennis court.

If you played Mario Tennis Open, you should already been familiar with the combo shots in Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. In addition to your standard Top Spin and Slice shots, you can perform a Drop Shot by pressing the B button, quickly followed by the A button. Reverse that command (A, then B0 to perform a Lob. If you pres either button twice in rapid succession you get a Jumpshot, which is a new technique in Ultra Smash. This works very well against Lobs, but if you're playing at the net it can be very effective thanks to your character jumping high into the air to hit the shot.

Chance Shots also make a return from Mario Tennis Open. If a ball is returned poorly such as the opponent hitting the ball with the wrong spin or performing a Lob in an inopportune situation, a Chance Shot will appear on your side of the court. Chance Shots are small colored areas that give you a power-up. You can get a Smash Shot that's difficult to return, ignite the ball into flames and various other power-ups. While the appearance of a Chance Shot is not random, the Chance Shot you get is still a random occurrence. It's very important to know how to count each kind of shot from your opponent to limit their ability to get a Chance Shot. Games can be won or lost simply because one player returned the ball poorly and gave the opposing player a Chance Shot.

As with previous entries in the series, you'll be able to play one-on-one or in doubles sets. While we have only seen one court, you can rest assured there will be plenty to choose from once the game releases this holiday season. Nintendo also promised new characters from the Mario universe that will appear in Ultra Smash. Stay tuned to Prima Games as we continue to provide coverage of Mario Tennis Ultra Smash!