With a suitable halfway option selected it becomes a lot more like Wii Sports and a lot less like a nerfed version of a game we mastered several years ago. Unplug that Nunchuk, keep your thumb away from the D-pad and you can enjoy a massively simplified but still quite entertaining game of tennis. If anything, the powerups and gimmicky courts seem to make a bit more sense when they’re not interfering with the balance of a purely skill-based game.
Special shots can be invoked when you’ve hit enough charged shots to fill a little meter at the top of the screen. There’s an offensive and defensive special shot for each character, activated by holding A or B while taking a shot. Though if you prefer, you can leave it entirely to the AI’s discretion. As long as you can keep hitting charged shots every time, you’ll rack up power shot after power shot – as will your opponent.
Defensive power shots are guaranteed to return the ball, no matter where it is. The action freezes, a cutscene plays and the character will stretch out a mechanical grabber, teleport across the screen or fill the court with water and take a leisurely swim over to the ball. Those shots just return the ball at normal speed, so the opponent is unlikely to get beaten by them. The offensive shots, however, are a different matter. Another cutscene plays, something extremely untennissy happens and the ball turns into a 500mph rocket that flattens anyone who gets in its way.
The best counter for that is obviously the defensive power shot, so if you’ve got a game between two competent and evenly matched players, a useful winning tactic is going to be to fire off an offensive shot at a moment when your rival’s power meter is dry. Not that there’s any point saving them up when they can be recharged so quickly. The animations are far too long and they can really get annoying during a doubles match, but on the whole – and especially given the way the Wii version plays – they’re probably a good thing to have in there.
Solo players can take on a series of tournaments that become cripplingly difficult towards the end, as the opponent AI doesn’t seem to have been toned down to compensate for the lack of ball control. Your reward for trouncing the toughest tournaments is a more powerful ‘star’ version of a character and it’ll take ages to unlock the whole set – you have to start each tourney ladder right at the bottom every time you select a new character.
The minigames are a mixed bag, with some rendered unnaturally hard by the waggly control system. They’ve all got multiple variations to work through but we didn’t get the urge to return and try for high scores in most of them. The variations on the standard tennis game are better, particularly if you’ve got a few friends to play with. There’s one where you accumulate points by hitting balls through rings, and the randomness of the aiming that proved so irritating when playing the computer actually makes for a good multiplayer laugh.
It’s in multiplayer modes that the game really comes to life. The evil AI opponents make the later tournaments less than fun to play, but if you’re facing somebody who’s got equally little chance of forcing you wide and pinging a cross-court winner, it can be reasonably competitive. If they’d stuck Miis in it as well, this would be a reasonable alternative to Wii Sports Tennis.
Mar 9, 2009