Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For all its strengths and its decade of refinement and polish, Smash Court Tennis is a toddler on a tricycle that Atari have wheeled out into the path of Top Spin 3’s Mack truck. It wasn’t always this way, of course. Smash Court has been around since the PlayStation days, and it shows. It’s an incredibly balanced game – very sure of itself and what it wants to be – honed through iteration after iteration and polished to within an inch of its life for the latest, Xbox 360 revision. It’s a game which hit Japanese consoles last December; the perfect moment, distanced from both Virtua Tennis 3 and 2008’s Top Spin revival. Now, eight months on, it’s a far weaker game, simply by virtue of its competition.
Everything Smash Court Tennis does well, Top Spin 3 does better. The sim-style play of Smash Court is deeper, smarter and more subtle in TS3; the control system in Smash Court feels more natural in Top Spin, and you swing with a hugely satisfying snap. Then there are the visuals, modes and online options. None of this is to say Smash Court 3 is bad but rather it’s all to do with the release date. Five or six months ago it would have been a winner; now it’s almost indistinguishable from its competition on paper, but trounced in every regard on the court.
Aug 18, 2008