Smash Court Tennis 3 PSP
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Namco Bandai
Release Date: Out Now
I daresay if you were interested in picking up a tennis game for your PSP you would have probably already picked up a copy of Virtua Tennis: World Tour and Virtua Tennis 3 by now. What if you don't like how the Virtua Tennis games play though? What if you're sick and tired of the lob shot not doing a thing in the Virtua Tennis games? What if you simply want a good alternative to the Virtua Tennis games? Well then Smash Court Tennis 3 could be the game you've been looking for.
Smash Court Tennis 3 comes with the usual collection of professional players and offers the traditional tennis game modes. There's an Exhibition mode for those quick one-off games. The Arcade mode challenges you to play through five major tournaments. You can play various mini-games and training games in the Challenge mode. Ad Hoc multiplayer is also supported. Of course the heart of the game is the Pro Tour mode and here you'll create a player of your choosing and begin by playing in rookie tournaments as you bid to rise to the top from the lowly rank of 250. Your schedule will involve training mini-games that if completed will earn you experience points. Winning games will also earn you experience points and these points will help to level-up your player and earn you skill points.
Skill points are very important in Smash Court Tennis 3 because they can be used to increase your player's abilities (called parameters here) and also to purchase skills. Each player has Power Play, Serve & Volley, Ground Stroke, Technical Play, Strong Forehand, Strong Backhand and Footwork Play parameters. These can be improved by assigning skill points to them. There are a variety of skills that you can purchase with your skill points. For instance there is a skill called Step Master that gives your player quicker movement and turning speed. High Ball Master gives your player better control and more powerful shots with high balls. You can also give your player a preference for different surface types by purchasing the appropriate skill. The thing to remember with skills however, is that in order to purchase a skill you need to have the appropriate parameter levels as well as the skill points. I think this is nice way of increasing your player's abilities and truly allows you to create a player to suit your own personal style.
There is little doubt that the game plays quite differently from the Virtua Tennis games but this isn't a bad thing and lob shots do actually do something here. The pace of the game feels less hectic and it definitely feels more realistic than the Virtua Tennis games which take some getting used to. The game's tutorial will ease you into the game and you'll be shown the game's concepts of easy, nice and hard shots amongst other things. Naturally with the game taking a more realistic approach there is a bit of a learning curve here but it's never frustrating. When playing the Pro Tour mode you'll notice that the AI opponents are quite easy to begin with. However, as you progress through the ranks the AI gradually becomes more difficult and offers a serious challenge although it never feels like you're being cheated or that the AI is doing things you wouldn't be able to do yourself, which is good to see.
In terms of presentation, Smash Court Tennis 3 doesn't disappoint. Everything from the menu system to the character models looks impressive. The various courts in the game all look very good. There are no frame rate or stuttering issues (like we experienced in Virtua Tennis: World Tour) and the whole thing remains wonderfully smooth throughout. The player animations are not always as refined as they should be but for the most part they look good. The load times can be a little on the long side but it's nothing out of the ordinary for a PSP title.
As you might expect from a sports title, there is some speech that isn't subtitled but this doesn't prevent deaf gamers from enjoying the game. The match commentary isn't subtitled but this really isn't much of an issue. The game's tutorials are all subtitled so you'll have no problem in getting to grips with the game. All the information you need to play the Pro Tour mode is also shown in text. You'll receive tournament invites and fan email etc., and all of this is text only information.
Smash Court Tennis 3 is a very enjoyable tennis game that offers a nice alternative to the Virtua Tennis games that are already available on the PSP. There's plenty of depth here and the Pro Tour mode is capable of lasting for months. If you find the Virtua Tennis PSP titles a little too arcade-like and fancy a tennis game that's more of a simulation then you'll enjoy what Smash Court Tennis 3 has to offer. The ability to truly customise a player how you want to, not only in terms of their appearance but in regards to their skills etc., is very welcome and not only makes the experience more enjoyable but also adds replay value to the game.
If you're looking for a more realistic tennis game on your PSP, that also offers a lot of replay value, then Smash Court Tennis 3 is certainly a game you should consider.