Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament
Tennis games are rather popular at the moment. Last week we looked at Next Generation Tennis which ultimately, was disappointing and in the weeks to come there are at least three other tennis games that will hit the shops. Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament is Namco's offering to the sport genre and is perceived by many to be one of the better tennis titles.
There are eight top professionals available to play as or against. These include Agassi, Sampras, Hingis and Seles. Namco have done an incredible job of replicating the features of the players and their playing styles. The actual character models of some of the players is a little suspect though. Sampras looks like he's been at the pies in his spare time and amassed a few extra kilograms, the same could be said for Seles who also looks a little portly. Still this is a minor quibble and overall the replication of the players is excellent.
There are five modes of play in Smash Court Tennis. In Arcade mode you have to win four matches, each match consists of only one set and you can configure the number of games per set, in succession, one on each of the four different surfaces. Each of the games get progressively harder. Arcade mode can either be played in singles or doubles mode. Exhibition mode allows you to play a one off match against either an AI opponent or a friend and again it can be played as a singles or doubles game. Pro Tournament allows you to play in a tournament of your choice in either singles or doubles mode. Unlike the other modes your success in this mode can lead to you unlocking additional courts, camera angles and player photos. Time Attack is simply attempting to win the tournaments in the quickest possible times. Challenge mode sees you controlling one of four fictitious players and completing numerous challenges. Namco have really used the challenge mode as a practice mode. There are challenges that cover every aspect of the game and even spending a short while attempting the challenges will help you improve your game. One disappointment though is the lack of a career mode or the ability to create a player and develop their skills throughout a career. This would have added an immeasurable amount of longevity to the game.
A special note of praise must go to Namco for their subtle use of force feedback. Each shot feels realistic and perfectly weighted. Lobs feel softer than a smash and as a result it feels very satisfying. When you get to match point the game pad gives a pulsating vibration, this is a nice addition and helps to add tension to the all important shot. Force feedback is often neglected or misused in games and it is good to see a developer of Namco's stature using it to such good effect.
The Umpires calls are not subtitled in Smash Court Tennis but the game compensates for this in numerous ways. The score is always updated visually as well as verbally. Faults are also always given in text as well as verbally. The game flashes messages across the screen to tell you that you are doing well. Whilst playing the game, good shots will earn you a 'nice' comment and this is also only given in text. Smash Court Tennis definitely gives you far more visual information than Next Generation Tennis did.
Visually the game is also very good. The courts look realistic. The players animations, shadows and appearance is all top stuff, with the exception of the aforementioned bloated appearance of a few players. The game keeps a very quick pace with no hint at slowdown whatsoever, even when there is a hectic doubles game in full progress. Namco have, visually, produced a very polished tennis game.
Smash Court Tennis is a rather curious mix. If you were pushed to say whether the title was as arcade or simulation take on tennis you would say arcade. It is virtually impossible to knock the ball out, I've never done it but some people reckon they have, and this means that it is not an accurate rendition of the sport. However ball physics and the difficulty of the opposition are immaculate and the range of shots you can perform are outstanding. If you are looking for a challenging tennis game then Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament will not disappoint.
Overall Game Rating: 8.3/10 Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament could be the arcade tennis game you're looking for. The eight included professionals have been superbly replicated and the game plays like a dream. The lack of career mode and a create your own player option are the only things that bring the mark down.
Deaf Gamers comment: The Umpires comments are not subtitled but there is plenty of textual information to compensate for this.