Hot Shots Tennis - PS2 - Preview
In a world where Tiger Woods is practically a synonym for golf, it’s amazing when a golf game can penetrate the market deep enough to be remembered. A certain plumber did it in the 90s and again this decade, but his name is a synonym for fun so that’s not saying much. However, there is one hotshot who broke into the sport with great success, and it did it without a Nike contract: Hot Shots Golf.
Designed as the zany side of golf (and perfected as one of skill and precision), Hot Shots Golf is a softer – but not less challenging – game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fantasy courses, anime-style characters, and a great swing system have helped Hot Shots keep Tiger Woods on his toes.
This July the beloved golf franchise will visit a place it has never been before: a tennis court. Labeled Hot Shots Tennis, this new direction for the Hot Shots series puts you in control of the same kind of happy-faced, anime-inspired characters, on several courses that are on par with what the competition is producing. (The game is tenaciously good, so don’t be surprised if you hear a silly pun or two.)
One of its principal sources for success is the touted precision-based control scheme. The general swings are born out of the ordinary – hit the ball back and forth and pretend the experience doesn’t remind you of Pong. Swings are performed by pressing the face buttons, primarily X for a hard swing, and triangle for a lighter, airier hit.
The direction of the ball’s initial hit or retaliation is tied directly to the position of the left analog stick. There are nine points of attack – each pertains to a different area (a square, if you will) on the opponent’s side of the net. Leave the stick alone to hit the ball toward the center of your opponent’s playing field. Push the sticks left or right to swing the ball toward the middle of either side. Push up and toward the left, middle, or right for those respective directions; push down and toward the left, middle, or right for a closer shot.
Hot Shots Tennis’s simplistic, accurate, and easygoing shot style allows anyone to hit the ball precisely where they want it. Within minutes you’ll be forming strategies, and within hours defeating AI opponents will be like taking catnip from a kitten (not as easy as taking candy from a baby, but still not that difficult).
Gamers looking to test that theory will want to check out the single-player campaign, a mode where you take on several of this fictitious world’s leading tennis players. The mode is separated into tiers, the first offering only a handful of opponents to compete against. Every win goes toward the next tier – you’ll need to defeat a certain number of opponents in each section to advance. After moving on, come back to the previous tier to find one last battle. It may be a fight with that tier’s strongest opponent, or it could be a doubles match that’ll force you to team up with a previous antagonist.
During a match it’s hard to tell if the graphics are worth noting. Tennis players are visible, as are the court you’re playing on – but you don’t see much else. However, if you’re watching the screen before the match begins, you’ll get a full sense of what the court environments are really like. They’re fairly large, are packed with polys, and have a variety of showpieces that weren’t necessary to enhance the gameplay (and do not enhance it in any way), but will surely appeal to any eyes that catch their beauty. Look for waterfalls, beaches, sunsets, and more.
Arriving on July 17, 2007, Hot Shots Tennis is one of those games that’ll keep you off the real courts this summer – and ensure you stay inside and in front of the TV where you belong. The precise shot controls, family-friendly characters, and inventive (and inviting) environments are undoubtedly some of the best a PS2 tennis game has seen.
Stay tuned to GameZone as we bring you further coverage on Hot Shots Tennis leading up to its release.