Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: July 16, 2007
Sheesh, I remember playing Tennis on the Atari 2600 like it was yesterday (okay, maybe more like last week). The resolution of the tennis players was horrible back then — 12 pixels per player or something — but now in the palm of your hands, you can control players with so much detail that you can see the stripes on their sneakers!
Smash Court Tennis 3 is a well-designed tennis simulation with high-detailed graphics and an excellent level of game realism. In addition to a quick arcade game mode, a series of training and challenge modes help to hone players' skills to make them competitive against 16 of the most notable tennis professionals, including Roger Federer, Justine Henin, Rafael Nadal, and Maria Sharapova. The Pro Tour mode includes a full-feature unlock system to improve player skills and a purchasing system to upgrade gear and clothes. You can also unlock additional training modes to improve skills even further.
So what kind of shots can you perform in Smash Court Tennis 3? The game allows you to simulate topspins, flat shots, slices, drop shots, lobs, and on-the-net volleys. There are even a few trick shots that can be unlocked with enough experience and skill points. The game includes a comprehensive tutorial mode which systematically helps players to learn and practice each of numerous shot and movement controls.
The graphics in SCT3 are impressive, with no noticeable lagging or skipping while highly detailed and customizable players move smoothly on the court. Even when the action gets moving, the ball is easy to track on the PSP, and the interface is easy to understand and navigate even in the detailed Pro Tour game mode.
It's easy to imagine that controlling the numerous actions of a player in a tennis match could be a difficult feat, but SCT3 pulls it off with an intuitive control scheme which doesn't feel awkward to control. It will take some time to work out the timing, but once that's accomplished, the action and controls never feel cumbersome. The background soundtrack has a good rhythm and works well for a sports title like Smash Court Tennis 3. The sound effects stay in sync and match what you would expect to hear, even on the variety of court surfaces.
If you're just interested in playing a quick game of tennis, you can enter the Smash Court Tennis 3's Arcade Mode or select from several options in the Exhibition Mode. In Arcade Mode, you can choose to play as one of the 16 included professional players or select one as your opponent. You can then play either singles or doubles in a series of tournaments at three different difficulty settings. The Arcade Mode tournaments are structured so that you automatically advance through the tournament when you win and start over again if you lose. In Exhibition mode, you have complete control to set up a game that you wish to play; you can choose from surface type, location, difficulty, the number of sets to be played, the simulation of various cameras and even the replays in the simulation. This mode is a great way to browse through the different elements that comprise Smash Court Tennis 3.
Once you feel you've developed your skills enough to be competitive, you'll want to spend most of your time in the game playing the Pro Tour mode, which simulates climbing through the ranks in both singles and doubles tournament gameplay. After you've created your player, you'll be presented with a menu giving you the option to review the event calendar, check your stats, allocate your skill points or even go shopping to upgrade your equipment and style. On the tour mode calendar, you can choose to play in a tournament, rest (required to replace lost stamina), choose contracts, or train.
Training is a critical component of the game and is one of the best (and fastest) ways to improve your player's skills. By successfully completing training exercises, you are awarded skill points which you can then apply to the player to both raise skill levels and increase individual skill abilities. An interesting additional feature of this mode is the ability to set a rival; this can be done during the first four years of play. Rivals are adjusted to start at the same skill level as you are and will also try to better themselves throughout the tour.
Smash Court Tennis 3 includes three fun mini-games, which are a great way to experience tennis without getting too competitive. Two of the games should be familiar to most, since they're warped versions of Pac-Man and Galaga, only set on a tennis court. They're complete with recognizable sounds, cherries, ghosts, and in the case of Galaga, player captures. The last mini-game is called Bomb Tennis, which is as much fun to watch as it is to play; if you fail to return a volley, a cluster of bombs fall all over your side of the court, just waiting to be set off by the ball, which is, of course, another bomb with a short fuse.
In SCT3's Training mode, you'll have the same access to the training games that you unlocked in the Pro Tour (although you will not earn skill points). If you are successful in completing each of the training games, two additional training games are unlocked in this mode.
Using the PSP's Wi-Fi Ad-Hoc mode, you can set up a game room and invite a friend to come join you in a tennis match. In the event that they don't own Smash Court Tennis 3, it supports the game-sharing feature which will allow friends without the game to download enough elements to play in a multiplayer match.
Smash Court Tennis 3 is a solid tennis title with enough play modes to keep most enthusiasts entertained for hours. My only reservation is that it can be a bit frustrating at first because of the moderate learning curve; it's difficult to win a match against the computer unless you've built up a player's skill attributes, nailed the shot control sequences, and mastered the timing. Luckily, Smash Court Tennis 3 contains a comprehensive tutorial and enough training aids to bring players up to speed in a reasonable amount of time. Without a doubt, I would recommend Smash Court Tennis 3 if you have the patience to go through the tutorial and get acclimated to the game. It's a quality offering that doesn't disappoint.
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