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GBA Review - 'Davis Cup Tennis'

by The Cookie Snatcher on Feb. 23, 2003 @ 11:52 p.m. PST

With more than 100 years of tradition behind it, the Davis Cup is the premier team competition in tennis. The symbol of this prestigious competition is the beautiful silver Davis Cup trophy, donated by Harvard student Dwight Filley Davis in 1900. In the early years, only two nations competed for temporary ownership of the Davis Cup trophy, the United States and the British Isles. In 2002, 142 nations have entered the competition for the honor of bringing the trophy home making the Davis Cup an institution in the tennis world and a matter of national pride for the winning team.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Ubi Soft
Release Date: 10/14/2002

Davis Cup Tennis is a throwback to the days when 16-bit sports titles didn’t need to have any fancy additions or believable physics, sadly Davis Cup was released in a day and age where gamers have grown accustom to bells, whistles, and all other sorts of technological nuances that make a sports games fun to play. Ubi Soft pretty much nailed the audio and visual presentation of this game but they failed in the most important aspect: gameplay. When it comes down to it this game feels like a glorified Pong, albeit with 1,400 different paddles.

In terms of stock features you can expect the standard array of options that you would expect to find in an official International Tennis Federation endorsed title. The Tournament mode allows you to choose from one of 146 countries and attempt to take it all the way through the four rounds in the Davis Cup tournament. And of course there is a exhibition mode of play where you can quickly start up a off-the-record game and jump right into the action. If you and a friend each have a copy of the game (yah, right) and a link-cable you can get some multiplayer action going. That’s all fine and good, except that the gameplay is stale and doesn’t come close to reaching the same level of entertainment found in some other tennis games. The excellent Virtua Tennis, for example. And when are developers going to learn that a multiplayer mode is next to useless when two game paks are required? It’s absurd -- but I digress.

The fundamentals of tennis are more or less intact, allowing you to perform lobs, and strokes -- but anything above and beyond the obligatory necessities of the sport there is nothing to keep the game feeling fresh. No overhand powershots, chips, trick shots, or other stuff that makes the better games in the genre so fun to play. To a certain extent you have the ability to aim where you want to hit the ball, but you have no control over how hard you hit it. It almost feels like you are playing Arkanoid since returning the ball simply requires that you are positioned in the vicinity of the ball while holding a button down, timing certainly isn’t a critical requirement in progressing through this game. To make matters worse a complete lack of on-demand save function makes playing the game a needlessly arduous task at times since any given match consists of six games and the only time when you’re given the opportunity to save is between matches. So make sure you have at least 20 minutes of free time before you load up a game.

It’s really a shame that the actual gameplay mechanics are so sorely lacking, because the visuals are fairly impressive. The 1000+ tennis players that you can choose from are all very detailed with believable shadows that compliment their every move. The use of the GBA’s SNES-style scaling and rotation in this game are used to great effect, giving the appearance of an almost true 3D tennis game. The camera perspective is situated directly behind the character you are controlling and never gets in the way. The audio presentation is equally impressive sporting realistic sounding smacks every time the ball is hit, lots of voice samples that come from the line judges, and lighthearted musical arrangements that perfectly suits the on-screen action.

While Davis Cup Tennis may be attached to a real-life tennis license it doesn’t feature licensed players and completely ignores the inclusion of female tennis players. It’s just an overall average tennis game. Without the ability to control the strength of your shot or even the method in which it is delivered outside of standard smacks and lobs, what you are left with is a cookie-cutter interpretation of the sport with above-average graphics and sounds. There really isn’t a whole lot to say about it outside of the fact that it is simply a very basic game that doesn’t do anything wrong per se’ but just doesn’t include a lot of the niceties that make the electronic sport so endearing on other platforms.

Davis Cup Tennis isn’t an entirely bad game, the sheer amount of characters and represented countries it features coupled with a very genuine-looking presentation may be enough to keep avid fans of the sport busy for quite some time. But even then it’s hard to overlook the lackluster gameplay that makes every game feel more like a chore than entertainment. Fans of tennis would be better off sticking with classics like Mario Tennis and Virtua Tennis.

Score: 6.2/10

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