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PS2 Review - 'Hot Shots Tennis'

by Steven Mills on Aug. 22, 2007 @ 1:06 a.m. PDT

Hot Shots Tennis brings the Hot Shots franchise to the tennis world for the first time. With a host of wacky characters and tennis styles, exotic court locations, and game modes, Hot Shots Tennis offers pick up and play action for tennis fans of all ages.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Clap Hanz
Release Date: July 17, 2007

Thwack! For the past decade, SCEA has been creating Hot Shots Golf games for Sony platforms such as PlayStation and the PSP. For the first time ever, the Hot Shots franchise has stepped outside of the golfing world and into another popular sport: tennis. The Hot Shots Golf games were known for their amazing learning curve, simple controls, and powerful mastery, but is the switch to tennis a good idea, or a stab in the dark?

One feature certainly remains in Hot Shots Tennis; SCEA did not venture away from the simple controls, but believe it or not, it did not make the game too easy. By simply using the left analog stick to move your player, pressing the X button for a topspin shot, the Circle to perform a slice, and the Triangle to simply lob, both expert and novice PlayStation 2 gamers can easily pick up and survive in the world of Hot Shots Tennis. Performing backhand and forehand shots is dependent on the location of your player in comparison to the oncoming ball, and accuracy is dependent on when you swing the racket. Swinging too early or late might send the ball going completely opposite of where you wanted it to, which will likely work in favor of your opponent. The nice thing about these simple controls is that if you use the left analog stick while swinging, you can also aim where you want the ball to go. This provides the ability to give your opponents a workout by making them run back and forth across the court, if that's what you wish to do.

Storyline? Campaign? Any kind of single-player mode? Well yeah, kind of. Hot Shots Tennis has the same type of single-player gameplay as all of the Hot Shots Golf titles, "Challenge Mode." You start at the beginner class and work your way up the seven levels by defeating several opponents in each class until you get promoted to the next one. Each class grows in difficulty, and rather than just hitting topspin shots to a random direction to fake out the opponent, by the end of the game, you'll have to mix up all three types of shots at different speeds and in different directions if you plan on clinching a victory.

While in Challenge Mode, each competitor you defeat will earn you a new unlockable. Unlockables include a total of 14 characters, 11 courts to play on, and five umpires to enforce the rules during your game. You can also unlock costumes for these characters, but they are character-specific. For example, after unlocking the American flag dress, only Ashley has access to wear it, and nobody else. Unfortunately, these items do not affect your character's stats or actual gameplay in any way, shape or form, unlike in the previous Hot Shots titles. Some costumes have a slight effect on umpires, causing slight voice changes during a match.

Hot Shots Tennis looks very good on the PlayStation 2 console. The 11 different courts, as well as the 14 characters, are visually stunning in terms of quality on a previous-generation platform. The characters each have their own animations for running around and swinging the rackets, which flow smoothly. The anime-type style features females wearing short skirts and very short shorts, and although this does not alter the gameplay experience — at least, it shouldn't — it makes me question if this title is appropriate for the young 'uns. One of the female umpires also seemed to speak in a somewhat seductive tone, which made me question letting the kiddies play. Overall, it's not a huge deal, but it's definitely worth taking into consideration.

The sounds of Hot Shots Tennis has both pros and cons. Voices, such and the speech of the umpires, flow nicely with the game, and are a definite pro, but the ambient sound effects on some courts are quite horrific. One on of the courts situated next to a train track, when a train drives by — which is off the screen, might I add — the train noises sound nothing like a train, but more like a siren. There were a couple of times when I wondered if a fire alarm was going off somewhere outside.

Apart from the Challenge Mode, Hot Shots Tennis features two other modes: Training, which is used to learn the game controls and increase your skill, and Fun Time Tennis, which allows you to play a quick game against the computer or another friend. An interesting feature to note is that both in Challenge Mode and during Fun Time Tennis, there is the ability to play doubles tennis, as oppose to singles. The gameplay is basically the same, except, as in real tennis, the court is bigger and there are two players on each side.

As for multiplayer, there is no online content, but Hot Shots Tennis allows up to four players (two-versus-two in a doubles match) to play on the same console. It's really hard playing against someone because rather than using a split-screen like games such as Wii Sports and its tennis title, there is always one unlucky person whose character is at the top of the court facing down, as opposed to the standard character on the bottom, who's facing up. The movement controls are, of course, opposite now, and judging the ball is a lot more difficult than it may sound.

I only saw a few minor flaws with Hot Shots Tennis, such as the uselessness of the unlockables, extremely annoying multiplayer, and even a harmless yet painfully obvious "hiccup." (You have the ability to unlock Suzuki as a umpire and as a player, so you can play as or against Suzuki, while still serving as umpire for the match.) So is Hot Shots Tennis worth a shot? If you're looking for a good tennis game in terms of gameplay, then definitely! With a $30 price, you really can't go wrong with Hot Shots Tennis, but if you're looking for sports title with good multiplayer support or a single-player mode with useful unlockables, you'd be better off with Hot Shots Golf.

Score: 7.0/10

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