|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Clap Hanz||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 29, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
Its been a three year hiatus since Clap Hanz initially traded the links for the tennis courts in America with the PS2s Hot Shots Tennis, giving fans of the cartoony, pick-up-playable Hot Shots series a chance to try their hand with a racquet instead of a driver. Hot Shots Tennis was generally well-received (if a bit basic compared to its golf-based cousin), but after the first installment hit Sonys last-gen hardware (it was deemed easier to develop over a PSP iteration, following a six year internal debate among developers) the courts were once again empty.
Clap Hanz returned to the fairways with new installments in the Hot Shots Golf series, though a PSP follow-up to Hot Shots Tennis was in the works for release sometime in the future. Now its 2010, and the series has finally made it onto the PSP. Although one cant help but wonder why after a three year break they didnt just pony up and make a new tennis title for PS3, Get a Grip! is a great follow-up to the original thats both deeper and has been (to some degree) retooled for an overall improved tennis experience.
The great thing about the Hot Shots series is that anyone can pick up and play these gamesin Japan the series is actually called Everybodys Golf, in fact, and Clap Hanz has always done a good job with making their series very accessible, even if you dont generally play sports games. Although its arguably more apparent in their golf titles (if by volume of games alone), Hot Shots can (and often will) lull you into a false sense of security with initial play before getting downright nasty. However, this only becomes an issue if you really want to put in the time to really play on a technically proficient level. But lets face itmost of us probably fall into this category, though to the series credit, everything is designed to be simple and user-friendly. Such is the case with Get a Grip!, as well, but the simple control scheme belies a level of depth and strategy needed to really excel and make progress in the game. That being said, Get a Grip! operates much like the rest of the series does, meaning if youre not getting the hang of when to adopt and employ various tactics on the court, your only salvation is probably going to be turning on the more forgiving Easy mode.
Now, if youre new to tennis or are relatively unfamiliar with the sport, youre probably going to need to do some reading (this comes with the caveat that if you happen to pick up Get a Grip! as a digital download on PSN, it doesnt come with an instruction manual). Unlike its predecessor, this one doesnt really have a fully-fledged training mode. Instead youre giving a series of lessons via loading screen instructions, which maddeningly disappear once loading has finished, and cant be accessed again. Essentially, though, what you need to know is x produced a faster forehand hit (which can be used for devastating smashesthink spikes in volleyball), circle is a defensive backhand hit that slows down the ball and triangle lobs it high into the air.
Youll also need to know when to use each type of hit (say, using the backhand when an opponent is playing a smash-heavy faster game), what style you prefer (volleying near the net, going hit-for-hit with your opponent on the baseline, or back of the court, or somewhere in the middle) as well as more technical tactics, like timing shots or what kind of serve to use when. Hot Shots has always prided itself on less hyper-realistic arcade-style play (which, along with its humor, easily accounts for a lot of the series charm), but with Get a Grip! youll quickly find yourself having to adapt to varying match conditions. This isnt the only change Clap Hanz has made to the formula, though. Some game fundamentalsnamely character statshave also been tweaked, forcing you to change the way you play.
This is clearly a response to a big complaint that was almost universally registered against the original Hot Shots Tennis: you could not alter your favorite players stats, unlike the series golf titles. This time around, however, Clap Hanz has upped the ante significantly. The game is essentially a tennis RPG in terms of its play style and mechanics. Single player is a fully fledged story mode, meaning youll pick destinations from the world map, travel to them, walk around interacting with NPCs and engaging in story segments. The tennis, of course, is the substitute for a battle systemany RPGs bread and butterand no matter where you go, damn near everybody loves tennis in this game, so theres no shortage of players.