For the tennis player in all of us
May 17, 2007 – Tennis is a sport that is an acquired taste, much like golf. Golf gives you the quiet outdoors and lets you build anticipation with each swing. Tennis, on the other hand, throws you right into the mix and forces you to be both accurate and aggressive all at once. In fact, tennis does not allow you to breathe, whereas in golf, you at least have your time in the golf cart to relax before your next swing. The similarities of the two sports, however, could go on forever. Naturally, the same folks that brought us one of PlayStation’s most successful eccentric golf games would be the ones to offer up an outing on the courts of tennis. Recently, I had the chance to play a little of Clap Hanz newest venture into the world of sports.
For starters, as most fans of the Hot Shots Golf series will recognize quickly, Hot Shots Tennis takes a lot from the Hot Shots Golf Fore as far as tone, which might turn away a few players who grew accustomed to the humor in the series. Granted, the humor was and is still there, but the game took more of a serious approach to the game experience. This is definitely present in Hot Shots Tennis. At the load screen, the colors are just a vibrant and alive as you expect. Even the music reassures you of the overall gaming experience that will be very similar to Clap Hanz’s golf series. There will be two modes of play – Hot Shots Challenge and Fun Time Tennis.
Hot Shots Challenge is where you will move yourself up through the ranks to become a tennis Hot Shot. The way you advance through the ranks is to win a set number of matches against your foes. This is also where you will obtain new characters, costumes, courts, and umpires, which seem to take the place of the caddies we know and love. Of course, as you progress through the current class, the opponents get much stronger. The classes are divided into three difficulty settings – Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert. Each class has a different assortment of characters. The three that I was able to play as are a bubbly girl named Ashley, who reminded me a lot of Tiffany from Hot Shots Golf; Kaito, from the intermediate class who spoke in an Australian accent; and Kent, from the expert class who drove the point home of snobby tennis players. The court that I played on was Aloha Beach Tennis Court. Given the name, we might expect a few tennis courts based on our favorite golf courses. As you might expect, the Fun Time Tennis is the multiplayer of the game. Up to four people will be able to join in on the tennis fun. Of course, you will need a multi-tap if you are playing the PS2 version.
When you first start, the controls are little questionable. If you have never played a tennis game – you might be overwhelmed your first time or two. Once you figure out that it is much simpler than you originally thought, you might curse yourself and then continue to play. The real draw here is that you can control the direction of the ball on a few levels. For example, if you hit the ball at the peak of power when you are serving, it will fault almost every time, but if you take tilt the analog stick back you may deliver the serve just where you need to. Another example of ball control is when returning the ball, you can try to hit right on the line making it near impossible for your opponent to return the ball. Controlling the direction of the ball adds more of a strategic element that was missing from the Hot Shots Golf series.
Graphically, if you have been a fan of the cutesy and sometimes over the top characters from Clap Hanz, you might be a little disappointed. While the cute factor is still there, so far the laugh riot designs seem to be absent from this title. However, in one of the trailers for the game, it does seem they have one or two that will remind us that this is a Clap Hanz game. The courts that I had the opportunity to play on look impressive. Granted, they are just tennis courts, but still, the graphics do not stray too far from previous layouts by the developer, while at the same time showcasing the slight advancements with improved frame rate. The trademark sounds of the Hot Shots series are intact – the clapping, the boos, the umpire delivering deadpan play by play, and, of course, the little quips from the characters being sorrowfully sad about loosing or arrogantly confident when they win.
Hot Shots Tennis is shaping up to be a nice addition to the Clap Hanz pantheon of sports games. While taking the series forward on a few levels, they have also secured the things that have made the Hot Shots name one fans love to pick up. In a couple of months, we will know just how much tennis reminds us of golf. Who knows – maybe we can convince Clap Hanz to make the Hot Shots Fishing next.