When the Wii hit store shelves over a year and a half ago, it came with one of the most surprising titles in history. Prior to its release, many gamers were very critical of Wii Sports’ potential mini-game experience, even going as far as to question Nintendo’s decision to pack it in with every console. By now we all know the decision was a great one and Wii Sports alone has helped sell a ton of Wii consoles to more casual gamers. While the games that were included were great for what they were, they were undeniably limited. This has resulted in many Wii gamers still awaiting more fully-realized versions of these sports on the console.
Top Spin 3 looks to answer this call and somewhat qualifies as an updated Wii Sports Tennis (WST). While it doesn’t use Miis, isn’t made by Nintendo, and isn’t fully realized itself, Top Spin 3 delivers similar motion-based controls and several levels of complexity that were noticeably absent in WST. While there are many improvements to be had, its deeper controls are easily the most significant. Instead of just holding the Wii-mote as one did in WST, players will need to grip it more on its side, with their thumb going across its face and their pointer finger coming to rest on the B trigger. I admit this does sound a little awkward but it is actually extremely comfortable. Thankfully, the Nunchuk will also see use in this game as it is used to serve, move your character, aim your ball, perform special shots, and to place a variety of spins on the ball. Using these more complex controls feels like playing a near perfect mix of WST and Rockstar Presents Table Tennis.
You will need to hold your Wii-mote upright at all times when not swinging. When a ball travels in your direction, you will pull the Wii-mote to the left or right (for backhand and forehand shots respectively) to initiate your swing. Once initiated, players are able to choose their desired special shot with the Z button, put spin on the ball based on your swings direction, and direct their shot placement with the analog stick. Timing also plays an important role, as closely mimicking your onscreen tennis player will result in much stronger and more accurate shots. This may sound rather complicated, but a series of tutorials and in-game hints are provided to help players grasp these concepts.
The appropriate use of these more complex controls certainly provides a much deeper tennis experience than was previously available on the Wii. Adding topspin to shots, placing shots perfectly inside the chalk, and running your opponent all over the court are incredibly satisfying and easy to perform with a minimal amount of practice. However, timing shots properly seems to be next to impossible. Trying to emulate the swing of your character is really distracting and often results in missed shots or even getting hit by the ball. Still, the controls successfully walk the fine line between the ease and simplicity of WST’s controls and the incredibly complex controls found in Top Spin 3’s other console iterations.
Unfortunately, players’ options for game modes are far shallower than many would have expected. Although most multiplatform games that end up on the Wii typically lack several of the features included in the other versions, Top Spin 3’s cuts are fairly deep. Most notably, the bulk of the game’s single-player experience, the Career mode, is nowhere to be found. Instead, this version’s playable modes include just singles and doubles exhibition events, a meager selection of mini-games, and a Road to Glory mode. Exhibition events are slightly entertaining but serve little purpose other than giving you a place to better hone your swinging skills.
There are only three mini-games included and, sadly, most are fairly dull. The Keys mini-game is available in both single and doubles flavors but is fundamentally the same either way. Instead of winning your match being your main focus, players will need to earn the most keys to be victorious. Keys are awarded for a variety of different achievements such as having the least amount of unforced errors, moving the least distance while playing, and timing your swings the best. These modes can serve as a brief distraction but become fairly uninteresting after just a few attempts. However, the other included mini-game, called the Invincible Man, fares much better. This mode has you playing matches against one to three friends or A.I opponents, one at a time, with the winner staying and the loser getting back in line. The ultimate goal is to win a specific number of matches before your foes can.
The Road to Glory mode, which attempts to extend the single-player experience due to the absence of a career mode, is very tedious. To complete this mode you will have to make your way through a plethora of incredibly similar events. There are slight differences such as who you will face, where you will play, the number of sets played, and how many rounds are required but they all end up feeling exactly the same. The Road to Glory mode also involves a major investment of time as each event can take an hour or more to complete. This is mostly due to Top Spin 3’s impressively good A.I. opponents. Players looking for a challenge will definitely be pleasantly surprised by some of the game’s more difficult adversaries.
The lack of features doesn’t stop with the lack of the career mode, as there is no ability to create your own characters here either. Without this feature, players’ choices are limited to just the included pros. Though there are a good number to choose from, the option to create your own player is sorely missed. The absence of Rafael Nadal as a selectable character is also worth mentioning, just in case one of the most popular athletes in the sport happens to have some fans out there.
Graphically, this version of the game is drastically scaled back when compared to its bigger brothers’ versions but does an admirable job nonetheless. Although Top Spin 3’s characters are far from photorealistic, they are well represented and smoothly animated. Backgrounds also look fairly good, with nice touches such as lighting effects and flying birds that help to add some realism to the visuals. The only glairing visible issue I witnessed in the game came from its terrible looking 2D sprite-based crowd.
While this game certainly has its fair share of issues, it is perhaps the best tennis game available on the Wii. With controls that add depth and complexity to the gameplay, Top Spin 3 honestly feels like the natural evolution of what Wii Sports Tennis has pioneered. Although it may be severely lacking in options and game modes, this game can be relatively fun and should please most tennis fans. As long as you can stomach the lengthy and repetitive events found within, Top Spin 3 serves up some great tennis action complete with good controls, decent visuals, and difficult A.I. opponents.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.4 Graphics
Decent looking characters are nicely animated, making Top Spin 3 visually appealing while in motion. 3.7 Control
Simplistic motion controls, use of the analog stick for player movement, accurate shot placement, and a few special shots provide players with a fairly complex and responsive experience. 2.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A complete lack of in-game music is somewhat disappointing, although it is preferable to having to listen to some of the painful music that haunts you while in the game’s menus. 3.2
With a few more options and play modes, Top Spin 3 could have been an excellent game. As it stands, the lack of online play, a career mode, and a create-a-player option leave this game feeling somewhat incomplete and repetitive.
3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.