Hot Shots Tennis Review
Hot Shots Golf has been a staple for developer Clan Hanz, as over the past 10 years Sony has employed the developer to work on only one franchise. Until two years ago, when development of a Hot Shots branded tennis game went into development for the PS2. Having been released in Japan some time ago, Hot Shots Tennis has finally arrived here in the US. And after spending time with the game, I understand why Hot Shots Tennis almost never made it to the US in the first place. We had hoped that after the poor reviews it garnered overseas we'd get an improved version, but such isn't the case. Hot Shots Tennis is unlike Clap Hanz's golf-efforts, as the top-spinner feels...well, flimsy.
The one thing that's always stood out from the 'Golf games is their impeccable attention to balance and really tight mechanics. 'Tennis doesn't have either of those qualities. Instead, 'Tennis feels, as already mentioned, flimsy. In tennis games, controls are the most important thing. The athlete has to feel planted on the ground, while at the same time convey a sense of weight via their actions. Games like Virtua Tennis have this 'feel' down quite well, which allows for them to play well. Hot Shots Tennis doesn't have that. Characters run around the court feeling almost weightless and the more you play the more you realize how the action lacks any kind of punch.
Likewise, you'll soon begin to notice that the characters are too small for such a large court, and often times you won't be able to get to the ball in time. Moreover, gameplay loses balance once you find exploits in the game and begin leaving your opponents on with nil on their scoreboard. Occasionally, you may find yourself struggling to make a hit, often times swinging unintentionally in preparation for the ball's arrival. The controls feel wonky altogether, and the lack of feel per character is a real shame, single handedly ruining the entire experience.
The gameplay modes consist of an offline multiplayer game for up to 4 players, a little practice mode, Fun Time Tennis mode (quick game), and the Hot Shots Challenge. The Hot Shots Challenge mode is basically the main mode, and playing through it unlocks the game's characters, clothing, courts, and other secrets. Unfortunately, despite the extra content, Hot Shots Tennis simply disappoints. This is not the signature Clap Hanz gameplay approach we've been used to for the past decade, and that's unfortunate.
Visually, Hot Shots Tennis is about what you'd expect; tiny little cutesy characters, with heads out of proportion with the rest of their bodies, running around and making a noise here and there. The colors are basically exactly what the franchise is known for; bright and very green. The game looks considerably sharp when played on the PlayStation 3 using HDMI or Component cables. There isn't a whole mess of details all around you, but Hot Shots Tennis looks nice enough for a $30 game. Character detail is the standard affair, decent but don't expect much more than that. Animations are rudimentary, so you won't find anything to gawk at here. The game runs smoothly, and the framerate always keeps up.
As far as the sound goes, there isn't a whole lot to hear in 'Tennis. The music is third rate and pretty boring, especially for a Hot Shots game. And the moaning and groaning from the characters wears thin on your ears very quick. Turning the music off makes the game feel even deader, where as turning it on gets on your nerves. If you actually find yourself enjoying 'Tennis, have some of your own music playing in the background if you can - you'll thank me later.
Like I stated earlier, Hot Shots Tennis is a huge disappointment to me. I'm a big fan of the 'Golf games and I was truly surprised to find out just how generic and bland 'Tennis came out to be. For $30 it isn't offensive, but I don't think it's worth it. It's lack of feel and balance really hurts the appeal, and the entire package just isn't up to the Clap Hanz caliber that we've become accustomed to over the past ten years. I suggest tracking down a copy of Virtua Tennis/Sega Sports Tennis for the PlayStation 2 if you're looking for a solid tennis game. If you're a parent looking to purchase a mild tennis game for their child, rent this and see how much he/she enjoys it before purchasing it.
7/31/2007 Arnold Katayev