I like tennis. I’ve played it for over 15 years. Therefore, when a new tennis game shows up on the horizon, I take a vested interest in its production, and that surely includes Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip for the PSP. Scheduled to release in February, this should be a fun, perhaps surprisingly realistic tennis title that could have widespread appeal. I keep thinking about the popular Hot Shots Golf franchise that is always far more authentic and realistic than people believe, but the Hot Shots Tennis installment on the PS2 didn’t display the same attention to detail. It was just designed to be entertaining for all ages, so maybe that’s exactly what we should expect from this handheld iteration. At the very least, we should get all sorts of character customization and unlockable goodies, and the colorful, vibrant palette is pleasing to the eye. The only question is this: is it meaty enough to warrant a purchase?
In my eyes, the PS2 game wasn’t; it didn’t even have a tournament or season mode we could toy around with, which greatly dropped the title’s longevity in my opinion. The controls were still simple and straightforward – the accessibility of the Hot Shots games are never in question – but without much of a reason to play for an extended period of time, I had to pass on it. I’m hoping the PSP version has more to it but to start, I know it will boast the same easy-to-use controls, a variety of courts placed in different settings, and perhaps best of all, a selection of different rackets and a set of skill attributes for each player. You’ll also get a few helpful prompts and tutorials to get you acquainted with the gameplay, which shouldn’t take long at all. I’m also guessing that a big part of this game will lie with the multiplayer; if you’ve got some friends you want to play with, you’ll definitely get more bang for your buck. Ad/hoc multiplayer has gotten pretty darn big amongst PSP owners, so one should probably take advantage.
One interesting feature I stumbled upon when reading the IGN preview is the fact that you’ll actually be able to see where your serve will land before striking the ball. A shadow appears on the other side of the court in relation to your power and aim, although I’m not entirely sure if you’ll be able to adjust this at the last second, thereby changing the position of the shadow. I really like the idea (as unrealistic as it is) and it also seems that the basic shots – forehand, backhand, overhead smash, lob, etc. – will be available, so there shouldn’t be too much to complain about. I’m not expecting a simulator like Top Spin, though. I’m also wondering about the control and the solidity of the gameplay because I’ve heard that early testers had a little difficulty with diving at too many shots. Position is crucial in tennis but diving isn’t really supposed to be part of the game; you just need to get your feet in the correct places. Sega’s Virtua Tennis has always had a problem with this; players tend to dive far too often in those games, although it was a little less pronounced in this year’s installment.
Lastly, there seems to be a “free-roaming mode” of some kind that lets you wander around the area – presumably the courts – and talk to other characters. Perhaps this is where you’ll be able to challenge others to matches, and maybe you’ll even find a coach or a trainer that will help you with those aforementioned attributes. Again, I wouldn’t expect too much in the way of depth, but there needs to be enough to keep the player playing. I have little doubt that it’ll be fun to play, which is an automatic bonus of course, but we need to be on the lookout for different modes that are specifically designed to add to the game’s longstanding appeal. I kinda wish they’d make a Hot Shots Tennis for the PS3 that was just as involved and accomplished as Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds, but I have a feeling that won’t happen… ‘sigh’
10/8/2009 Ben Dutka