one for tennis? This sport has always proved difficult to convert
into a video game, probably because of it's stop- start gameplay. So
do we have a tennis game available on PSX that looks good and
creates the kind of tension that the final points of a Grand Slam
Soft, along with developers Smart Dog, hopefully intend to succeed
where others have failed with their highly polished title Tennis
Arena - a game that blends quality visuals with simplistic gameplay.
of the characters have been realistically motion captured and then
constructed from polygons, although never a weirder bunch of
would-be-champs could surely have passed your eyes. Four male
players and the equivalent number of sports women are up for grabs.
If you are reading this review 'after' playing Tennis Arena then I
bet your first selection was the Sumo Wrestler William Chan. That's
correct - a tennis game with a beach whale that has World Ranking
points. I also think that your second choice will probably be the
curvaceous Yoko Hayasmi, whose legs just keep on going - until they
almost reach her neck. Or how about the cute Brit, Zoe Taylor, whose
attire is more suitable for a picnic by the river rather than a
Grand Slam Final. Another British player is Dave Woodward who
believes that his game will improve by wearing long trousers - must
be the climate.
During open play and rallies the characters more quite well around
the court and react instantly to your command - crouching down for
those tricky low shots and leaping high into the air for those
altitudinous lobs. They also perform full length dives but these
motions seem a little delayed to begin with before bursting into a
ridiculous acceleration for the tumble.
The venues are well depicted offering a wide range of playing
surfaces to test your skill. The courts use grass, clay and
artificial surfaces. A nice visual touch is offered when a point is
won when the normally static crowds show a little movement with
their hands to gesticulate applause. Each dubious shot is treated to
a slow motion replay marking the landing point of the ball with a
yellow dot to avoid disputes. Ballboys/girls run out to collect the
'dead' balls but they can sometimes be a little too quick off the
mark and slow to return.
of the sound effects have been well handled. As your player walks on
court the noise of the crowd rises to a crescendo before tailing off
to the voices of a few late comers, while occasional shouts from the
crowd serve to spur on the players who grunt and groan their way
through every set. Every venue has it's own umpire who calls out the
score after every point while the side umpires call the 'fault and
The music is pretty average and thankfully only appears at the
tennis games have failed miserably because they have attempted to be
too realistic by using one button to throw the ball into the air and
another split second press to strike the ball at it's highest point.
This has proved to be a gimmick that only served to frustrate the
player and stop the game from flowing. Tennis Arena sticks to the
basics with one button for each action - serve, top spin, backspin
and lob. The directional pad moves the player around the court and
affects the direction of each shot. The top two should buttons give
the ball a little after touch. Simple and effective.
The R2 button activates a 'special move' which is offered when the
ball is returned six times in a row. A nice idea that encourages
rallies. A yellow star will appear below the player to indicate one
of their three special shots is active, but you may choose to wait
for another three returns to upgrade this feature into a Unique
Special Shot that is virtually unstoppable.
There are two ways to play Tennis Arena. Smash Tennis is the
Exhibition and Multi-player mode where up to four players may take
part in a game of doubles, singles or an eight player knock-out
Once you become accustomed to play there is also an option to play
out a full World Tour. Select a character and follow their progress
over a 20 stage tour of the world. You begin with 310 points and a
world ranking at number ten. Your aim is to become the Number 1
seeded player on the tour. Tactical decisions must be made on which
event you should enter as the number of points awarded is dependant
on how good your opponent is, how many rounds you play through and
which type of competition you enter. The World Series is relatively
easy to succeed in and only requires 10th ranking to enter. The
medium paced Champion Series requires your ranking to be sixth or
better. The Grand Slam only accepts 4th rankings while the UBI Super
Cup is only for the top three players in the world.
There are eight player to select from, each with individual skills,
attributes and their own selection special of shots. You must study
the profiles of your selected character and play to their strengths.
Some are strong and accurate but lack in speed therefore hugging the
baseline is recommended. Others are highly athletic and are dominant
at the net.
There are five courts to play which are the medium paced New York
Park in America, a very soft Pyramid City in Egypt, a fast wooden
surface at Ocean Cruise just off the Red Sea, a low bouncing court
in Paris and the slow surface with a nasty dipping bounce at the
Arena is a smart looking game which has that pick-up-and-play feel
to it. If it's a decent tennis game that you are after then check
this offering out from UBI Soft - I think it may be to your liking.
half completed a World Tour and then lost interest, but then tennis
games have never really got my 'juices' flowing. I would rate Tennis
Arena on a par with Pete Sampras Tennis which is the best game of
this type presently available. The only annoyance was the inclusion
of the 'special shot' in the World Tour mode. It should have
remained in the more arcady Exhibition mode leaving at least one
option to be more of a tennis simulation.