|System: X360, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
At this point, we have all become accustomed to the triangle trade of video games. What Im referring to is the rampant porting of games between PS2, PSP, and Wii. Unless a game is built specifically with motion controls in mind, and sometimes even when it is, you will often see it making its way to all three of these systems in a fairly timely fashion.
However, what we arent used to is seeing PSP games coming out on the Xbox 360. Smash Court Tennis 3 is one of these few exceptions, coming out on the PSP over a year ago and only recently being released for the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, it is a prime example of why we dont often see these two systems sharing titles.
Everything about Smash Court Tennis 3 feels like a very slightly improved year-old PSP port. Graphically, the games characters and environments lack the detail you would expect from a new Xbox 360 game. The games many courts are fairly static, with only the crowd, players, and at times passing cloud cover actually moving. Tennis stars like Rafael Nadal end up looking more like caricatures than their real life counterparts. The clothes in the game are all fairly bland, consisting mainly of plain-colored basic options with the occasional painting pictured on the front. Characters animations are also incredibly clunky and repetitive, having your player of choice sliding around the court rather than fluidly moving about.
If the dated graphics werent enough, the game also feels ancient in the gameplay department. Players will make their way through the games tutorial that explains how the game should work. I say should because, in reality, it is an entirely different story. You have all the standard options for shots including spin, lob shots, and drop shots. All your shots rely on holding down a face button to charge, releasing at the correct time, and aiming the shot with left analog stick. This can be problematic as matches tend to creep along at a lethargic pace, thanks in part to how slowly your character moves. If you are lucky enough to actually get to the ball before it passes you by, you either dont have time to properly charge your shot, are still holding the analog stick in the direction you were moving, or your character wont even attempt to swing. While all these situations happen frequently, the latter is the most frustrating, since there is no reason for your character to give up on a ball before you do.
Thankfully, even with these unforgiveable gameplay issues, players will still undoubtedly manage to breeze through almost every match with relative ease. This is made possible due to some of the worst A.I. Ive ever experienced in a tennis game. Opponents mostly seem content to stay at the back of the court, running back and forth as they poorly attempt to chase down your shots. Aside from some infrequent aces, your opponents almost seem like they dont want to score. That is unless they decide to rush the net. Once your adversary is at the net, you might as well put down your controller. Because of the loose, sluggish, and often inaccurate controls offered, you are almost completely unable to deal with their net defense. Sure, you should be able to just place a lob shot behind them but this just results in them spiking the ball, which is also next to impossible to return. Fortunately, since the A.I. is so inept, it fails to realize that rushing the net works nine times out of ten and will only occasionally employ this strategy.
Players will also be able to take Smash Courts clunky gameplay online to duke it out with human opponents. There arent many options here besides singles and doubles matches as well as the ability to join an online tournament. Playing against friends online is definitely more enjoyable than dealing with A.I. adversaries, but there is a slight amount of lag present that helps to spoil even this aspect of the game.
One of the few highlights of this game comes in the form of its Pro Tour mode. You start off by creating a character with a plethora of sliders, affecting everything from eye depth to chin width. The options here are fairly robust but, again, characters end up looking more cartoony than realistic. Once you have created a character and chosen their play style, you can begin to start leveling them up. The Pro Tour mode will have you training, competing in tournaments, gaining sponsorships, and participating in charity events. Whenever you actually win matches or complete events, you will receive experience points to use to improve your characters performance and abilities. Improving core skills is important, but purchasing specialized shots and power-ups can also make a big difference when competing in matches.