Just about every sport short of golf is well-represented on the beloved PSX. Make that every sport short of golf and Tennis. But now, thanks to the friendly people at Ubi Soft (makers of Rayman), there is finally a decent tennis game -- and decent it is!
When I think of tennis, I think of proper white little uniforms and rich people. When the developers of Tennis Arena think of tennis, they must think of a fat, shirtless Chinese guy wearing gold chains, or a camo-clad woman from Singapore. Power shots are taken to a new level with super power-ups and it is not uncommon to see the players throw their rackets in disgust. This is more like it; a working man's tennis game that throws "proper" out the door.
I am not really sure why there have not been many tennis games released for the PSX. The games that have been released have been difficult to play and lacking in the fun department. This is all about to change. No longer do you need a Master's degree to figure out how to make shots and serves. Difficult gameplay is now a thing of the past.
Tennis Arena is obviously a tennis game. I am not going to explain the rules of tennis or how to play. If you don't know, then you may as well not bother with this game. Let's just say that this game follows most of the traditional rules of tennis and adds a little spice to make the games more enjoyable. All your shots are here, including the standard shot, lob, back spin, top spin and diving returns. If you like tennis but are not a stuffy old rich person, you should enjoy this game.
There are two things that make this game really good. The first is that it is easy. When I say easy, I don't mean the competition is easy. I mean that the gameplay is easy to learn and easy to execute. It took me only a matter of minutes before I was able to get playing, and within half an hour I was able to aim my shots with a great deal of accuracy. Yes, you read that right. It really only took me half an hour to get good enough to compete. This does not mean that I won or anything, but I competed, which was the important thing. For some reason, tennis games in the past have been so difficult even to return a serve that most people don't bother to learn the game. I returned the first serve that was hit to me in this game.
The second good thing about this game is that it is actually fun. I know that sounds weird, but it is true. It seems that companies from time to time get wrapped up in making a beautiful-looking game or a technologically advanced game or a game with all the options, but they forget to add that one key ingredient ... fun. Tennis Arena is a blast to play. I really enjoyed the action and I was able to compete with the best of the players. The game also has a multi-player option that allows up to four players. It is much better when you play as a two-player game, as four players tend to get in each other's way, but you can do it.
Speaking of options, Tennis Arena has also done a nice job with the different play options available. You can either jump right in and play a game, or you can start a world tour where you are ranked #10 in the world. It is up to you to win the tournaments and make this ranking climb so you can access the upper level tournaments. I really enjoyed this because it made you feel like you were playing for more than just the victory. Your rankings were also affected by the number of sets it would take you to win, so blowing someone out would help your rankings. This kept the game fresh and fun for quite some time.
One of the more unique things about this game is the range of different characters you can choose. As I said in the intro, you can play as a fat Chinese guy that wears no shirt and huge gold necklaces. You can also play a rebellious kid that is the up-and-coming star. There are 6 other players to choose from, and each one is just as unique.
This game also offered a very different spin on tennis. It is far from traditional. One of the things that makes it that way is the incorporation of the special shots. The special shots are available to your player after you have returned either six shots in a row, or wait for a total of nine shots in a row for the unique super special shots. These shots are more powerful than a regular hit and are usually more accurate. The special shots added a unique element to the game and also helped in the game's longevity. These super shots were not so impossible to return that you would give up as soon as the opponent was charged for a shot, but they definitely made it harder to hit the ball.
I did not really have any major complaints when it came to gameplay. There were a couple minor annoyances like the sounds that the players made when they hit a super shot, or if you hit a super shot for a point the camera would show it from three different angles. I also would have like to see the matches sped up a bit. It was really annoying waiting for the person to get back in position for the serve. Once the point was made, it should have just put the players back in position for the serve.
This is where I had my second complaint with the game. The graphics were not pretty at all. They were 3D, but the players were not very clear and the courts looked a bit 16-bit. The backgrounds were pretty blurry, and when you got up close they were downright ugly. The graphics did not hurt the gameplay, but they sure did not do anything to help.
I liked this game. I really enjoyed the fun and easy-to-learn gameplay. There were only a few minor annoyances and the graphics were not very good, but the game was fun to play. The inclusion of the special shot really helped to give the game an arcade feel, but it did not overuse the shot. All in all, this is the best PSX tennis game to date. Sure, that is not saying much, but it is worthy of the distinction anyway.
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It's being billed as "tennis with an attitude." Tennis Arena hopes to break down the vanilla flavor of the sport and push it into the extreme genre with its combination of unique players, locations and exaggerated moves.
Before Tennis Arena can lay out all the extreme stuff, it has to prove itself as a solid playing tennis sim with functional graphics and adequate challenge, especially since tennis on the 32-Bit platform hasn't been done all that well (or often) in the past. To accomplish this, 3-D polygonal players and backgrounds are in full effect. Surprisingly fluid, the players also received the motion-capture treatment so that they could mimic the moves of real tennis players quite nicely. The overhead smash, backhand, lob and top-spin forehand are some of the standard returns with lots of special returns hidden within the game.
Like a fighting game, the players in Arena Tennis have their own special hits and maneuvers. For example, Zoe Taylor from England does a spinning smash in which she lets go of the racquet in its horizontat position, does a spin, grabs the racket as it floats in midair and delivers a hearty blast to the ball, Not quite realistic but we're talkin' about extreme tennis here. Another character, Chan from China, lets his freak flag fly, not to mention his saggin' belly and gold chains. He's basically a sumolooking guy that plays tennis well.
To go along with the not-so-average players the venues they play in are also "exotic." Our favorite was the suspended court in the pit of an ancient Greek coliseum. Grass, day, astro-turf and even wooden courts are among the surfaces available for play. The game offers tournament as well as doubles play, Two-player and Four-player Mode for multiplayer competition.
With the right combination of good game-play and interesting characters, Tennis Arena could fill a need in the sports gaming genre.
- MANUFACTURER - Smart Dog
- THEME - Sport
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 or 2
Tennis Arena is a prime example of a solid tennis game that took a little too much liberty with its arcadeish feel. Now don't get me wrong, I do understand the concept and fun of an arcade-style tennis game, but I feel some of the stuff in this game is just dumb. For example, just about every tennis game I've ever played uses the directional pad to create that extra little bit of "English" on the ball. With Tennis Arena you can use the D-pad if you want, but the effect is very subtle. The main way of swerving the ball in the desired direction is to use the L1 and R1 buttons which I feel is counter-intuitive and complicates things for no reason. To be fair, you do get used to the control after a while, but if it ain't broke, why fix it? Problem #2: Each player has their own "Unique Super Special Shot" where you'll see ludicrous things like balls being hit by players' bellybuttons and 360 spins. It all seemed a little cheesy to me. If you get in a long rally, you can either acquire a regular super shot or the USSS. Once you acquire this ability, a star icon is displayed under your player. The problem here is that it can't be turned off, so if you want to play straight tennis sans all the fancy-shmancy gymnastics, you have to run around with a dumb star under your feet. It's too bad, cuz I like the core game but these silly extras just don't cut it for me.
Tennis Arena is a lot of fun. Both modes of play are very well-done (World Tour for one player, and Smash Tennis for multiple players), and are intuitive enough that both die-hard tennis fans (like Kelly) and non-fans of the sport (like me) can have a good time. Real players would've been nice, and I would've liked a little bit more control over serving (it's not possible to miss the ball), but otherwise I really have no complaints. Nice game.
The pickins have been slim lately for fans of PlayStation tennis games, so Tennis Arena couldn't have come at a better time. Turns out the game's pretty solid. The Multiplayer Modes are a blast (especially when you have four gamers playing doubles), and the super moves add a nice arcade touch to the otherwise realistic action. Control is OK, but I wish I had more control over where my ball landed. Some moves are sluggish, too.
When I read "Your Racket Is Your Only Weapon" on this game's box cover, I knew I was in for an interesting experience. Ubi Soft must not have thought tennis was an interesting enough sport in and of itself, because Tennis Arena adds all sorts of goofy things to the sport. Weird characters, exotic courts and power moves are amusing, but also undermine the realism of the game. It's a good meal for tarved tennis video game fans.
Hands down, Tennis Arena clinches the match as the gle best tennis game for the PlayStation, delivering addictive, fast-paced gameplay. Given the pathetic competition out there, though, that's not saying much.. .and Tennis Arena is far from perfect.
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Arena starts serving with singles or doubles matches, tournament play, ten fictitious players, and five fantasy courts. A nice lineup, but if Ubi Soft had laid out the cash to license some pro players and tournaments, the cool factor would've shot through the roof.
On the gameplay side, Arena drills one down the line with solid action that makes putting up with the game's quirks worthwhile. The lone exception is the two-player head-to-head doubles matches, where your incompetent CPU teammate barely even bothers to participate.
As for controls, your racket comes well-equipped with top spins, flat swings, backspins, lobs, and aftertouch. You can earn special shots that leave your opponent looking silly, and you automatically dive or smash as needed. The only problem here is serving: The button presses required to pull off a sizzling serve are unnecessarily complicated.
Arena looks sharp but a little goofy on court. The wacky-looking players move with graceful realism, and there's an interesting variety of courts and views. But the sounds need a serious restringing job. fizzling with incredibly irritating player grunts and mediocre ball effects.
Game, Set, Match
The only PlayStation tennis game worth buying. Arena may still leave gamers wishing for more. But if your imagination's good enough to pretend you're Pete Sampras, Arena's got game enough to show you a good time.
- Varying your spins is as important as varying your pitches in a baseball game--it keeps 'em guessing.
- Use special shots as soon as you earn them because they usually polish olT your opponent immediately.