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Family Tennis - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Family Tennis

WiiWare | Arc System Works / Aksys Games | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote 
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25th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

So where's the family off to this time? In this game, Billy, Sarah, Mommy and Daddy are hitting it up on the tennis courts. Now if you were one of many who said "not another one!" when this first released, I don't blame you. You gotta hand it to Arc system Works, though, for continuing to develop and publish these games. Whether they're good or not is another matter. But in terms of this release, you may be surprised to learn that Family Tennis is quite enjoyable, and can probably be seen as the best release in the series.

    The first thing you'll notice just by reaching the Title Screen is the stronger focus on presentation. The visuals have been drastically improved, the menus look well done and it's rather impressive in comparison to previous games in the series. The Main Menu is narrated by a japanese voiceover which, admittedly, is quite odd that this wasn't replaced or taken out entirely. In any event, from here you can select four different options: Elimination Matches, Free Matches, Special Rules and an option to view an illustrated Manual. The first option is a single-player backet-style tournament where you face three different computers in matches of 3 sets. Free Matches allows you to play with up to 3 other humans or CPU's, as desired, in either Singles or Doubles games. And finally, Special Rules consists of a "Thrilling Rally" match where the first player to 100 Points wins. Much like in Dream Table Tennis from Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, if you're responsible for ruining a rally, the other person gains points depending on the number of times you bounced the ball back and forth.

You can play on four different courts: Beach, Forest Park, Amusement Park, and Stadium. Although most Family releases have usually used 3 main environments which repeat throughout the releases, it's nice to see a new setting for once. The music isn't all new, and most of them have been heard before from previous releases with the exception of one. The song for Forest Park is still quite annoying, but some of the other songs used for the Beach and Stadium levels are kind of nice. The usual four characters are also here and once again, you can't change the name of the characters like you could in Family Pirate Party.

    So how does the game work? Controls are mapped to just the Wii Remote, and mostly consist of swings and the occasional button press. To begin, you'll need to serve the ball by pressing Left/Right to choose a starting point, then press A or swing upwards with your controller. Then, as it's airborne, a light circle will appear around it and get closer as it approaches the ideal serving position. Once you do this, get ready for a fast-paced gameplay experience. Performing well-executed swings will volley the ball back to your opponent. Timing is everything, so the direction it travels depends not only on the direction of your swing, but also when you swing. If you swing too early or late, your character will try diving for the ball and fall flat on their face. You'll need to swing the Wii Remote repeatedly to recover from it since it'll leave you susceptible to a smash attack. Smash attacks require good timing but they are very gratifying to pull off during a tense match. Because of the way the timing window is, controls make take a while to get used to. Expect to be falling on your face quite a bit at the beginning.

Controls are sufficient enough for you to enjoy the experience, but not accurate as if it were making use of 'Wii MotionPlus'. Lobs can be tricky to execute at first, but after some practice of swinging your Wii Remote in an upwards motion, you'll get the hang of it. Buttons on the D-Pad can also be used to control your on-screen character, but not necessarily in the way you may like. Although movement is controlled automatically, you can press Up/Down on the D-Pad to take an offensive/defensive stance by moving closer or further away from the net, respectively. Additionally, when your opponent is about to make a swig, you can press Left/Right to predict the direction where the ball will travel and if you're correct, you'll move a bit faster than usual. Had the game included Nunchuk support for added control, Family Tennis would have been an even better game but for casual gamers, it's still quite good.

    As you carry on a rally and make nice plays, the gauge near the top corner of the screen will fill up with energy and once it's full, you'll be granted a Super Shot ability. This special action can be used offensively or defensively and just like in NPC! Mario Power Tennis, it depends on when you use it. You can hold up to a max of 3 specials in the gauge. To execute it, simply hold A while swinging. The animations are rather humorous, particularly when using an offensive special. The resulting effects can be very devestating, knocking out any opponents on the other side of the net with a powerful impact. You have the ability to use an ability as a defensive counter to hit the ball before it lands. Doing so may cause you to fly really high into the air, catching your opponents off guard. 

Pressing the Minus button will bring up the Pause Menu. Here you can even toggle between third-person and first-person views. As if the game wasn't already challenging, the first-person camera is quite good and makes things even more exciting. Furthermore, playing doubles with computers can result in some pretty intense matches. Because the CPU is quite good, players will have to respond with quick reflexes at times or prepare to be hit by powerful smashes. Overall, the fast-paced gameplay results in a really involved tennis game that requires quick thinking along with some strategy as well.

    If you enjoy tennis games and want to be challenged, give Family Tennis a try. Don't let the exterior visuals put you off because here lies a fast-paced tennis experience that's sure to keep you on your toes. Presentation is great, the game recognizes your motions pretty well, and it's fun even when playing on your own. Although Nunchuk support would have been nice to have and the timing window can be tricky at times, Family Tennis still carries a good level of value for only $5.

23/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Timing window takes a while to get used to, Super Shots can produce funny results, fast-paced action, fun and quite challenging
Presentation 8/10 - Easily the best-looking of all the Family releases, nice menu's, could do without the JP narration, colourful, good first-person view
Enjoyment 4/5 - Tense action, Doubles with CPU's especially requires you to pay close attention, not just for young gamers, enjoyable even on your own
Extra Content 4/5 - Different stages and songs to choose from, three different gameplay modes, pretty good for only $5

Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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Family Tennis
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