DSiWare | Virtual Toys | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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28th April 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
From the Main Menu, you can access a couple gameplay selections, including Quick Match, Career Mode, Tennis School, and Options. First-time players should hit the books in Tennis School before moving right into the game. In this mode, you'll learn how to perform traditional tennis moves, including lobs, drop shots and slices. Depending on what controls you have selected in the Options menu, the game will tailor the instructions to either stylus or button play. Either way, after about 5 or 10 minutes, you'll gain enough footing to take on the computer opponents.
The D-Pad/button layout is pretty easy to get used to. Naturally, the D-Pad is used to control your on-screen character, and pressing the A Button will rally the ball with a forehand shot. Lobs require the press of the X Button, and drop shots are performed when you hold Down as you press the A Button. Smash shots are executed automatically by pressing the A Button at the right time when you're in the right spot. Special strokes are very risky, and they have a high chance of not making it above the net. Pressing the Y Button will execute this action, but it will take some time before you understand how and when to use it. Dives are also very tricky as they require a bit more planning and prediction on the part of the player. But because the game doesn't feature a button that will allow you to dive on demand, some players may or may not be annoyed with this. Otherwise, the control scheme works great.
While button control feels natural, stylus controls, on the other hand, require more practice. To serve the ball, you'll need to drag your stylus towards the server's side of the court, hold, and release as the power meter rises to the top. Movement requires you to tap areas on the field, causing your character to move to a designated spot. To swing your racket, you simply draw a line on the Touch Screen as the ball approaches you. The direction you swing and the length of the line will determine where and how far the ball goes. To perform a lob, you either press Up on the D-Pad or press X as soon as your line is drawn. Special shots work the same way, just with the press of the Y button. Drop shots are done by drawing a line from the net to the bottom of the touch screen. Even using these controls, the game recognizes your shots pretty well, but most will likely opt for traditional controls instead.
Career Mode is the main mode of choice, whereby players climb the leaderboards to become the #1 tennis player in the world. At the start of the game, you can customize the look of your own personalized character, you can assign him/her a name. Not only can you switch between male and female, but you can also choose from an assortment of options for the head, body and legs. Once you're all done, you'll make your way to the main career menu.
From here, you can access the 'Status' option to improve personal attributes such as smash power, agility, and more. You'll need to earn credits by completing tournaments so you can assign these to the skill that you'd like to improve. After unlocking accessories and new rackets, you can change your wardrobe via the Equipment option. Winnings that you've accumulated during matches will enable you to purchase new items in the Store. Players can also view trophies they've earned under the 'Prizes' option.
Selecting the Play option will bring up a map displaying open tournaments that you can sign up for. Before entering, you'll be de-briefed on the type of match (i.e., Singles or Doubles), the amount of prize money you can win, and the length. As these are tournaments, you'll need to face-off against multiple opponents before you can win the overall bracket. In between match-ups, though, you can save your game and choose to continue playing, or quit if you need to take a break. This in itself is a nice feature as it doesn't put pressure on you to play a long gaming session when you're really not in the mood for something that lasts more than a few minutes.
'Quick Match' is the second game mode, and it plays exactly how it sounds. Simply choose game settings, the player you'd like to use, the court you'd like to play on, and away you go! Difficulty settings range from Easy to Hard and for the most part, the AI does reflect each difficulty style well. Although Hard should not be confused with something for a Master of the game, the opponents do put up a good fight. There are a few instances, though, where they'll just stand in place instead of going after the ball, and this takes away from the experience a tad.
Players can select either the tennis player they created in Career Mode, or, choose from a series of pre-set male and female character models. There are 17 courts to choose from, each with their own court type (such as Clay or Grass). Your selection will vary depending on what you've unlocked under Career Mode, so there is some motivation to unlock them all. If you don't care about any of the game settings and just want to play as quickly as possible, the 'Auto' function at the bottom of the touch screen will start a random match for you.
For a $5 game, VT Tennis looks pretty good. Some of the models may appear rough at times, but the backgrounds have a fair amount of detail and colour in them. When a ball hits the ground, a circular mark is left on the ground for a short time, adding to the realism of this title. The music on the Main Menu is decent but beyond this, there's no music in the game to be seen. During gameplay, you'll only hear the occasional cheers of the audience, and, of course, the noises the tennis rackets make after hitting the ball. As such, the action may not seem as exciting to some, so it's too bad that music wasn't included here.
During my playthrough of the game, I encountered a technical issue that caused my system to freeze. After loading my profile, I chose to 'Continue' where I left off during a tournament match I last played. Pressing this button caused the music to continually go on a shortened loop and the screen stopped loading, preventing me from moving forward. It's something that can be fixed, for sure, but if you've made a significant amount of progress in the game when this happens, then you'll find this to be frustrating. This seems more like a rare occurrence, but it's important that potential buyers are made aware of this nonetheless.
In a way, VT Tennis almost reminds me of Pro-Putt Domo in that it also serves as a good example of what the bar should be for future DSiWare games of a similar nature. I'm looking forward to seeing a multiplayer tennis game on DSiWare but for now, VT Tennis does a good job without it. While stylus controls take some time to get used to, the game as a whole controls well and it has a nice look to it as well. It's not a golden release or anything, but players who consider themselves to be fans of tennis will likely find this enjoyable.
22/30 - Good
Gameplay 8/10 - D-Pad controls work great, special shots and dives take a bit of getting used to, stylus controls require more patience
Presentation 7/10 - Decent textures, lacks music during gameplay, character models look a bit rough up close
Enjoyment 4/5 - The hardest CPU difficulty can be quite gripping, Doubles mode can be quite fun, AI sometimes lacks intelligence
Extra Content 3/5 - Entirely a single-player affair (no multiplayer), customization, lots to do in Career, good value for only $5
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)