Review by yannzoo

"The real tennis for everyone..."

I am a real tennis game fan, that's why I played with almost every tennis game released on earth since Pong! I also teach tennis, so my point of view can be a little technical.

This game is the 6th episode of the Smash Court Serie that began on Turbografx in 1987. This series was placed under the idea of fun, that's why the characters had this ''carton'' style.
However, this episode appears radically different, because a realistic style is used.
Then, was it a good choice? In my opinion, Smash Court series' fans might be disappointed, but it was a good choice to target a larger audience.

Let's go to the detailed description:

The first flaw of this game, as it is compared to beautiful tennis games like Sega Sport Tennis 2/Virtua Tennis 2. Indeed, graphics lack colors which make them be not very attractive. Moreover, the face of some characters is not exactly the same as the real one. Nevertheless, graphics are very detailed and once we get used to them, we like them because of their special style.

This game is very fast, and the gesture of the players is simply wonderful! Not only are the movements beautiful and realistic, there are also the real ones, that is to say that Sampras rises his heel as serving...

Some pieces of music are cool (I will let you discover why), which is a rather seldom fact in a tennis game. Both audience and ball sounds are good, the sound of the ball being different if you hit well or not.

I want to insist on something : tennis is based on the control of the geometry of the court, that's why playing angle shots (short or long shots going diagonally) is so important.
Unfortunately, some recent tennis games (like Sega Sport Tennis 2K2) really lack angle shots and this is a huge mistake. I don't say that you cannot make angle angle shots in these games, but for instance in SST2K2, you have to prepare your shot in order to make an angle shot, which is totally false in real tennis! I understand that this is an attempt to make the gameplay easier, but the consequence is a lack of realism and variety. Though I like SST2K2, this element makes the game superficial for tennis fans.
Thus, Smash Court PT gives the possibility of wide angle shots, so you won't be obliged to hit shots always down the line. That's great, and the gameplay is also great, very precise since you have to find the good timing to hit a ''nice'' shot. To sum up, the best timing the best shot that is shown by a ''nice'' when you hit.
Moreover, you can improve your level of playing a lot, so there is a lot to learn. I add that all types of shots are possible using 3 buttons, lift, slice, drop shot(button+backward) and lob(button+forward). After a good shot that your opponent almost missed, a target appears at your side to help you to find the best position in order to smash.
Nevertheless, to make the gameplay easier, only the serve can often be out without practice, so in rallies, the ball is almost always in. It's a pity that there is no option to choose wether or not you can make faults.
Finally the AI is rather good, since Agassi prefers staying on the baseline and Rafter always rushes to the net.

There is a lot to do in this game: Arcade mode, Pro Tournament Mode, Exhibition, Time Attack, Challenge and a trophy room to see everything you did and won in the game (the records are very detailed).
The pro Tournament mode is a little disappointing because there is no ranking, and only the 4 main tournaments (you earn points to buy secrets). But grand slams tournaments like Wimbledon are the most important, and the same idea is given by the list of characters, only 8 (more can be unlocked). Thus great players are available, and this is a fantastic pleasure to see Agassi, Sampras and Kournikova in a single game!!!
Challenge mode consists in mini games where you try to have the best score.
For real tennis lovers, you can choose the number of games AND SETS (up to 5) and play with a male against a female.

As a conclusion, Smash Court Pro Tournament is one of the best tennis games I've ever seen. Even though its graphics don't attract a lot, its gameplay is fantastic. Thus, if you like tennis, you can be sure that you will love this game and that you will play with your friends for a long time!

PS: Just a short look in comparison with other Playstation 2 tennis games.

Climax Tennis (WTA Tennis 2 in Japan):
The official license provides many real players but I precise that there are of course only female players
Good graphics, sound, good modes (complete tour mode) but the gameplay, trying to be realistic, is bad and not comfortable. So, Climax is really slow, and unfortunately really bad (the AI is awful)! 4/10

Hard Hitter 2 (Japan):
Good Graphics, Good animation, strange sound (hitting hard sounds like an explosion) and rather good gameplay (with a system of charge and target). Moreover, the tour mode lets you create and improve your player. An interesting game, without real players, and I have to insist on the difficulty, because this game can be amazingly hard! 7/10

Upcoming Sega Sport Tennis 2K2:
(If the game is the same as the Dreamcast version which is likely to happen).
Magnificent graphics and animation, good sound, interesting modes but the Tour mode is a little incomplete concerning the ranking system and the tournament system. The gameplay is very good, but superficial and far from realism. 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/21/02, Updated 03/21/02

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