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Kimberley Ellis
30 Sep, 2008

Smash Court Tennis 3 Review

360 Review | This one might need a re-string.
Whether its the rapid-fire arcadey action of Virtua Tennis 3 or the realism of Top Spin 3, tennis games have become an annual occurrence in the sport game genre in recent years. With both Virtua Tennis 3 and Top Spin 3 offering up solid gameplay efforts in both the arcade and simulation gameplay stakes, is there space for Smash Court Tennis 3 on the crowded tennis game shelf?

When packaging a good sports game, there are a number of crucial elements that need to be addressed. Firstly, there needs to be multiple modes of play and a deep set of features to keep players interested in the long term. Fortunately, Smash Court Tennis 3 has it in spades. In addition to the stock Tutorial and Exhibition modes, there is an Arcade mode which lets players try their luck at winning each of the game's fictional tournaments (either in singles or doubles) and the Pro Tour (which serves as the game's career mode).

For those players looking to partner up with a buddy, there are several options for offline and online multiplayer, which can both be played with up to four people. The game also allows you and a friend to play together on your console to take on two players online. Lobby traffic ebbs and flows depending on the time of day that you are online, but we never had any connection or lag issues during our experience with the multiplayer aspect of the title.

Like with previous Smash Court Tennis offerings, this version comes complete with a number of real world tennis stars (sixteen in all) including the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, James Blake, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, and Martina Hingis. While the lack of official licensing means that you won't be able to play on the actual courts of the WTP tour, many of the fifteen international venues bear a striking resemblance to their real life counterparts, such as Wimbledon and Rod Laver Arena. If you've ever been to a real-life tennis match, you'll be astounded at how close Smash Court Tennis 3 gets to capturing the atmosphere. The noise of the crowds, the judges indescipherable calls, and ball boys scuttling around are just some of the pretty visuals that will greet you on screen. Sadly, the character models and player animations take away some of the sheen from the rest of the game's presentation. Player animations can seem very stiff at times, while the static textures on player's clothing take away from the other graphically rich elements that make up this package, making players look visually bland as they run up and down the court.

Play as some of tennis' top players.

Play as some of tennis' top players.
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Character creation is nothing new to the sports genre, and Smash Court Tennis 3 also brings that feature to the table. The character creation system of Smash Court is quite impressive as you can literally tweak every facial feature and body part with ease. As you play through the game, you will unlock more clothing and accessories to kit out your creations, meaning that you've got a good chance of creating a character with individual style as you work your way up the tennis rankings.

Once you have created your character, it's time to hit the professional tour circuit of Pro Tour mode. Paralleling the real world of the professional tennis circuit, you will start out as a promising nobody as you vie to become the new big thing in tennis. To progress through the ranks, you'll need to juggle a number of commitments such as completing the training exercises to boost your game, competing in tournaments to climb up the rankings, taking part in charity events in order to boost your popularity (which helps when you want to attract sponsors), and finding a compatible doubles partner to team up with.

Your career is presented in a diary format with players given the option of choosing one task per week – practice, enter a tournament, enter a sponsor challenge (in order to win an endorsement), find a doubles partner, etc. If your stamina is running low, you can skip a few activities to take a break from the grind in order to get yourself fresh for the next tournament. As your player's agility and strength directly relate to their stamina level, picking an opportune time to rest is critical in order to get the maximum potential out of your player.

Career mode's emphasis is to level up your player’s attributes so that you can tweak your game in order to be the best player that the tennis world has to offer. To do this, you must gain experience points through competing in events or training activities. These points can then be used in leveling up different aspects of your game (stronger strokes, powerful shots, better on-court foot speed, etc.). Alongside collecting XP, players will also win prize money for their efforts which can be used to unlock items such as clothing, equipment and new hairstyles to deck out your character in the latest gear. While most of the items are merely cosmetic, some of them (wristbands, shoes, and racquets) can boost your character's performance in specific areas. This allows them to have greater speed, ball control or shot power - all of which become very important boosters as you progress through the title.

No broken strings here.

No broken strings here.
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Pro Tour mode is quite deep as it contains a number of RPG elements. Factor in the never ending amount of fan mail, invitational events and, once you have created your character, you are ready for Pro Tour mode, which throws you into the brutal, unforgiving hell-on-Earth that is the professional tennis circuit. You start out as a low ranking nobody, and it is up to you to not only become the greatest player in the world, but the most popular as well. To do this, you will complete training exercises, compete in tournaments, take part in charity events to boost your image, and even find a swinging soul mate through the doubles partner challenge option (beat any player on the tour in a best of five-point game, and they'll be your doubles partner).

Your career is presented in calendar form and unfolds in yearly intervals. Each week you have the option of performing one task – practice, enter a tournament, enter a sponsor challenge and attempt to win that sponsors endorsement, etc. If your fatigue meter is running low, you can simply skip a week or two to recover. Since your agility and strength on the court directly relate to your fatigue level, knowing when to rest can be the difference between winning and losing.

Speed is the key to winning those tough points.

Speed is the key to winning those tough points.
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While Smash Court Tennis 3 is gorgeous to look at and backs it up with some deep gameplay options, there are a number of glaring issues which take some of the shine away from the game. The most serious control issue with the game is the left thumbstick. While other tennis games have generally managed to balance this issue quite well, Smash Court turns the act of aiming your shot to frustrating new levels. Most players will find themselves hitting shots that fly way out of bounds - all because you held the thumbstick for a fraction too long, which ultimately will lead to you playing conservative tennis in order to just keep the ball inside the lines. The hitting system also comes with its share of niggles as you'll find yourself watching your player stand still because the game couldn't process your simultaneous movements of the face button and the thumbstick, or the weird lunge movement that your player sometimes performs due to the slightly awkward animation system, leaving you baffled as to how your player could miss such an easy shot. The tendency towards overpowering the serve and volley combination is also another aspect of the game that needed to be tweaked as it eventually leads players towards engaging in cheap strategies in order to win. While all of these issues seem like minor gripes with the game, after a few hours they become frustratingly major issues which ultimately take away from your enjoyment of the title.

"I've got it... no I don't"

"I've got it... no I don't"
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Despite some frustrating control issues, Smash Court Tennis 3 is a robust tennis title which provides many hours of involving gameplay via the Pro Tour mode. If, that is, you can manage to not be annoyed by its many gripes to keep playing it longer than a couple of hours.
The Score
Ultimately, the deep and engaging Pro Tour mode of Smash Court Tennis 3 can't win out over inconsistant controls and a flawed gameplay design. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Smash Court Tennis 3 Content

Smash Court Tennis coming to the Xbox 360
13 Sep, 2007 More tennis games on the way.
Smash Court Tennis 3 Review
25 Jun, 2007 The ball's in your court.
Smash Court Tennis 3 announced
04 Mar, 2007 Sounds ace.
1 Comment
5 years ago
I bought that game despite some bad reviews... and I don't see the problems mentioned here.

The controls are tight, I'm constantly on edge to get it right and it works fine. Aiming my shots? NOT a problem when you finished the tutorial.

It's better than Top Spin 3, which dropped the ball badly.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  5/9/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $79.95 AU
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  4

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