Hot Shots Tennis Review (PS2)
If you took a poll of avid Sports Gamers and asked them for their “sleeper” franchise on the market today you would, likely, be bombarded with a slew of different answers. From one hit wonders to small development games, PC exclusives to text-based sims, the list would be as diverse as the industry itself. One name that is sure to come up in the conversation, especially from a lot the folks here at Operation Sports, is the long running Hot Shots Golf series from Japanese developer Clap Hanz. The team behind Hot Shots Golf, who will release Hot Shots Golf 5 on the PS3 in a few weeks, has decided to take another dip into the sports gaming market with the release of Hot Shots Tennis. Like its big brother, Hot Shots Tennis is a unique animal in the sports gaming jungle. On the surface and in the beginning, it looks like a fun, pick up and play arcade game, but once you start to unearth the layers, you find a surprisingly deep and challenging gaming experience worthy of all the praise it receives.
When you fire up Hot Shots Tennis for the first time and are greeted with the big-eyed, pseudo anime and almost “Mario-esque” environments the natural tendency is to think you’re diving into a kid’s game. However, from the first few moments of play you’ll find that while the learning curve is not as steep as some other games, this is a challenging tennis game and should not be judged by the cartoonish characters that inhabit it.
During gameplay the left analog is used in conjunction with the button of your choice (based on shot type) to create a very solid shot system that is as good as any on the market. The mechanics of the game are spot on and you really feel like the style of swing with the shot that you choose actually mean something when you are playing. And this is after just a few minutes with the title. You’ll feel immediately immersed in the gameplay and not like you are being sold a package at the expense of a solid game of tennis.
While there are a few modes of play to offer, your greatest single player fun with come in the Hot Shots Challenge, which is Hot Shots Tennis’ version of a Campaign or Career Mode. Not a campaign mode in the traditional sense in that you never really improve your player, you simply move through different matches and challenges unlocking items along the way. The important thing to remember in the Hot Shots Challenge is that, well, it’s actually a challenge. Don’t be fooled by the cutesy look and easy controls, some of these AI opponents will stomp you into the ground. The AI plays smart and logical tennis, in most cases, and will provide hours of entertainment within this mode alone.
While multiplayer action is naturally available for gamers on the same system, unfortunately there is no online mode available in Hot Shots Tennis. While it is a glaring omission in this day and age of sports gaming, it is no major shock with a title dropping on PS2 only.
The look of the game, as mentioned earlier, is intentionally cartoon-like and moves in a style that has become a signature look for the Hot Shots games. The environments are colorful and fun and add a lot to the fun feel of the game. The sounds, on the other hand, are really insignificant to the overall gaming experience, really adding nothing, or taking anything away, from the quality of the title.
Being a fan of the Hot Shots Golf series, I guess should not have been surprised about how much I enjoyed Hot Shots Tennis. With the golf franchise making the jump to PS3 this fall, I would love to see the new tennis series follow suit. Hot Shots Tennis is as fun and challenging as you want it to be. The level of challenge and excitement is left largely in the hands of the one who wields the controller and, most importantly, the fun factor, an element missing all too often these days, is there from the beginning.