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Top Players' Tennis & Racket Attack (NES)

Posted: February 9th, 2015, 12:19 pm
by goldenband1
Just finished Top Players' Tennis and have started up with Racket Attack. Both are NES tennis games, and have a fair bit in common, e.g.:
  • both have weird player movement that feels like you're on ice
  • both mainly use the timing of the swing, rather than the D-pad, to direct your shots
  • both offer male and female players
  • both use speech samples
And so on.

Top Players' Tennis has a far worse case of the "cow on ice" syndrome, though -- the movement in that game is just bizarre, and literally feels like an ice level in a platformer. The groundstroke controls have some nice nuances with slice and topspin, but the serving controls are a wreck, and the "miracle" shots cheapen the game.

TPT also has something I can't stand in tennis games: constant let cords (shots hitting the edge of the net) that dribble over and are almost impossible to retrieve. Sometimes the CPU was hitting these on literally every point, and made the game feel like an utter chore. Since you have to swing early to direct the ball where you want, you're often in the position of starting your swing, seeing the ball hit the let cord and dribble over to your side, and being helpless to do anything about it because your player moves like a drunken tobogganer and the game won't let you swing again for a couple seconds anyway.

Worse yet, the career mode in Top Players' Tennis deliberately wastes the player's time. I'm not kidding! Here's how:

Your goal is to win all four Grand Slam events, but your ranking isn't high enough at first to qualify, so you have to play the Asmik Open until you get your ranking up. That's fine -- I simply won the tournament twice in a row, and qualified quickly.

But then the game starts you at the French Open, which is the second Slam event of the year. OK, so I won the French, Wimbledon, the US Open, and now the Australian, and I'm #1 in the world...that should do it, right?

...wait, I'm not done?

Nope, because it turns out that the game wants you to win all four Slam events in a calendar year. That would be fine, since that's what a Grand Slam is -- except that the process of qualifying apparently forces you to miss the Australian Open in the first year. So my victories in the French, Wimbledon, and US Open were all for naught and had to be replayed. It's such a stupid design!

Racket Attack is a much more bare-bones game, but I think it's somewhat the better of the two. The game feels a bit ponderous, but the ball-striking has a nice, strategic quality to it. When I played through it last year, only on the final opponent did I start to see the constant let-cord BS that plagues TPT (and way too many other tennis games).

Still, when you get down to it, none of the US NES tennis games are really any good, and the unlicensed and PAL games aren't either.

The best tennis game I've played on the NES is a semi-obscure Famicom exclusive called Family Tennis. That's how a tennis game should be done: solid controls, players based on thinly-disguised 1980s pros who actually play like their real-life counterparts (Navratilova can hit sick volleys), and a lack of game-breaking nonsense. If the VGC ever gets into reviewing NES tennis games, be sure to put that one in the mix.