Friday, April 27, 2018

Hot Shots Tennis (PS4, PS2) Retro Review

After what was formerly Hot Shots Golf in Everybody's Golf being reviewed yesterday, now we turn our focus to an old PlayStation 2 game turned PlayStation 4 retro release, Hot Shots Tennis!

The Hot Shots crew goes serving, swinging, and smashing for one entertaining tennis title.


For the longest time, the Hot Shots crew was limited in their taste in sports, only wanting to stick to the tees, greens, and fairways of golf. Then, in 2007, the crew branched out, if only by a little bit, jumping into a brave new world--the sport of tennis. With a colorful disposition, a cast of cute anime-styled characters, and most importantly, deep, sophisticated gameplay, Hot Shots Tennis aims to serve up an ace, and while it fails to do that, it does end up putting up a very good match.

Hot Shots Tennis comes equipped with a fair amount of single player content beyond random matches against the computer. Sure, there is that within the main solo mode where you are pitted against AI opponents in progressively more difficult ranks, but there is also some training to be had. The four training modes available help you get the basics of Hot Shots Tennis, offering up modes where you practice volleys, returns, smashes, and more. One of the goals to set for yourself is to get an "A" rank on every training challenge. Quite the challenge, indeed, as you have to survive all rounds AND earn enough points in the process.

Return shots onto each panel to score points and continue forth in training.
Outside of the training modes, there is the aforementioned solo campaign of sorts. You start off with a limited pool of characters to play with--two, in fact. As you progress in this mode, completing and winning matches, you earn new characters to play as in addition to other unlockables such as new costumes, new courts, and new umpires to call each match. 

Why play alone when you can play with a partner? That's exactly what Doubles play is for!
You start at a beginner rank, and by becoming victorious in a given number of matches, you unlock the next rank and whole new set of rivals and challenges to take on. Matches occur in both singles and doubles action, and the number of sets and games needed to win increases simultaneously with new ranks you enter. 

The dozen or so characters within Hot Shots Tennis each have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own difficulty rating. Beginner characters are the easiest to use while being at a disadvantage in that they cannot strike the tennis ball that hard. However, while Expert characters are great at striking and reaching the ball, they require excellent timing when hitting the ball in order to not mess up their shot.

Two beginners face off, with one of these two having a perfect smash shot opportunity.
This is where Hot Shots Tennis is a bit deceiving. Through its quirky characters and colorful environments lies a tennis game that isn't as simple to pick up and play as, say, Mario Tennis. No, Hot Shots Tennis demands more of the player, and in this regard, it's not optimal for casual play without some necessary practice.

What I mean by this is that Hot Shots Tennis isn't as simple as running up to the ball, pressing a button, and hitting it. Instead, there are some aspects to consider. Timing is everything in Hot Shots Tennis and so is the placement of your character. Hit the ball too early or too slowly, and the ball won't have as much power when you volley it back than if you timed your shot perfectly. What's more, being too far away from the ball upon hitting it can have dire consequences. You can unintentionally launch the ball sky high, providing your opponent an opportunity to smash the ball down your side of the court's throat, winning the point. 

A well timed button press makes for a stronger serve.
Right before you make contact with the ball, you use the left analog stick to aim on the opponent's half of the court in one of nine sectors: back left, back center, back right, left, center, right, front left, front center, and front right. With perfect timing, aiming your shots at the different sectors can really trip up your opponent. However, with poor timing, you run the risk of hitting the ball off the mark and out of bounds, having you surrender a point to your opponent simultaneously.

So, while Hot Shots Tennis isn't as accessible or beginner-friendly as a certain mustachioed plumber's tennis game, Hot Shots is a bit more rewarding in requiring its players to use both smart strategy and careful timing to really earn a win. Though that isn't to say that Mario Tennis is some sensationally simple tennis series that anyone can win at. Hot Shots Tennis delivers in satisfying courtside action that comes with a bevy of modes in both a solo setting and a multiplayer one. A lack of online hurts this game's longevity, but overall, Hot Shots Tennis serves up quite the engaging "racket" on the tennis court.

[SPC Says: B]

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