Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grand Slam Tennis (Wii) Review

Wii MotionPlus reached North American shores on June 6th, and with it, three games came compatible-- none of which were Nintendo-developed. This is the first review with the second MotionPlus game planned to be reviewed for Friday.

Wham, Slam, Thank You, Ma'am.

This month, motion controls have been all the buzz in the industry with Sony's 1:1 wand and Microsoft's impressive full-body motion Project Natal technology. While those companies are still unveiling their respective technologies for later, Nintendo is here with the MotionPlus peripheral for Wii to say that the future is now. Oddly enough the first three titles compatible with MotionPlus aren't developed by Nintendo at all. Virtua Tennis 2009 from SEGA, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, and our focus, Grand Slam Tennis from Electronic Arts. Does Grand Slam Tennis get the swing of things, or has it committed a double-fault?

You can play Grand Slam Tennis with or without Wii MotionPlus and with or without the nunchuk. Without the nunchuk the game moves your character around for you-- perfect for beginners or those still learning the nuances of the game. You can still press the d-pad on the Wii remote to move away or towards the net and left or right. Without MotionPlus, the game plays similar to that little old game you may or may not have played-- tennis on Wii Sports. With a short swing you can pull off a flat shot, swing to high-to-low for a slice, and swing low-to-high for a topspin. There's still button input, however, when it comes to lobs and drops. These are performed by pressing A or B respectively when acting out a shot. However, the real fun and precision comes when you hook up Wii MotionPlus.

A-Almost there..!!

It's a night and day difference really. Just by testing out the tennis ball machine, you can hit as many shots at as fast or as slow of a pace as you desire. You can see balls fading and drawing to the timing of your swings. The game calls for smooth motions as opposed to rough and heavy swings. From the simplicity of the controls without MotionPlus, you can now see that the game pinpoints your shots on how you hold your Wii remote. You can perform forehands and backhands with near-perfect precision. Hit the ball at an angle, and it will go left or right. Hit the ball straight on with the Wii remote and it'll get shot straight ahead. It's a wonderful system, but it's not without its eccentricities or demand for practice. The learning curve is relatively high especially since there is no training mode to speak of for whatever bizarre reason, but once you nail the controls, the experience is sensational.

Locked and ready to go.

You can create your own rising tennis star with the semi-customizable create-a-player mode. From eyes to hair, from wardrobe to rackets, this player is your avatar for many of the game's modes such Grand Slam Tennis' own single-player mode for those wanting to test their skills before playing against a human opponent. The Grand Slam mode has you taking on various fun challenges such as one-on-one matches, doubles matches, and quirky mini-games as you earn tennis pros old and new from the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Serena Williams, Pete Sampras, and John McEnroe. Your created clobber can earn stars from victories against the pros. What these stars actually do is never explained, but it seems to be a skill level of sorts. You can also learn moves from the pros such as Serena Williams' backhand or Roger Federer's dive. These will help you as you move on to the Grand Slam tournaments. Speaking of which, once you complete enough mini-missions, you'll be able to play in that tennis stadium's tournament. There's four in all: the U.S., French, Australian Opens, and the grand-daddy of them all, Wimbledon.

Each venue has multiple courts to play on.

If the single-player mode has you burnt out, perhaps you'd enjoy the company of a human opponent instead? Obviously you can play locally where there's a tremendous amount of party games such as one where the player or players with the most points at the end of the time limit wins. Regardless, the online mode is fantastic, too. You can find a player in a matter of seconds to maybe a minute's time. A buddy can join you on the same machine for some doubles action as well. Both singles and doubles matches are relatively lag free unlike past tennis efforts on the same and other consoles. Adding friends is a breeze, too. All you need to do is enter the name of a friend, have a friend already added on your Wii friends list, or add a friend automatically after a match. I've made a lot of new friendly rivals this way. It's this hassle-free online system for Wii that you really have to commend EA for. It's fast, simple, and makes for a fun online experience.

Playing against strangers online can be ranked or unranked. Ranked matches can only be played if you have an EA account which you can sign up for on your Wii. You'll then earn a worldwide rank and nation rank to compare your skills with the world. There's even a contest that pits countries against one another. If someone from England beats someone from the U.S., that person earns a point for their nation. It's a really cool idea that's enjoyable in execution.

"You've gotta be kidding me!"

Visually, Grand Slam Tennis has a very distinct look to it, and it's a pleasing one, too. The best Wii games don't go with an ultra-realistic look but a stylized look to them. Everything runs at a smooth speed include the players who are animated splendidly. It's very cool to see how your player reacts to how you hold the Wii remote with MotionPlus attached. Rolling the Wii remote within your hands will make your player roll the tennis racket the same way. It's a very cool touch. Meanwhile, sound-wise the commentary pops up in-between serves, and it's pretty much superfluous and dry.

The satisfaction one gets from playing Grand Slam Tennis depends on a few things. 1) If one has Wii MotionPlus since it's leagues better than without, 2) If one has enough patience to stick with the game in order to get past the high learning curve, and 3) If one has online access or friends nearby as the game is a little light on single-player content. Otherwise, Virtua Tennis 2009 may be a better option for you or your budding Wii tennis pro.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.75/10]

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