Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Family Tennis SP (Wii U eShop) Review

Arc System Works has been localizing a lot of Shin'en Multimedia's games in Japan. It only makes sense that Shin'en returns the favor by bringing an Arc System Works-developed game to the west. The first title to come to our side of the world is Family Tennis SP for the Wii U eShop. 

How many similar trips to the tennis court can one family take?

The very first Family Tennis game was released on Nintendo's WiiWare service, and it offered eight characters to play as in addition to local multiplayer play. The Nintendo 3DS would receive its own version of the game later on with Family Tennis 3D. While that game axed multiplayer play, it had everything else that made the original Family Tennis appealing and accessible. Now, another entry in the Family Tennis series has arrived, and this time the family are taking it to the tennis court on the Nintendo Wii U eShop. As a higher res version of the WiiWare game, Family Tennis SP is a hard sell for those who have already played a past version of the series.

Family Tennis SP shows that tennis is all in the family. There are eight characters to choose from, all from the same family, each with their own stats and special skill shot. The latter is available to use after a gauge fills during routine play in a given round of tennis. Depending on the character, these can result in a hardcore smash of a volley deep down the figurative throat of the opposing side, or use special tricks to make it hard to hit the ball back, such as creating two copycat tennis balls on top of the real one to try to trick the other side. 

You can choose from one of many
camera views mid-game.
The main single player mode in Family Tennis SP is Tournament mode, which offers three difficulties to select from. However, the Pro difficulty, the hardest of the three difficulties available, is the only way to unlock character celebration art in the gallery menu. The AI is very smart, or maybe they can just read your mind, as the AI generally can get to whatever ball you strike at them. Though playing up at the front of the net and hitting the ball from there can usually score an easy point, pending the AI doesn't hit the ball too fast or over your character's head. 

Outside of the single player-focused mode, there is the Free Play mode, which surprisingly enough allows for exhibition-style matches for up to two players in local multiplayer only singles or up to four players in doubles action. You can utilize the Wii U GamePad, the Pro Controller, the Wii Remote by itself, or the Wii Remote and Nunchuk pairing to play. Curiously enough, when playing alone in Free Play, there is no way to select the difficulty of your AI opponent or opponents. This means if your first ever match in the game is in Free Play, you might get the wrong impression of the standard difficulty of the game.

When singles play is just too lonely,
get some friends for some doubles action!
You also cannot choose the difficulty of your opponents in the three mini-games that come with Family Tennis SP. If you've played the original WiiWare Family Tennis or the Nintendo 3DS incarnation, then you should be familiar with the mini-games present. One has you against another opponent, both trying to aim the ball onto different colored point panels on both sides of the court. As the ball bounced onto these point panels, the amount of points the winning side of the rally gets increases. Then there's a simple rally mode where both players hit the ball back and forth with the point value increasing each time it is done. The winning side of the rally earns the amount of points accumulated for that rally. Lastly, there's a survivor mini-game that puts you up against an infinite amount of opponents one after the other until you lose. These mini-games were short-lived in Family Tennis 3D due to the lack of multiplayer, but thanks to SP, these three mini-games are great diversions that can last for a good while.

My favorite of the three mini-games available.
The core of Family Tennis SP's gameplay is based off of accessibility. Family Tennis SP is easy to pick up and play with simple controls. With the Wii U GamePad and Pro Controller, each of the controllers' face buttons serve as a different type of shot: topspin, slice, lob, and drop shot. With the Wii Remote, the 1 and 2 buttons do the topspin and slice while holding up or down while hitting a button does the lob and drop shots. 

When a ball is hit towards a player, if they're too far away from the ball when they hit it, they'll lunge for it and fall to the ground. This opens up a chance for the opposing side to run under the target marker on the court where the ball is going to fall and perform a nasty smash shot that is pretty much impossible to return, as characters take a while to pick themselves up from a fall.

Cuz serves 'cuz it's his time to do so.
Although simple to learn, playing Family Tennis SP with a degree of mastery is quite challenging. You need to read your opponent, have a competent amount of reaction time to move to where the ball is being hit, and always be thinking ahead to try to catch your opponent off guard. This is doubly important for skilled human and AI opponents.

Family Tennis SP is an updated version of the WiiWare original, offering HD visuals instead of the standard definition that the original possessed. The game's visuals are attractive enough, but they don't do much to get a lot out of the Wii U. Thankfully, there is no slowdown to speak of, as the relatively weak graphics wouldn't require a lot of the Wii U's hardware to begin with. Voice work outside of the chair umpire is untranslated, and even the umpire's lingo is a bit off-kilt. For instance, every point that decides the set is called a "Match Point" when it should just be a "Game Point". Only the game-winning point should be called "Match Point".

There are four courts with various
speeds and heights the ball bounces.
However, the biggest problem with Family Tennis SP is that it is so darned similar to both Family Tennis on WiiWare and Family Tennis 3D on Nintendo 3DS. That's because they are essentially the same game. In the case of the 3DS version, there are two courts in that game that are not present in SP. Otherwise, Family Tennis SP is just an HD version of the WiiWare game. If you already own the WiiWare game, there isn't much reason to upgrade to the HD remastering in the form of Family Tennis SP. For those new to the series, there is no better entry point than SP, and no better introduction to a cutesy yet competent tennis game with Family Tennis SP.

[SPC Says: 6.75/10]

Review copy provided by Shin'en Multimedia.

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