Tennis
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publishers:
    • Nintendo (NES/Arcade/FDS/GB)
    • Hudson (PC88/X1)
  • Released:
    NES
    • JP 01/14/1984
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 09/01/1986
    Arcade
    • US 1984
    PC88
    • JP June 1985
    X1
    • JP 1985
    FDS
    • JP 02/21/1986
    GB
    • JP 05/29/1989
    • US August 1989
    • UK 1990
Score: 60%

This review was published on 10/01/2016.

Tennis is a sports video game developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System, NEC PC-8801, Sharp X1, Famicom Disk System, and Game Boy. It was originally released for the NES in Japan on January 14, 1984, North America on October 18, 1985, and Europe on September 1, 1986. The PC-88 version was released in June 1985 and the X1 version came out in 1985, both of which were exclusive to Japan. There was also an arcade version titled Vs. Tennis that came out sometime in 1984. After that, the Famicom Disk System version came out in Japan on February 21, 1986. Finally, the Game Boy version was released in Japan on May 29, 1989, North America in August 1989, and Europe in 1990. Nintendo published most versions of the game, but the PC-88 and X1 ports were published by Hudson Soft. Of note is that the game launched with the NES in both North America and Europe. With that all out of the way, how's the game? Well, it was decent for the time period it came out in, but it isn't so hot today.

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As its name implies, this is a tennis game. In case you don't know how real tennis works, I'll give you a quick rundown. To put it simply, tennis revolves around opposing players using rackets to hit a ball back and forth between each other. In tennis lingo, one-on-one matches are referred to as "singles" and two-on-two is "doubles." There's a net in the middle of the court separating the two players or teams. If the player or team is unable to return the ball into the opposition's side of the court, then the opposition gets a point. This continues until one side gets enough points to win the match. When you get right down to it, the basics of tennis are pretty simple, but things become considerably more complex when you take the other rules into account. You don't need to know literally everything about tennis to play this game, but it certainly helps to know a little.

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Points in tennis go from 15, to 30, to 40, and then the current game is over. If either both players or both teams get 40 points, they'll enter a "deuce," which means one side must win twice in a row to win the game. In this particular video game, there are six games per set and three sets per match. As a result of that, matches take an excruciatingly long time in this game, and there's no way to make them any shorter. The problem gets further exacerbated when you factor in deuces, which could theoretically make the matches last forever. This is also a problem in real life tennis, but designers of most modern tennis video games realized that and usually give you the option to reduce the amount of games and sets per match. That's not the case for the original Tennis on the NES, and it certainly suffers for it.

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Before beginning the game, you can select between five levels, which determine how challenging the computer controlled opponent will be. Then, at the beginning of each match, you must "serve" the ball to the other player or team. Your character will automatically throw the ball in the air with his free hand, and then you hit it with the racket as it comes down. If mistimed, you'll drop the ball and look like an idiot. After that, you control your character with the d-pad and hit the ball with the A and B buttons. The A button will do a standard shot and the B button does a lob. Naturally, the controls are different for the PC-88 and X1 versions of the game, but the same functions are still possible. Up to two human beings can play this game cooperatively in doubles, though unfortunately, you can't do a one-on-one match against another human. Also, Mario from the Super Mario Bros. series is the umpire in this game, which is neat.

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In addition to the net, all tennis courts are divided into several quadrants via thick white lines that are drawn on the ground. There are rules pertaining to these lines that all players must follow. When serving, players must hit the ball towards the opposite side's "service box" that is diagonal from where they're standing. If this isn't done correctly, then the serving player or team will get a "fault," and if they get two faults in a row, or a "double fault," the opposing side will be awarded a free point. After the ball has been served, players or teams merely have to make sure the ball lands anywhere within the white lines on the opposite side's court, but failing to do so will result in an "out." Like double faults, outs result in the opposing team or player getting a free point. Unlike most modern tennis video games, there's very little automation to your character's actions. That means you have to make sure to accurately hit the ball into the correct quadrants on the court, or else you'll lose points. This is incredibly frustrating.

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The console versions of Tennis are all fairly similar, but the Game Boy version has some pretty big differences. While the Game Boy version lacks color and has a smaller screen, the sprites are more detailed and better animated, especially Mario's. It also actually has background music, plus the title screen has a different theme. More importantly, the Game Boy version plays much better, because it's much easier to hit the ball and avoid getting faults and outs. You also have far more control over the ball, as you can angle the shots by pressing left and right on the d-pad. Additionally, there are more types of shots possible by pressing directions on the d-pad in conjunction with the buttons, like fast shots and slow shots. However, Tennis on the Game Boy lacks a doubles mode, but it does allow two players to challenge each other in a singles match. Aside from the lack of color and smaller screen, the Game Boy version is the far better package.

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It wasn't bad for its time, but Nintendo's Tennis is a hard pill to swallow today. By today's standards, this game is pretty barebones, as it's just the absolute bare essentials of tennis with no additional bells and whistles. Outside of singles and doubles, there are no additional modes of play, and besides changing the computer AI's difficulty, there are no other options. On top of all that, playing the game is rather annoying, because you'll be frequently getting outs due to the lack of automation. The Game Boy version does alleviate some of these issues, but it's still kind of mediocre.

Word Count: 1,133

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