Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
I. Lender? J. McKin? Do these names sound familiar? Well, Tennis Ace incorporates them in its comprehensive attempt to emulate the fast-paced sport, and (just for good measure) gives you bags of options, realistic ball movement and occasional flashes of humour (bring back Des Lynam, I say).
Every possible permutation of two players and computer opponents has been included; you can play solo against the computer or against a friend; or you can play with a friend in a doubles match against two simulated opponents; or with a computer partner against a friend and his partner... in fact, it's this flexibility which makes the action enjoyable. In one-player mode alone it would die an early death.
There are four basic types of game: training (which helps to hone your skill level). Open Tournament (against another human player), Exhibition match (so you can show off your talent) and Grandslam Tournament, where you face the big boys (and girls). On top of this, there are three types of court surface to play on - clay (high bounce), grass (limited rebound) and hard court (high and wide bounce) - all of which do play significantly differently.
The action is presented from overhead, the court scrolling to accommodate shots travelling beyond the lines. Serving is different, however; it's a '3D' side-on view which switches to overhead once the ball has been struck. Many different types of shot are available, including lobs, drop shots, volleys and smashes, all of which help to spice up the action, which doesn't (and maybe should) move along at a heart-stopping pace.
The one major niggle is the amount of time it takes the program between points. You have to wait at least fifteen seconds: this may not sound so bad, and for the first few games it isn't, but when you're playing three sets (particularly against the computer) it gets on your nerves.
Tennis Ace isn't a bad sports sim, but it could have been better. The range of options is great, but the actual in-game variety is not so hot. Playing alone can become laborious, even with a password system; fortunately, the two-player options more than make up for this. However, if you haven't got a friend coming round every night, you might want more for your £25 than just a decent tennis game.
Initially, Tennis Ace strikes you as being far too easy; the computer opponents are predictable, and the collision detection between ball and racquet is very kind. Then you enter the Grandslam Tournament and things begin to get harder - but not astoundingly so. After a month's play, you'll probably find that you can beat most of the opposition quite easily and, unfortunately, that's when the one-player game dies.
More comprehensive than Super Tennis, this is still far from being the perfect simulation. The graphics are detailed enough and the ball movement works very well, but the sound grates even with the wide choice of tunes open to you. Despite the huge variety of options, the action itself doesn't quite hit the mark for a solo player. For two players, though, it's great!
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