As the Righteous Brothers once sang, “Time can do so much”. Between the last review of The Simpsons (which can be found here) and now, a lot has happened so apologies for the lack of reviews, however there will be more regular reviews, as well time was needed to wash the horrors away from The Simpsons. But in that time between the last review and now, Nintendo have launched a curious title entitled NES Remix. Put simply, a number of NES games have been updated slightly in order to complete certain challenges for achievements, well more stamps than anything else. One of the games where challenges have to be completed is Tennis, which was launched on the NES console as a black box launch title in Europe in 1986. So how does the original game stack up, is it grandslam-worthy or does it contain more double faults than you could shake an amateur boys match against?
Tennis is a game that can’t go wrong in describing exactly what it is – it was Nintendo’s first foray into the world of Tennis and as mentioned was launched as a black box title in 1986 in Europe. If you don’t know what Tennis is or how to play it, then chances are you may stop reading this so click at the top to see other reviews on the site. When you pop the cartridge into your console, you’re treated to the same jaunty music on the introduction screen that befell other sports games that was released on the black box labels. You then get to choose between playing a Singles game or Doubles game, the level of difficulty and then you go straight to the game – no character no selection, no entering your name, no choosing what type of surface you want to play on – straight to the action. You really can’t fault games that don’t mess around with options and selections – two presses of the start button and away you go.
So you’re dressed in duck egg blue and black shorts whilst your opponent is in a green that matches the court and can camouflage well whilst (supposedly) Mario is sitting on his high chair umpiring proceedings. Back with the launch titles, Mario sure did have a lot of jobs – a demolitions expert, a tennis umpire, a platforming superstar. When did he get time to get on with his job of going under peoples’ sinks and repairing leaky pipes or reaching around a U-bend unclogging the toilet? Well nevertheless he sits there keeping score and shouting “Out” every now and then. The rest of the graphics are simple yet bold – the standard green grass of the court and the contrasting brown around the edge of the court. Ok, there is no definition in the crowd but even now 27 years later the detail in the crowd has not improved that much!
The controls are simple – the d-pad moves your character around somehow at the speed of light with twinkletoes on his feet where us mere mortals have feet. The A button does a typical forehand/backhand shot whilst the B button does a lob. The one flaw in the control system is that you cannot aim the ball properly when making your shot – if you try pushing the d pad in the direction and pressing the A or B button to make your shot, your character flies away from the ball swinging wildly and missing the ball, conceding a point. In that respect, when you hit the ball, all you can do is just hit the ball and hope it stays on court. The music, well aside from the jaunty piece at the start of the game, there is a distinct lack of this in the game. However, it always feels wrong to have music in sports games so there is no great loss in this, and certainly you wouldn’t need your Minidisc player full of college rock whilst pretending your Boris Becker.
So all in all, black box Tennis marked a change in sports games – it was a vast improvement to the Atari 2600 tennis games but still had a lot of flaws that could have been ironed out in development, but instead other Tennis games (such as Jimmy Connors Tennis) improved upon these flaws. The controls are simplistic yet you don’t feel like you have control of the shots you are doing – only if you could lob the ball or do a normal forehand shot. In sports games, control is key – whether it’s Football or Tennis, anything that needs precision in order to score a point or a goal. Graphics wise, it does the job well for a launch title, and any game that has a two player option is a bonus in my opinion. There wasn’t a huge number of titles that were either two players or even two players on the screen at the same time, so for you and your friend to play either co-operatively or against each other is certainly a bonus. It is an average game that won’t captivate or illuminate, but won’t disappoint – it will do exactly what it says. Copies of the game are common place, in your local game shop or on your favourite websites that may or not have auction elements to it. For sports enthusiasts, it certainly is worth checking out, to see how far tennis games have come since then until now with the likes of Top Spin and celebrity endorsements. I’m off to get out of these tennis whites and hang up my racket ready for a game that has more fire power, more oomph, more…. adventure, on islands, so maybe I should keep these shorts on then…
Rating – 3 out of 5