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Q3 2004



- Good, solid graphics

- Great Pro-tour modes

- Accurate Controls



- No online mode



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Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2

Score: 8.8 / 10


Namco's Smash Court Tennis 2 entered a pretty tough marketplace with its recent release.  Tennis games are rarely huge hits, even good ones.  Additionally, there are two top-of-the-line franchises on the market already.  The situation is kind of like what exists for football, baseball, and basketball, just on a much smaller scale.  So, Namco had to know that Smash Court 2 would have to be good to get any attention at all.  Well, here's the good news: it is really good.  The bad news is that it's not quite on the same level as Top Spin or Sega Sports Tennis.  Still, Smash Court has a few things to recommend itself over even those great titles.


smash court tennis 2 review          smash court tennis 2 review


To get gameplay out of the wayŚlike every other tennis game on the market, Smash Court 2 is a fancy update of Pong.  Fans and developers might want to deny it, but it is simply true.  Basic gameplay involves running back and forth across the screen hitting the ball, hopefully at an angle your opponent can't return.  Sure, Smash Court allows for the full range of shots, drop shots, volleys, lobs, smashes, etc., but in the end, the basic feel of the game isn't that far removed from the no-bit classic.  Smash Court 2 is the equal of any game in the genre for basic mechanics and tightness of control.  From the Australian Open through the U.S. Open, I had zero complaints about the controls or the shot selection.




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These days, barring immense innovation, choosing a sports title tends to come down to comparing features and modes.  Top Spin and Sega's Sports Tennis both offer a little bit more in the way of features than Smash Court, but it's very close.  One mode in Smash Court 2 doesn't exist in any of it's competitor's games: the spectator mode.  In this mode, players simply coach their onscreen counterparts and don't ever actually take control of the game.  Much like the V.I.P. Mode in NFL 


2K5 or the A.I. System in Virtua Fighter 4, the players learn from their coaching and can then be used to play against other trained players.  It's just a gimmick, but it's a pretty cool one.


The Pro Career mode is the meat of the game.  Here, Smash Court 2 is a revelation.  Namco has taken the radical step of reducing the playable portion of each match down to a handful of key moments, each with a specific challenge attach.  Win those moments and you'll win the match.  This makes playing through huge tournaments quick and painless, and I'm much more likely to continue playing seasons to get my player to number one in the world in Smash Court than in any of its competitors.  It's simply a breath of fresh air, and it actually heightens the tension over playing every mundane point.  For the traditionalist, Namco allows this feature to be turned off.


smash court tennis 2 review          smash court tennis 2 review


Graphically, Smash Court 2 is a bit behind Top Spin, but that has more to do with the relative power of the two systems.  It looks much better than Sega Sports Tennis, however, with crisp anti-aliasing and great character models.  The animation is really smooth and includes tight, seamless intermediate animations as players get in position for shots.  Overall, the game is very solid in the graphics department.


I usually keep at least one tennis program for each system I own.  Until recently, that game would have been Sega Sports Tennis for my PS2 collection.  Now, however, I can safely say that Smash Court 2 will take up that proud spot, unless, of course, they get Smash Court 3 out before the PS2 fades into the past.


- Tolen Dante

(September 1, 2004)

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