The Wii is the perfect platform for a tennis game, and it’s got no shortage of them already available. The newest of these is Grand Slam Tennis, a new franchise from the folks at EA Sports. Grand Slam Tennis boasts some features that make it stand out from the crowd and it promises to be richest tennis experience on the Wii, but does it deliver?
The game features an all star cast of 23 legend tennis players and it’s the first game to feature Wimbledon, making it the only tennis game to feature all four Grand Slam tournaments. The playable legend characters range from John McEnroe to Pete Sampras to the Williams Sisters each one complete with a special ability that is derived from their real life strength as a player.
Grand Slam features a few different gameplay modes including single player action that spans Grand Slam Career mode, exhibition matches, and even party games. Career mode allows you to create your own player and features an endless number of customizations, most of which you must unlock as you progress through the game. You can return to the character edit mode and update your wardrobe and equipment at any time. Career mode has you traveling to each of the four Grand Slams to take part in the tournament. Before beginning the tournament, you’ll play a few practice matches that include exhibition matches, legend matches, and skill challenges. You only have one shot to win each match. If you lose, you have to wait until the following year to reattempt that particular match. The tournament itself is a series of 5 consecutive matches against seeded players.
In addition to the new character customizations you can unlock through Career mode, you can be awarded special abilities as well as overall skill points. Upon creating your character, you start off with zero stars and you are gradually awarded additional stars for winning matches. Special abilities are awarded by defeating their respective legends. Initially you can only equip a single ability, but you can unlock the ability for two additional slots. In all, there is plenty to keep you playing Career mode in an effort to maximize the ability of your character.
One of the features that makes Grand Slam stand out is its support for Wii MotionPlus, the ultra-accurate accessory from Nintendo. I spent time playing Grand Slam with and without WMP and I personally preferred playing with just the standard Wii Remote. The standard remote was responsive enough for me to actually feel like I was playing a game of tennis, but I found playing with WMP to actually be less accurate. Any slight movement of the remote resulted in some movement of the racket and/or my character. On occasion, this resulted in very odd results where my character would as I prepared to swing the controller and when I did finally swing my character would lunge back and perform a forehand. It was all very unnatural and had me almost afraid to move prior to swinging. Without the WMP add on I was able to stand in front of the TV and freely swing the racket.
Despite the issues I had with Wii MotionPlus, the game itself presents a very realistic representation of swinging a tennis racket. The vertical direction of the racket could create a flat shot or one with spin and the direction of the ball was directly related to where in the swing you made contact with the ball. There was a minor learning curve to make sure you weren’t wildly hitting the ball all over the court, but usually a match or two should do it.
EA opted to go for a very cartoony style for Grand Slam Tennis and I think it fits the game perfectly. The characters and visuals look great and they did a solid job of capturing the mannerisms of the legends in the game. Audio-wise, the game was pretty average with a soundtrack that may as well not be there and commentary that feels a little dry.
Grand Slam Tennis is a great first title for a new franchise that is not without its flaws. I was really hoping the Wii MotionPlus implementation would improve the experience and not hamper it, but I would definitely recommend playing without it. The art style is great and I really enjoyed feeling like I was playing a match of tennis. I didn’t particularly care for the lack of a rematch option, especially early on in Career mode when your player was at a definite disadvantage. At the end of the day, Grand Slam Tennis is not a perfect game, but I really had a lot of fun with it and I’ve had no problem recommending it to friends and family alike as the go to title for a real tennis experience.
Pros: Great art style; Lots of fun
Cons: Wii MotionPlus support actually makes the game worse