SNES A Day 20: Super Tennis

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Approximate Release Date: November 2, 1991
Genre: Tennis Simulation
Developer: Tokyo Shoseki
Publisher: Nintendo

The computer opponents in Super Tennis are tough.

It’s probably telling that my only memories of Super Tennis from my childhood involve playing with other people. The CPU is vicious, and there’s no way to turn down the difficulty. Even playing the first opponent of the career-like Circuit mode left me winless after three attempts, with the third showcased in this video.

There are 20 characters to choose from, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but all of them look different and have different pros and cons. It’s too bad the game doesn’t surface what these differences are, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that some characters are better at serving and some are better at volleying, and so on. The characters show a lot of, well, character on the court; if they miss a close shot they’ll yell “drats!” or celebrate when they win a close match. It makes the game feel more lifelike. It also helps that the sound effects are great. I wouldn’t be surprised if a sound engineer at developer Tokyo Shoseki went out to a tennis court with a microphone instead of just making a facsimile on a computer.

Each face button does a different type of swing, and the shoulder buttons control the spin of the ball. Anyone who has played a tennis game in the past 15 years will feel right at home with the basic controls. They’re a little stiff, but not too bad. Diving to hit a ball just out of your reach is satisfying if only because it’s a real challenge to land it.

The only real downside to Super Tennis is one familiar to most Mode 7 focused games; the fake 3D effects looked good at the time, but aren’t perfect. My eyes had a hard time judging spatial differences between the ball and the racket, especially when I was in the background. It’s tough to explain, but watch this video of Virtua Tennis 4. It’s so much easier to tell in an instant the relationship between your character and the ball.

Having said that, this is the first great multiplayer game for the Super Nintendo. Only Super Bases Loaded comes close, but the simplicity of the sport gives Super Tennis the advantage.

Tomorrow: Square tries to make you cry with Final Fantasy II.

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