From Rockstar to Sega superstars, we’ve seen our share of racquet games on Wii that haven’t offered any significant advance - in terms of motion controls - from the tennis freebie bundled with the console. For one reason or another, we’re still waiting to see if Wii Sports is actually as good as it’s going to get. Nobody else has really gotten the hang of what we always thought would be the most obvious sport on Wii. Top Spin 3, however, bills itself as the most realistic tennis game of all time – possibly not the most encouraging boast, since the best tennis games in the past have favoured playability over realism. But it’s enough to make us take notice. Could this really be The One?
It doesn’t get off to the best of starts, being so slow the game plays like it’s underwater – or on the moon. So much for realism. When you get better at timing the shots, you’re able to put more power into them, but even then it never seems to move at full speed. The slowness was probably necessary in order to give mere mortals, unfamiliar with the pace of pro tennis, a better chance to complete the topspin and backspin shots that require full-on swings with the remote. But then those don’t work too reliably anyway. To make it feel more like holding a tennis racquet, you have to grip the remote sideways with your thumb on the right side and your index finger over the B button. That’s the default position. There doesn’t appear to be a left-handed mode either, so those of you with backwardly wired brains will find the pointer upside down on menu screens and your shots are even less predictable than right-handers’.
An upwards diagonal swing is supposed to give the ball topspin. A downwards diagonal swing gives it slice. Coupled with the Z button, you can convert them into lobs and dropshots. Those are the basic moves, but it comes as no surprise that a simple shake of the remote works just as well as a proper swing. In other words, you might as well be pressing buttons. Moving the player and aiming the shots is, mercifully, done with the analogue stick, so at least you won’t be whacking your wannabe-topspin shot, or whatever it turned out to be, into the wrong side of the court. That’s the only real advance this has over Wii Sports, but because Top Spin 3 is so slow and clunky – from the menu screens, to the wait between points, to the players’ movements – it’s a lot less enjoyable to play.
Anyway, it’s got to have plenty of options and tournaments, right? Well, not really. You can play exhibition matches, the skimpy Career mode or a choice of party games – one of which is a four-player tournament, another is a normal game of tennis that you win by scoring highest in stats such as most shots close to the line, most calories burned, furthest distance run and so on. Plus there’s a doubles version of that, so not really three different party games. The so-called Training mode isn’t a Training mode at all. It’s just a collection of the info screens that you get at random while the game is loading. And that’s your lot. No Character Creation mode and no online play either.
To top it off, even navigating the menu screens is a real pain in the arse. To change players or courts, you have to select them, wait for the animated menu to crawl to the next part, highlight the thing you want to change and actually drag it across the screen. It’s the least efficient system ever and by way of further punishment you have to listen to Jamiroquai. Have they no compassion at all?
So, there you have it. Quite unsatisfactory. The more we think about it, the better it makes Sega Superstars Tennis seem, and if you’re in the market for some ball-battering fun that isn’t Wii Sports, then that’s really your only decent Wii tennis option right now. Conversely, you could always get the amazing PS3 or 360 versions, if you have one of those systems.
Jun 23, 2008