Plataform: NeoGeo Pocket Color
Controller: The handheld itself.
Late 20th century, Nintendo practically owns the handheld videogaming market with its famous handheld GameBoy. However there was competition from other companies trying to grab a piece of the cake in possession of the dominating handheld.
One of these consoles was the NeoGeo Pocket, manufactured by the company SNK. To boost the handheld, SNK ported titles from their already awesome library of arcade games. Which was a good idea, because the company had a good reputation developing videogames for arcades and their own console in the past.
However, the first handheld machine was not very successful, so SNK decied to create a revamped version, this time with colors. At the same time, being backwards compatible with games of the older handheld.
Amongst the videogames for the original NeoGeo Pocket, there were two sports titles. One of them is about tennis, which is very fit to play in a handheld.
The control schema is quite simple, with the cross of the handheld the videoplayer can move the virtual tennis player thru all the bottom half of the field. Actually, it’s always the bottom half, which I find interesting, because in previous games the virtual tennis player changed sides..
Pressing one of the buttons makes the virtual tennis player to hit a quick shot (well, if it applies, more on that later in the section of the virtual tennis players), and with the other is a lob shot.
Also, when any button is pressed at the right time while trying to return a lob shot, it’s possible to make a super shot that usually guarantees a point to the player. Take into account that both virtual tennis players at the field can make the super shot.
Lastly, the amount of time pressing horizontally the cross when making a shot, it’s possible to angle the shot. Mastering this technique is important for some of the players available in the game. Also in real-life tennis these kind of shots are very common.
The japanese custom of adding funny features to a videogame is applied here too. In this videogame, there are different field availables, alongisde the traditional tennis court. It’s possible to play at a jungle with a referee who looks like Tarzan with a red beard, other court is in a ‘hood with grafiti included, other one is a japanese dojo with a diorama working as net or even the base of a cliff without a referee. There are no indications than playing in a court can give advantages to a certain virtual tennis player or not.
There are different game modes, like an exhibition game, a match between two human players, and finally the tournament. In this mode, the videoplayer has to win three consecutive matches, against random rivals and when winning it, a nice trophy is awarded. It’s possible to earn 19 different trophies.
It’s interesting to note that it depends on the day which tournaments are available. 12 tournaments are named after the zodiac signs, so they can be only obtained in a day of the sign. 4 are days related to the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere (April 1, July 19, September 26, December 25) and the remaining 3 are totally random, so they can appear any given day.
There are 8 virtual tennis players available from the start of the game. Other 2 are added when certain conditions of the videogame are met. Every tennis player has 3 attributes which impact their performance at the virtual court.
- SPEED determines how fast the player moves.
- POW meaning how strong the player can hit the ball.
- DEF determines how far they get when jumping trying to hit the ball.
|Alice – Amogs the one who hits the weakest, but it compensates with the jumps. It’s hard to play with her, and it looks like wearing a maid uniform, using a pan as racquet.|
|David – Slow, with great reach, and probably hits the hardest of the initial 8 players. Not fitting to play at the net.|
|Mao – Very similar to Alice, even more weak to hit the ball.|
|Louis – Very similar to David, although a bit faster, with less range and hits a bit weaker. Not a bad choice for beginner videoplayers who like to take initiative in the offense.|
|Hiyama – Classic speedster, with no need to leap to reach the ball. Great for beginners.|
|Tanaka – Classic balanced character, with no particular weaknesses, but also does not shine at anyhing. In this game, ironically, that is its main weakness.|
|Lucy – Just like Tanaka, a bit faster, with less range and weaker. That small adjustement IMO makes it a bit harder to use.|
|Lee – Practically the male equivalent of Hiyama, a bit weaker. Just like her, it wears the classic tennis wardrobe. For some reason, I can’t stand the guy.|
|Amiba – Hard to play this guy, it’s challenging because the racquet does not appear until used, and because of that, it’s hard to predict where to position the player. Aside from that, it’s just like David.|
The final rival in the first tournament the videoplayer faces.
|Kaoru – Typical fat guy who is practically a statue, but hits really really hard. Well used and with well-positiones shots, can be a formidable opponent. |
The final rival in the fourth tournament the videoplayer faces.
The videogame is one of the original ones for the Neo Geo Pocket, which was monochromatic. As expected, the game is essentially the same, but has some small differences.
First, the virtual tennis players are different, being David the only one who appears in both games. Besides of the attributes mentioned, there was a fourth one, which indicated which is the good hand of the player, being left or right. I don’t know why this fourth attribute was excluded in the Color version.
Next, the courts are very different, one of them, the beach court surrounded by people, is missing in the Color version. I wonder why it was not included, specially because playing in the sand must be… interesting.
Honestly, I prefer the color version. It’s not a bad game in its original version, but the color one looks and feels more polished.
This tennis videogame is incredibly funny, and really easy to learn. Not very hard to master, but that is not a problem, at least to me. You could think it could become boring quite fast. But experimenting with the different virtual tennis players gives it a high playability.
We suggest starting to play the game using speedters, but at the same time, with a bit of power like Lee or Hiyama. Other speedters are a bit weaker, and their shots frequently stop at the net, while the stronger ones are slow to reach the ball.
Every virtual tennis player requires a different style of play. With some tennis players is running for all over the court to disorient the rival. WIth others is play close to the net to surprise the rival with a super shot. And with others is to play from the bottom of the field. It’s interesting than the more balanced ones are practically useless.
Highly recommended for quick tennis matches, without worrying too much for understand the control schema.
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.