I am currently reading David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus Infinite Jest, which, if you want a fun summer reading project, is fantastic. Besides being about a drug addicts recovery home, and a sinister and bizarre Quebec-ian wheelchair terrorist group, it is about a youth tennis academy, and boy does it make you think about tennis in a different way. I’m not a follower of tennis, but if it’s on TV and I have the time, it can be fun. When Wallace writes about tennis, you can tell he gets it. He understands the ebb and flow of the game. It’s history. After reading something he has written about the sport, you want to play it. Well, video game wise, my only experiences with the sport is through the fantastic Mario Tennis for the N64, and Wii Sports Tennis. Both games can be fun, and there are moments when playing when you really can get an idea about how great the game can be when played for realsies. However, both games have shortcomings. Mario Tennis is an older game, and it requires you to pull out the ol’ N64 and find all of your controllers, and fuck that. Wii Sports Tennis is fun, but you have very little control over anything but the timing of the swings. Where is the updated Mario Tennis? Where is Wii Sports Tennis but with more control? Unless I am missing something huge, I believe that EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis might be what I am looking for. It is great.
On the other side of the jump etc etc
I normally look at games like this and kind of gloss over, because don’t we all? It had that kind of Wii-cartoon-ey style that every third party game has, but with real (and recognizable) tennis players. When I first saw it, the people playing it were only using the remote, and again, I don’t care about a game like that – it’s been done. But upon returning later on, I realized that the nunchuck was attached, and the characters movement was controllable, and, there was Wii Motion Plus support. I stopped by and played a few sets against the sweaty and very excitable Nintendo rep who was demoing it.
I was blown away immediately. You have full control over both where your player went on the court, and how you hit the ball thanks to the Wii Motion Plus. Serving involves raising both the nunchuk and the remote, and then hitting is similar to how it is done in Wii Sports Tennis, but you can add all kinds of crazy spin to the ball depending on how you hit it. After a few games, I was better able to hit the ball where I wanted it to on the court, especially after actually reading what the Wii Remote buttons did: A and B were mapped to a lob shot and a drop shot. This is a boring article, isn’t it? (Cory and Travis suggested that I use the word “penis” here to raise your interest level)
The game play was great – the sweaty nintendo rep and I went back and forth in a tiebreaker until he edged me with a great shot that my character barely was unable to get (this was the second time today that a rep didn’t do the correct thing and lose to me, the other being the french asshole from the ubisoft demo for the game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the Secret of the Boos). I went and fetched Travis in excitement. The game was such a surprise to me.
Note here that the game is both playable with and without the nunchuck, where it reverts to a Wii Sports Tennis mode, but with the ability to press up and down on the D-pad to move to baseline or service line play. Which was neat, especially if you have a grandmother who is deadly afraid of nunchaku. Like mine. It is chief among her fears. Ask her, and she’ll tell you that the TMNT are Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and OHGODNOFUCK OH FUCK FUCK OH GOD SAVE ME HELP ME NO
Anyway, the match between Travis and I was a blast. I’ve played enough Mario Tennis to know good video game tennis play, and this was it. We were back and forth, with one incredible volley that had the sweaty booth dude cheering along with us. The nunchuck-to-remote cord wasn’t too short for the play of the game, and after a few games I was set with moving my character to the point where I didn’t even notice. At the end of another tiebreaker, I emerged victorious thanks to a service ace that befuddled poor Travis. This was my favorite game of the day, even slightly edging the charming and fantastic Scribblenauts. I will be going back and playing this tomorrow with Cory, so expect some video from the show floor. But seriously. Great game. Really, really good.