Look! It’s an actual cover!
“Thirsting for a way to name the unnameable, to express the inexpressible…”
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: 12/22/85 – (JP), 1986 – (US), 1987 – (EU)
If Great Baseball could refine Nintendo’s Baseball to near-greatness, there’s no reason Super Tennis couldn’t have done the same for Tennis. Where Great Baseball added sharper graphics and smarter AI to Baseball‘s janky (if endearing) foundation, Super Tennis completely destroys Tennis‘ solid racketeering. In Tennis, you have complete and total control over your player and their swings. In Super Tennis, you control like a ballboy who’s picked up a racket for the first time.
Why am I comparing Tennis so heavily to Super Tennis? Because, as with Great Baseball, Sega “borrowed” Nintendo’s template for their own sports game. The court layout, the squinty-eyed sprites, the goofy sound effects, the serving, lobbing, and volleying – you bet your sweet bippy that the developers played a few rounds of Tennis before taking the code apart and placing it in their own game. The only immediately noticeable visual differences are the puke brown court, the placement of the referee (on the left rather than the right), and the fact that the referee doesn’t resemble Mario. Otherwise, Super Tennis is Tennis sans competence.
“What do ya mean, Mario wasn’t available?!”
When you first begin a game, you serve to your opponent over the net, they hit back, you hit to them again, and so forth until one of you fails to hit the ball on their side of the court. This is, more or less, how tennis is played everywhere in the world, including any number of tennis video games.
In Super Tennis, however, your racket will only hit the ball about fifty percent of the time, regardless of if your racket touches the ball or not. The other fifty percent of the time your racket will soar through the ball because you’re playing with ghost balls – obviously. How else to account for such a supernatural occurrence? If you’re playing on the easiest setting on a moderate speed, you’ll probably be able to swing wildly and hit the ball, even if you whiff a couple times. But if you’re playing on a moderate-to-difficult setting and you’re trying to be Andre Agassi, all swift and streamlined, there is no way you’ll hit the majority of your shots.
Other issues that strip Super Tennis‘ status from ‘super’ to ‘pooper’: the higher your player speed, the more stilted your movements become. Imagine the Flash running at full speed before being forced to stop every couple of feet: that’s your player on fast mode. Also, while most crappy sports games are usually improved with a second player, you can only play doubles against the computer, not competitively against each other. So with doubles, there’s now two fools trying to lob ghost balls against the computer instead of just one. At least if you could play against each other, there would be laughs as you flail your way across the court.
*obligatory action shot*
Note to Sega: if you’re gonna crib from Nintendo’s Famicom sports games for your Master System sports line, be consistent. Great Baseball worked because you recognized Baseball‘s issues, and you fixed them. Super Tennis fails because you stole Nintendo’s Tennis template, then created game-breaking problems that didn’t exist in the latter. Walter Clopton Wingfield would be spinning in his grave.