"The idea behind Top Player Tennis was that it featured the top male and female tennis pros of the time, Chris Everet and Ivan Lendl (shows how old the game is), who would give you tips and lessons on how to play the game of tennis as you progressed through various tournaments. However due to poor gameplay, mediocre graphics and the lack of a high fun factor, Top Player Tennis turned out to be one huge lesson in frustration. Oh, and they pronounce Ivan Lendlís name wrong. "
The idea behind Top Player Tennis was that it featured the top male and female tennis pros of the time, Chris Everet and Ivan Lendl (shows how old the game is), who would give you tips and lessons on how to play the game of tennis as you progressed through various tournaments. However due to poor gameplay, mediocre graphics and the lack of a high fun factor, Top Player Tennis turned out to be one huge lesson in frustration. Oh, and they pronounce Ivan Lendlís name wrong.
Tennis fans will recognize the tournaments offered in Top Player Tennis as the 4 major ATP tournaments: the U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon. For a bonus there is a 5th ďAsmik OpenĒ named after the corporation who developed the game. To its credit, Top Player Tennis observes the fact that each court has a different surface where the ball will bounce differently. (Grass, clay, and hardcourt) But unfortunately they went a little overboard when showing these differences. For example on the grass court at Wimbledon, the ball gets very little air after the first bounce so that it is extremely hard to run to it in time for a return hit. Itís true that in real life grass would kill some of the bounce, but not that much! So while it was nice to include different surfaces for variety, they were actually not very realistically done.
The game lets you create and customize your own character by choosing a gender and adjusting abilities such as strength and speed. Definitely a nice touch. You then enter your character in a tournament and if they beat all opponents they win the tournament and can move on to the next one. (At a high enough level the player will even be able to challenge Everet or Lendl.) This is a fine system except for the fact that opponents become too difficult too quickly. Itís quite easy to beat the first opponent, but youíll find that the second opponent is at a much higher skill level than your character, even with the upgrades to stats made possible by winning the first match. This makes for a repetitious game indeed: play that same first match, easily win it, move on to the second match, get creamed. Do the same thing again, get creamed again. Repeat until you finally turn off the console in anger. The whole stats-adjustment feature was a nice idea but it sorely needed tweaking in order to make your player even the least bit competitive with the computer.
Another thing that adds to the frustration is that the game controls are absolutely merciless. If your touch isnít perfect, the ball will either rocket way out of bounds or flutter weakly into the net. Playing doubles (2-player) tennis is a little better since you have a bigger court to work with, but it isnít much of an improvement because you still have to serve. Serving correctly is painfully difficult: not only do you have to keep the ball in bounds, but it has to land in one specific quarter of the court, and with the controls being so picky itís hard to do this on a consistent basis.
My last gameplay issue has to do with the screen lay-out. The court is slanted in such a way that the bottom half of the court is twice as big as the top half. This means that whoever is playing in the bottom half has a huge advantage because they have a better view of the ball and can judge distances more accurately.
The graphics are ok considering that the game was for the NES, but they still could have been better. Iíve already talked about the inaccurately slanted court, but besides that there are some color choice issues. For example, if the court surface is purple itís not really a good idea to make the ball-boysí uniforms purple as well. There isnít really any music and the sound-effects are about what you would expect. There are sounds for running and hitting the ball, as well as crowd noise. All of the in-game announcements are done with voice-overs, and they actually do a nice job with those Except for that one voice-over at the title-screen in which Ivan Lendlís name was mis-pronounced by putting the accent on the first syllable. (Ivan ďthe TerribleĒ Lendl?) Ouch, this hurts. If the guy has bothered to endorse your game, at least do him the courtesy of getting his NAME RIGHT.
The bottom line is that this game just isnít very much fun to play due to its difficulty level and poor play control. Challenge in a game is great, but Top Player Tennis is challenging for all the wrong reasons: namely poor planning concerning your characterís skills improvement with relation to your competitors, and unforgiving play control that makes for far too many out-of-bounds bounces and double-fault serves. This game is extremely rare nowadays but if you see it, best to give it a pass in favor of one of the many superior tennis games that Nintendo has produced.
Community review by alecto (January 26, 2003)
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