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Grand Slam Tennis returns, but not on the Wii. The dream of motion controlled tennis may not be totally dead with its Move support, but the focus here will be on hardcore stick action.
Not an awful lot remains from the original in Grand Slam Tennis 2, as the move to 360 and PS3 (sadly no Wii version) means the graphics no longer need their cell shaded stylised look. Also, motion controls (although still present in the PS3 version) are less of a central feature.
What does remain is an impressive array of top tennis star endorsements and appearances. The game's cover art makes this abundantly clear as it included athletes from three different eras: '70s John McEnroe, '00s Maria Sharapova along with current star Novak Djokovic. This diversity extends to the game itself with 20 pro tennis players from history to choose from.
The stick control takes a lead from Skate's body-board left-right stick approach. You control the player's movement around the court with the left stick and their striking of the ball with the right. It's a simple idea that you would imagine had been tried before, but to my knowledge is new.
This gives core players pinpoint control over their shots. The right analog stick can be used to dial in a variety of smashes, forehands, backhands, overheads, and volleys with precision, accuracy, and power.
Even though I like the sound of all that, it's the inclusion of Move support that really gets me excited. If you played the original game you'll know it was the closest we've come to a fully featured motion controlled tennis game and it was great fun. Even the Move, Kinect and MotionPlus support in Virtua Tennis 4 didn't come close (there, motions were annexed to what was essentially a mini-game). More recently the MotionPlus tennis game in Go Vacation actually got pretty close although limiting the motion controls slightly.
PlayStation Move support takes this seed and develops it into a full blown motion controlled experience.
The original Grand Slam Tennis, although well received, never quite reached the audience it deserved in my book -- being slightly overshadowed by Wii-Sports Resort which followed soon after. The motion controls were flexible enough to let you play the game how you wanted.
Going online with Grand Slam Tennis Wii would be an encounter with all manner of play styles. This combined with the ability to develop your player character in one direction or another to suite your style gave the game considerably more depth than was initially apparent.
PlayStation Move support, provided that it is implemented in the main game rather than an adjunct mode, should take this seed and develop it into a full blown motion controlled tennis experience.
Beyond the controls, Grand Slam Tennis also scored points for including all four Grand Slam tournaments for the first time in a next gen tennis game (ed: can't still be next gen, surely this is current gen now). Australian Open, French Open, U.S. Open have been seen elsewhere, but it is the completion of the set with Grand Slam's exclusive Wimbledon jewel that grants them the headline.
This is wall wrapped up with player AI that promises to capture the games various tennis stars right down to their signature swings. This makes it possible for both the computer opponents and human players to employ realistic tactics rather than grinding out victories with one shot -- unless you're playing as Samprass in which case it's all about the serve.
I'm crossing everything that they honour this four player mode with their Move support.
As before, there is also an online multiplayer mode where you can put your hardened player to the test again real people. What there is less talk about at this stage is whether there is a local multiplayer option.
I'd assume there would be with the stick controls, as two player is something of a genre staple for tennis games. The bigger question is whether this extends to the family-critical four player option, and how this integrates with the Move controls on the PlayStation version.
The four player full motion controls of the original Grand Slam Tennis game on the Wii was an essential part of it's great fit for family use. I'm crossing everything that they honour this four player mode with their Move support.
Grand Slam Tennis 2 is due for release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on February 10th, with no word yet on a Wii version -- which I must admit seems unlikely, perhaps a 3DS spin off would be a better way to go.
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