Review by Eller
Reviewed: 10/28/02 | Updated: 10/28/02
Unplayable is a term that is tossed around frequently in reviews of awful games, particularly in that breeding ground of hyperbole, the Internet. Often times it’s used unfairly, though, since bad graphics, sound, etc. don’t truly affect the player’s ability to play the game. Not so for Andre Agassi Tennis, however, which is very close to being unplayable in the purest sense of the word. The game sports decidedly bland -- but still passable -- sound, game variety, graphics and so forth. All that’s left is to slap on halfway adequate gameplay and you’d probably end up with at least a decent seller in the tennis game market (assuming one actually exists).
Inexplicably, this most important part of a tennis game (or any sports game, really) is just plain wretched. Controls are awful. Computer AI is stupid. Matches are unfun. I mean, think about how easy tennis should be to translate into a video game. Very few rules, simple player action, hardly any ball physics to figure out... It should be fun. It can be fun! Look at Mario Tennis, the sleeper hit on the Nintendo 64 a few years back. Or the spectacular Virtua Tennis in the arcades and on the Dreamcast. And for those who think comparing these to a Genesis game is unfair, dust off your Atari 5200 and give Tennis a try. It’s shameful how much more fluid the controls are compared to Agassi.
Graphics – Pros
Fans in the bleachers are animated, albeit sparsely. I guess it’s one step above the color-cycling in RBI Baseball for the NES.
The overall appearance is colorful enough.
Graphics – Cons
All courts have the exact same graphics, save for different colored court surfaces.
Player sprites are small and poorly animated.
Player portraits and other supposedly high-detail shots are downright embarrassing. Reminds me of the rider portraits from the original Road Rash.
In general, the graphics are smallish and lack detail.
Umpire/Ball Boy/Anyone Else animations are virtually nonexistent.
The tennis ball is gray, for Pete’s sake. This ain’t the ‘50s.
Sound – Pros
There is no music during actual game play. In my book, this is a pro for any sports game.
The ball sound effects are actually pretty good.
Sound – Cons
The music, when played, is uninspired and grating, even by Genesis standards.
The voices are a nice try, but are ultimately goofy and irritating. The umpire sounds like the robot from Lost in Space as he calls out the score.
Besides the racket hitting the ball and the ball bouncing, there are no actual sound effects, unless you count the voices. Not even crowd noise.
Controls – Pros
The system used for shot type, strength, and location is intuitive and simple – or it would be, if actually making contact with the ball weren’t rendered impossible by the horrible execution of the rest of the controls.
Diving shots are actually somewhat convincing.
Controls – Cons
Player movement is just ridiculous. Player strides are choppy and awkward and the speed never seems to be under control. It feels like you’re trying to control the guy from Out of This World or Flashback, or Phantasy Star Online for those who aren’t quite so old-school.
You can’t hit balls that are coming directly towards you. The ball must be well to either side of the player in order to be hit; otherwise it bounces off your guy while he helplessly swings his racket. This is actually somewhat realistic with regard to real-life tennis, but sorry, it just doesn’t overcome the irritation it causes when you’re playing a video game.
Even if you manage to maneuver your player into hitting range, timing the actual shot can be very frustrating. Sometimes the player swings too early, sometimes too late, and sometimes he swings at just the right time but the ball still seems to slip right though his strings.
Content – Pros
The practice mode is somewhat helpful, even if it’s very limited.
The two different types of tournaments are good enough. There’s not a whole lot you can do with tennis anyway.
The training system between matches is a good, if not new, idea. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard-pressed to notice the effects of your stat upgrades.
Content – Cons
The players you can choose from are pretty much interchangeable. Plus, they have really stupid names. It would have been nice to have other real-life players besides Agassi.
Computer AI can be very suspect. Don’t be surprised when your computer opponent runs around a lob two or three times, only to whiff on the shot. I’ve also seen computer players simply run in the opposite direction of an incoming shot. Finally, around half of my serves were aces, since the computer would often stand completely still and let the ball smack him in the head and drop. Really awful stuff.
The game play is very bare-bones... no statistics, special bonuses, replays, commentary, nothing. Overall presentation is extremely skimpy. I suppose there might be some incentive for playing tournaments other than to make money and improve your ranking, but I doubt it. Besides, with the ridiculous control issues, no one will probably get that far in the game anyway.
I can’t think of a game that has more control problems than this one. Even if the graphics, sound, presentation, and extra features were extraordinary, they still wouldn’t make up for the controls enough to pull this title out of the depths of mediocrity. As it is, though, these areas are almost as bad, making this game certainly the worst tennis game -- and possibly the worst sports game – on the Genesis.
Rating: 1.0 - Terrible
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