OPINION: Part Two of my favourite tennis videogames: Anna Kournikova’s Smash Court Tennis

After Pong kicked this feature off yesterday, we continue chronologically with an entry from my favourite generation: the 32 bit era and the beloved Playstation 1.

My first gaming console was actually an Amiga 1200 which served me well for five years. I had to quickly check if there had been a tennis title in my collection from then amongst the classics, but no.

Instead then, we continue with Anna Kournikova’s Smash Court Tennis or Smash Court Tennis 2 in Japan.

Admittedly back then my purchase was in no small way influenced by Miss Kournikova’s association – she was something of a fave for a short time.

But the game itself had pedigree in my eyes anyways. For years previous I had played an old demo disc of the preceding game – Namco Smash Court Tennis – to death. It was a rare game in the UK if memory serves and proved completely elusive to 12 year old me. Seeing that this sequel was reportedly better in every facet, made this a no brainer.

Other tennis games cropped up on the PS1 over the years, but this remained the top dog despite such entries as the fairly playable Actually Tennis which nailed the realism, but little else.

What did you get then? Behind the game’s jokey demeanor and cartoonish art style (a powerful serve or shot, if timed right could knock a player unconscious) was a deep, involving, challenging and really very playable tennis game. The graphics were lovely, the music was catchy and polished and the whole experience oozed quality, typical of Namco in that era.

Multiplayer was obviously most rewarding, but the single player campaign was deep too. The major tournaments were given their own playful style and unlockable characters from Namco’s roster included Tekken’s Heihachi and Yoshimitsu, Pac Man and Reiko from Ridge Racer.

Finally, the ace up the game’s sleeve was the Smash Tennis mode. For every point, a random timer would count down and the tennis ball would explode with the impact zone getting larger and larger with every rally.

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