The Hot Shots Golf series has been around since the dawn of the PlayStation era in 1997. It has always sported a cartoon-like appearance, wacky characters and to top it off, a great physics engine. It made for some great golfing action. In 2007, the Hot Shots series took its first foray into the world of tennis on the PlayStation 2, and this summer, they've brought tennis to the handheld PSP system. It's a pretty drastic change from golf though, so how does Clap Hanz's development style translate to tennis on the PSP?
After the learning curve is passed, which is about two or three matches, it's really easy to feel competent in any of the modes available in the game. Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip can be played in exhibition modes of singles or doubles for quick play, or in its main story mode, which is an RPG style story where players will go through challenges to unlock new characters, costumes, and racquets.
The game's story revolves around a group called the Love Tennis Club, whose goal is to travel the world spreading the joy of tennis to those who have lost their love of the sport. As boss characters from each area are defeated, they will inevitably join the club and become a playable character. The story itself is pretty shallow, but the system to level up character stats helps to make every tennis match worthwhile to get loyalty bonuses for frequently used characters, as well as new equipment to boost stats.
Stats in-game boost everything from power, to control, to the stamina which keep players going through long rallies. Dressing characters up will also help to boost stats once their loyalty rating has gone up. The loyalty rating essentially unlocks bonuses to specific characters as a reward for using them frequently. The clothing choices that also boost stats are kind of odd, and at times down right goofy. For example, characters can wear any clothing, for men or women, and make very odd combinations like a horse's head on a nun with a baby strapped to their back.
The characters can look absolutely ridiculous if the player wants to go that way, but aside from how the character looks, the whole game itself looks really good. The game runs very smoothly with no slow down that would cause playing the game to be frustrating. The world of Hot Shots is also fully intact with brightly coloured worlds and cartoon style tennis courts. The only downside to the technical side of Hot Shots Tennis are that the load times from a UMD can be a little long at times, but with the install option, which is 400MB, the times are cut down considerably. It would be nice if the load times were a little bit shorter, but it doesn't spoil anything.
The presentation is also held together with audio that is well designed to go along with the theme of Hot Shots Tennis. The musical score is very cheery and fairly simple, but with catchy rhythms popping out every now and again. One thing that is sometimes annoying with the audio is some of the voice acting. Of course the characters are all very peppy and positive sounding, which isn't really the problem. It's just that the voices repeat themselves far too often during matches. Hearing "How's That?" for the fifteenth consecutive time in a match can get aggravating.
Another plus side to the game in story mode is the multiplayer integration. Any time there is a doubles match in the story, there is an option to have a friend join in from their game and it's then possible to play together as a team. This does require another player locally to have the game, but if the opportunity arises, it's a great way to play with a friend while still progressing through the story.
The single player of Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip is a pretty full length. The story mode can last somewhere around 12 hours if going through about every match available. With the ability to play matches again for a better score or more unlock points, the single player can last upwards of 20 hours. Of course there is all of the multiplayer and single player exhibition play as well, though it doesn't improve any stats or unlock any items.
All in all, Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip is a fantastic game for the PSP with excellent gameplay and game physics, to bring all the depth of tennis to an approachable game that anyone can play. Anybody interested in tennis, or even a fun new game to play on the PSP can't go wrong with Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip.