Atari, well-known for producing Dragon Ball Z titles on several gaming platforms, is now the lead distributor for the console version of Smash Court Tennis 3. Even though Namco-Bandai is no longer at the helm of publishing the series, the gameplay that makes the Smash Court franchise fascinating remains as exciting as ever! In the third installment, many of the gameplay mechanics found on the PSP platform have been enhanced in the console version. Players are given plenty of room to take tennis into a whole new level with Smash Court Tennis 3’s Pro Tour and Character Edit Modes. The game features a decent selection of single-player options but the real highlight of the sports is in the Pro Tour and doubles match play!

Namco-Bandai, the developer behind this title, has up the ante in Pro Tour with rigorous schedules, active sponsor contracts, and the addition of open rivalries. The roster has been updated as well, which include some of today’s greatest athletes such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, James Blake, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, and Ana Ivanovic to name a few. Thanks to the solid gameplay, the characters move fairly realistic on the court. Some of the casual gamers may find the action a bit too much on the “simulation” side. However, if you give it time and learn the tutorials, you’ll find that this game is quite amusing, although we have to admit that the computer can be too much of an expert to handle; even at the easiest difficulty, you can already feel the “pressure”. It’s because of the excellent application for handling vollies and smashes, we were able to survive grueling matches in our favor.

If you want to win a lot of games in Smash Court Tennis 3, you’ve got to learn to master the art of “timing”. You need to charge your hit button well, aim it to an open space, and release it at the right position close to the net. Otherwise, you can spend an entire day rallying back and forth with your opponent. You can always turn on all your visual aids to get a better crack at smashing the ball. However, the mechanics that mess up the timing is the lag of the button response; it can be irritating from time to time as you try to win that one last point. Fortunately, you are given two opportunities to challenge the umpire’s call if things don’t go your way. And sometimes the umpire does make mistakes so it’s good to argue calls as often as possible. As you win tournaments, you rack up on experience points. Depending on how many experience points you’ve accumulated, you earn a number of yellow tokens called “Stock”.

The way character progression works is that you are given two set of options for leveling up your player: parameters and skills. Parameters are your typical aspirations, including as footwork, groundstroke, forehand, backhand, and volley among other things. These progressive attributes go hand in hand with your techniques as they propel you to cope with the challenges on the court. Skills, on the other hand, consist of tricks – big serve, returns ace, etc; you can learn for your player provided you have enough “Stock” and have met the requirements to invest in a particular expertise. Participating in training courses rewards you additional experience points, but if you want to stack up on cash, use the sponsor events. The cash you’ve earned can go towards new clothing and accessories in the shop.

Graphically, the game looks quite appealing for the most part. Some of the tennis courts look embellishing like the majestic British Tennis Championship, while others look a bit washed out in colors. The victory sequences are somewhat limited; you’ll find yourself watching the same animation (such as pat on the back, shake hand with the empire, etc.) throughout the tournaments. Thankfully, the game provides an array of expressive player emotions. Depending on what button you press, you could see your character run some victory laps, slide on the ground in amusement, or taunt your opponent to lose his cool. One of the things we love about Smash Court Tennis 3’s presentation is the instant replays. When you score a point using an overhead smash or a powerful forehand, you are treated to a dramatic animation.

Smash Court Tennis 3 features a number of visual improvements. We love how the characters look big on screen, which give the impression of being in the stadium at court-side! It’s quite amusing to see ball boys run across the net and pick up a dead ball after a double fault; Top Spin 3 doesn’t even have this kind of animation, not even players drinking from their water bottles between intermissions! The frame rate in this game is solid and we are certainly amazed with the dynamic weather effects that shift from sunny to gloomy and back again. In the audio department, the music is somewhat mellow. It’s similar to the ones you’ll hear when shopping at Old Navy; it’s hip but not the right theme for this game. Nevertheless, the sounds effects on the court are good; actions are well-defined and you’ll even hear helicopter passing by in the background! Just don’t expect any sport commentaries here.

Smash Court Tennis 3 is an interesting game to say the least. It’s a different attitude of tennis action but highly enjoyable for those willing to give it time. The gameplay can be challenging but it becomes addictive as you master the art of hitting the ball with precision. We love the dynamic weather effects that shift the outlook of lighting conditions on the court. The developer did an amazing job capturing the thrill of the sport through instant replays, especially those rare “smashing” moments. The best part of Smash Court Tennis 3 is not in how many opponents you survived, it’s the experience you gain to turn your mediocre athlete into a seasonal pro. Needless to say, Smash Court Tennis 3 is more of an expert game, but it has enough smart gameplay that even casual gamers can also grow into and enjoy.