Genre: Sports Developer: System Sacom Publisher: Renovation Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
Let’s face it: tennis is rarely anyone’s favorite sport unless you happen to be one of those fifty-something rich people who live in the Hamptons and have the sweater tied around your neck and wear white shorts. You know the people, the country club type. Besides, if you count Pong (or its multiple clones that are called Tennis or something of the sort) as a tennis game, there have been like three good tennis games released, and two of them have been named Virtua Tennis. So how can a company that is known primarily for making shooters and action games randomly put out a sports game, and a tennis game at that? Is it any good?
You pop in Jennifer Capriati Tennis, and you see that it’s basically a different game with a celebrities’ face plastered on it (in fact it is: the game is called Grand Slam Tennis in foreign markets), though Capriati is a playable character here. It kind of reminds me of Joe Montana Football, when it was made very clear that San Francisco was the best team available. You can actually play in the men’s or the women’s field, and you can create your own character! It is way easier to just play through the circuits mode as the top seed, though. Capriati is obviously the top seed on the women’s side, and some guy named Edgar is the top seed. The rest of the players are fictional.
This game has a very clean and polished presentation, starting from the moment you turn it on. The only thing I don’t like about it is the colors in the title screen. Oof! Talk about 1992, I must have forgot my skip-it and my L.A Gear shoes with the blinkie lights on them (ed. note: I HAD those! – Ken). I do have one of those hilarious polos with the fading pinkish/light blue early ’90s look on it. Anyway, the menus are clear and straightforward. The three major courts are available: hard, grass and clay. They all play like they should, with the hard court being the best, in my opinion. I think the clay court is too “bouncy” in that the ball stays closer to where it bounces and bounces up a little higher. It would be easier to show you. Play on a clay court in this game and you will see what I am talking about. The grass court acts as kind of the opposite, where the ball bounces at a lower angle and at a considerably faster rate, and the hard court is kind of like the default or control court. You start on the hard court in the circuits mode. The courts take some getting used to when you go from one to another, but the whole thing is very well done and exciting.
The onscreen presentations are spectacular too, as some of the best voice samples available on the Genesis (in my opinion, of course. And if they aren’t the best, they sure are the least talked about) are featured in this game. A voice clearly states the score after every point and says “fault,” “let” and “play” accordingly. They say them all very clearly and don’t leave you going “What in the world did he just say?” like the gibberish at the beginning of Thunder Force II. The score is displayed before every serve, and they flash a bunch of blinkie colors. It’s all very clear and easy to understand. Even when you pause the game, it displays the serve percentage, the aces and how many double faults one has committed, alongside the number of games and sets. What I don’t like about it though, is that the people look a little bit too undetailed for me, and they look clearly influenced by anime of some sort and not like the tennis professionals they are supposed to emulate.
But that is all fluff if the gameplay sucks. But, luckily it doesn’t. It isn’t the deepest gameplay in the world, but it does take some strategy, and the AI does get progressively more difficult, which requires changing strategy in order to advance further into the championships. It’s hard to gauge the power and bounce of the shot, but luckily, there is a loft button and a lob shot. A is the loft or back spin shot button, C is the lob shot, and B is the regular, faster hit. B is my shot of choice, but you’ll need to use A if you are crashing the net, otherwise it most likely won’t make it over. I always hit it into the net, but once you get down low it’s pretty simple to score on most players, and it is at a much faster pace than if you sit back and play on the baseline.
Overall, Jennifer Capriati Tennis is a very fun and solid title that isn’t just another dust collector. This game is the best tennis game for the Genesis, in my opinion, and it will not cost you very much. It’s no earth-shattering event game, and it’s probably not even going to be mentioned in many people’s collections, but this is one time that you have to step up to the baseline and serve it. It is a great game that will not disappoint, even though I’m pretty sure your friends wont necessarily ever want to play it. It’s a good game!
SCORE: 8 out of 10