I wanted another game that got me off the couch and using the Wii Motion Plus, and my choice was a tennis game or a tennis game. After checking around it seemed commonly accepted that EA’s Grand Slam Tennis made better use of the Wii Motion Plus than Sega’s Virtua Tennis did.
Now you may have heard people saying that the Wii Motion Control-scheme in Grand Slam Tennis is horribly broken. Or you may have heard that the experience is sublime and anyone who doesn’t think so needs to Learn-2-Play.
As is so often the case, neither extreme stance is accurate. In practice, there is some skill and methodology involved in playing Grand Slam Tennis. If you pick up the remote and start swinging like you would a tennis racket, you might run into some problems, which is frankly unfortunate. Ideally a game like this should be as naturally tennis-like as possible.
To get the best experience, you have to make a deliberate effort to “return to center” after every swing. Hold the remote level and in front of you between each swing and the game works pretty nicely. Aiming feels very natural; if you’ve ever swung a tennis racket you’ll be able to aim in Grand Slam Tennis. Top and backspin works more or less accurately too, with the caveat that every swing has to move forward. If you try to ‘cut’ a fast shot (by which I mean swinging the racket almost vertically and letting the speed of the ball rebound the shot) the Wii will spazz out. It doesn’t understand what you’re doing. I also haven’t had much luck with overhead shots. This is a game of forehands and backhands. Lobs and drop shots are cheaply accomplished by holding down the A or B button.
Grand Slam Tennis has 3 difficulty levels, and the option to play with or without the Nunchuk. With it, you control the movement of the player with the analog stick. Without it, the AI takes care of moving your player side to side, and you send him to the net with the Up on the cross-button, and back to the baseline with the Down. I’ve had a lot of trouble doing this as it seems once you’ve given the order to charge the net, the AI isn’t going to move you laterally until you get there.
So I’ve mostly been playing a baseline game of tennis where I limit myself to fore and backhand shots. And when that’s working, it feels absolutely great. But too often you run into shots you want to make that the game won’t understand, or you forget to ‘center’ and the game gets confused and hits a backhand when you wanted a forehand (or vice versa). Or just swings way too early.
You can play as a pro, or create a player. The stylized graphics look great on the Wii and I found I did a better job of making a player who looks like me here than I did in the much more complex character creator of Tiger Woods.
The campaign in the game is odd. You have major tournaments that are surrounded by strange satellite events where you can win abilities to improve your player. (e.g. Beat a Pro to get their ability.) Then you enter the tourney and if you lose, you’re done. On to the next tourney. So far I’ve been in Australia, France and England, and I’m too much of a non-tennnis fan to tell you the names of any of the tourneys beyond Wimbleton.
There’s also a lite fitness option where the game tracks (roughly…it doesn’t ask your weight or age or anything) how many calories you’re burning while playing. You can set a daily goal and try to play enough every day to meet it.
So is it worth getting? With caveats, yes. You have to go into this with your eyes wide open. If you can work with the limitations of the software, you can have plenty of fun. But if you want a perfect experience, wait for Grand Slam Tennis 11 or whatever next year’s iteration will be called. I hope that Wii Motion Plus controls continue to improve and become more natural and less fussy.
Here’s a video showing what I mean when I talk about ‘centering’ between shots. Thanks to the dude who made this; it saved me lots of frustration.