I finally got around to playing EA’s Grand Slam Tennis for Wii. I’ve had this in my collection for at least two years, but never actually played it, probably out of worry that it would be terrible or low-grade shovelware. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here–this is a really great videogame.
You can play with basic Wiimote, Wii Remote Plus or nunchuck, each option offering greater precision and control. I played with the Wiimote Plus alone and was very, very impressed. The controls are very accurate and the ball goes exactly where you want it to go. Movements are very natural and don’t require any real thought. Just swing like you would with a tennis racket, twist the controller to add spin, making sure you angle your shots correctly. Compared to Wii Sports tennis, you have far more control which allows for more realistic volleys. I believe I was also able to make the player move more quickly by aiming the Wiimote, desperately catching up to that far corner at the last second, but I might just be fooling myself. I’ll need to play and experiment more to be sure.
Graphics are a little cartoony, and I will admit that this turned me off when this game was released. Wii was pegged as the “kiddie console,” and so everything had to have simple cartoon graphics with the exact same caricatures: spindly arms and legs, giant hands and feet, bulbous head. That is the case here, but it’s not too extreme and the colors are smooth and balanced with minimal details and textures. It’s not as garish as the hyper-cartoon look of Madden NFL 10 & 11, closer to the more balanced look of Madden 12 & 13 (assuming anybody here played Madden on the Wii…probably zero, I’ll bet, but whatever). In any case, everything looks very good, color design is very solid and the motion capture animations are superb.
Virtua Tennis on Sega Dreamcast remains my gold standard for the genre, and Grand Slam Tennis compares very favorably. Indeed, it might play better. I haven’t yet played Sega’s Virtua Tennis games on Wii, nor have I played 2K’s Top Spin series (despite only recently picking up Top Spin 3), but EA Sports’ effort is widely considered the best. At this point, I would have to agree. It’s just as good as NHL Slapshot and NBA Jam, two of my absolute favorite sports games for the Wii.
I bought this game from Gamestop for five dollars, which was an absolute steal. Its going price on Ebay now is ten dollars, still pretty cheap, but expect those numbers to rise.
While EA is today widely regarded as the Sith Lords of the videogame realm–and there certainly is good reason for that–it should be noted that they did an excellent job with Nintendo Wii. They really did put in an effort to exploit the new motion controls and appeal to the expanding mainstream audience. They are one of the most dependable third parties on the system and it really does feel like a golden age for them, or at least a silver age for those of us who remember the 1980s home computer and 1990s Sega Genesis days.
My only question at this point: Why hasn’t EA brought Grand Slam Tennis to the Nintendo Switch? That console is starving for sports games, and the only EA Sports title available is FIFA. What gives?! You’d think 2K Sports would leap at the chance to bring back NFL2K, albeit without official licenses–but when did that ever stop the first four Madden games on Genesis? Ugh, what a crooked mess. Thanks for nothing, Sith Lords.