Platform: Nintendo NES
Also Known As: Four Players Tennis (Europa), Super World Tennis (Japón)
Controller: Mando de la consola
Toward the end of the 80s, there was a fierce fight between the videogame development companies trying to get a footprint in the dominating home videogame console, the Nintendo NES. They tried different tactics hoping to catch the customers’ preferences.
Getting licenses to use sport leagues, teams or at least players, names was one of those tactics, and was used practically since the beginnings of the videogame industry. In this particular game, the company Asmik acquired the use of two prominent tennis players of those years: the (by then) Czech Iván Lendl and the U.S.-born Chris Evert. This is probably the first videogame to sport the name of a female athlete in its title.
The videogame offers the, already considered default, vertical view of a tennis field. Controlling the virtual tennis player is done via the default controller crosspad, with one button you can make a lob shot, while the other one does a straight one. Pressing both buttons of the controller makes the virtual tennis player jump trying to reach the ball. This is something I never saw in a tennis videogame of these years, or prior. Another detail is that the longer you keep pressing the button, the farther the ball travels. Be careful, because the ball can easily bounce off field.
The videogamer has the choice of either playing with Lendl, Evert or two generic players either male or female. In case of choosing a generic player, it’s mandatory to distribute skills points, and it can be frustating at first. You can see how they are distributed with Lendl or Evert, and then, use it as a blueprint to distribute yours.
And it’s really necessary to distribute the points in an efficient way, because the control schema is not the strongest point of the game. The movement is too sensible, and it’s quite easy to missing a ball by going too far. Other disorienting fact is that when the ball apparently passed the rival player, it can hit the ball. You must kept an eye on that, because at first, more than once I was caught by surprise by an unexpected return shot.
The videogame offers either single or doubles match. You can choose between male or female virtual tennis player, and there are no significant difference visual, sans the larger hair in the female one. The videoplayer must advance through the different tournaments, and winning 3 matches you are declared champion. You can participate in the 4 Grand Slam tennis tournaments, and to finish the game it’s mandatory to win all of them. If you play singles, it’s also mandatory to win an extra tournament at the beginning of the game. In every field, because the fields are different according to tournament, the ball bounces differently, just like real life.
If you choose to play doubles, you can choose a partner of different gender. When playing a 1-player game, the AI controls the parrtner with an acceptable degree of efectiveness. The game offers to 2 or 4 human videoplayers to play in the game.
The videogame appeared first in Japan with the name of World Super Tennis, and the next year in USA with the more common name of Top Players. It caught my attention than it was distributed in Europe until 1992, with the title Four Players Tennis, and apparently, the license of using the names Lendl and Evert expired and replaced by two generic players with no apparent relation to tennis players of the time.
In my opinion, the developers of this particular videogame gambled in the success of using the names as a way to sell the game, probably hoping that the not-so-efficient controls and the too-hard custom players would not attract too many attention. It’s too frequent to pass a ball trying to return the ball, and the rival returning it unexpectedly can disorient a lot.
However, if you have enough time to build a custom player from scratch, it can be quite rewarding. At first, we highly recommend to use Lendl or Evert, to get more familiar with the game, before trying to build your custom player.
Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.