Sports games these days can be described, in a word, as intricate. They make use of nearly every button on the control pad, while some will even have a double function depending on the amount of pressure applied. These new control layouts along with the advanced technology which supports them has led to fantastic possibilities such as a differentiation between bullet and touch passes in football games. With such potential at the developers’ disposal though, why is it that many still view Tecmo Super Bowl as the best football game ever then? Why is it that, to this day, many will insist that Punch-Out is the finest game of the boxing genre? It is because they’re simple, yet challenging and addicting. With the launch of Nintendo’s Wii last year, Nintendo went back to those roots and packaged a retro sports game alongside its "not-so next-gen" game console. In this article I will begin a five part series covering this nostalgic title by first offering insight into the finer points of Wii Tennis.
I could not begin to enlighten you when it comes to tennis as a sport. Are there specific style shots? What is the significance of the terms "love" and "deuce" replacing "zero" and "tie?" I don’t know, but in Wii Sports that is irrelevant. You don’t need to be a guru of the sport to excel at the game; you can simply pick up and play. To play with great success, however, may be significantly more challenging.
First, it is important to acknowledge some simple fundamentals. Most reading this article may not have played tennis in an organized manner, but everyone has at the very least held a tennis racket. Your Wii Remote is the tennis racket, so allow it to function as such. With your wrist strap tightened, grip the Wiimote as you would a tennis racket, with the speaker side up. With your grip established, you may now begin whacking away at those neon green fuzzballs.
For many, one of the best chances you will have at scoring on the opposition will come on the serve. Again, we are attempting to mimic true tennis motions here so instead of using the "traditional" method of clicking the A Button to throw the ball in the air, flick the Wii Remote up and as the ball is in the air, send your Wii-mote blazing forward and crashing down to achieve an effective serve.
For maximum benefits, try to time your racket’s contact with the ball so that the two hit simultaneously; In other words you want to swing as the ball reaches the zenith of its escalation. Doing so will prompt a super-fast rocket to blaze forth toward the opposition with, quite literally, a trail of smoke behind it. This is, perhaps, the trickiest shot to return in Wii Tennis and can be used with great effect. Its perks are no secret though, so you have to be ready to combat the "speed serve" as well as dish it out. The ball is going to be coming much more quickly than normal, so it is important to swing the racket slightly earlier than you typically would to give yourself a chance at returning that bad boy.
Assuming either you or your opponent are able to return these lethal shots, you will now be engaged in a back-and-forth bout which could last for a seemingly endless amount of time. Applying a bit of strategy to the situation could help alleviate the monotony of such situations by ending them more quickly. But before indulging yourself in such endeavors you must first familiarize yourself with simply hitting the ball.
You would be surprised, I believe, by the amount of individuals who excessively move laterally so that each time they swing at the ball it can be in a forehanded motion (meaning they feel it is necessary to swing their racket from their strong side over to their weak side when making contact with the ball). This is their strategy while playing real tennis, but with the Miis being moved around the court for you it is less effective in Wii Tennis. The underlying principle remains the same: just as in real tennis, there will come times in Wii Tennis that you will have to attempt a backhanded swing (swinging the racket from one’s weak side to his or her strong side) to return the ball.
Far too often in Wii Tennis you will see a ball hit to the left of a right-handed player, prompting the player to swing furiously from right to left while the Mii on-screen hacks away frantically at the air; meanwhile, the ball goes bouncing by. All one has to do is tilt his or her body slightly to the left and swing the Wii Remote from that point back over to the right. Doing so makes such frustrating moments nonexistent.
Now that you know how to hit the ball, there are varying methods of actually delivering it. If you are just a beginner, the simple forehand and backhand strokes mentioned above will be your greatest aid. However, if you follow my next piece of advice, relying solely on these standard shots will not serve you very well. The best way to end a tennis match quickly and efficiently is to be the calculated aggressor. Remember: you are playing to win after all.
The best way of doing this is by using the player closest to the net as your most active resource. Try to make a play on the ball before it even has a chance to reach your second player by using three different hits. First, any time it is hit to your left simply use a backhand stroke to keep the ball in play. If the ball is hit to the right side of your player while on the left side of the court, it would be to your advantage to try the equivalent of an overhead smash by raising the Wiimote over your head and send it crashing forward as you do when serving. While this may not provide the same spark you get on the serve, it should keep the ball on a straight path with little chance of going out of bounds.
It is when the opposition hits the ball to the right side of your player while on the right side of the court that you can really go for the kill. Instead of attempting a standard forehand stroke, do so with an abrupt flick of your wrist so that the Wiimote itself does a quick 180 degree turn, with the speaker facing down at the hit’s culmination. Adding this twist will send the ball quickly to the far left side of your opponents’ court and, if they were on the right of the court themselves, will be a very difficult shot to return.
The founding principle in doing all of this with the front-most player is one universal truth: speed kills. If you can return all (if not, most) shots with the player closest to the net, you are giving your opponent, whether human or artificial intelligence, less time to plan and develop its next swing and execute it while allowing yourself a better opportunity to hit an instant, unreachable shot into the back corner of the court.
Of course, if none of this has provided you with any assistance, it may also help to go into the training section of Wii Sports where you can practice returning balls, timing your swing, and even hitting targets in target practice. Ultimately, this is a game all about speed, response, and angles -- think of it like Pong, only more advanced. But not too advanced, that is the glory of it all.
Check in next week for tips on achieving excellence in Wii Baseball.