Net De Tennis (ねっとdeテニス)
Anna Kournikova’s Smash Court Tennis on the original Playstation was one of my guilty pleasures as a young teen. Of course, the main reason was because it featured my teen crush, the blond and buxom tennis star Anna Kournikova who was so popular at the time, but I also enjoyed the game's simple but subtle gameplay. Capcom’s Net De Tennis is a game that is obviously inspired by Namco’s classic series.
Although being another tennis title for the Dreamcast, Net De Tennis differs to Sega’s Virtua or Power Smash Tennis series, not just visually but also in the way it plays. Unlike Sega's title, there is not so much focus on reaction and speed in Net De Tennis. Instead the crux of the gameplay is based on strategy and the ability to outwit your opponent and while it makes the game feel more realistic than its graphics initially lets on, it also takes away a little of the arcade fun. The speed also can feel a little bit sluggish at time, so set up plays feel infinitely more considered. Controls are tight, with just one button for a lob shot and another for regular shot but each shot can be swerved depending on how you move the control, essentially give you a more deeper control system than at first meets the eye.
Game play also features varied thanks to the range of multinational male and female participants, although admittedly with somewhat simplistic traits connected with that particular country – e.g. fast small Japanese, big powerful Americans etc. Net De Tennis also features a create your own character mode to create an onscreen equivalent of yourself to play before Mii’s were even a twinkle in Nintendo’s bank balance.You get the usual singles, and doubles variations (alongside, or against a friend or the CPU) and an array courts such as clay, grass and cement which all have an effect on the way the ball bounces; forcing you to adjust your game to each environment. Modes consist of the usual single player, and multiplayer modes, and as the name implies this game was also once upon a time playable online in Japan. However, the service is no longer sadly running these days it doesn’t leave much in the way of game play modes.
One thing that is particularly noteworthy is the quality of the artwork and graphical style of the game. As was commonplace at Capcom during this particular era, a large of amount of the game’s budget was obviously spent adding a very unique and somewhat charming artstyle to the game. Such was the quality that it was featured in Capcom’s awesome Design Work art book series.
In 2013, Net De Tennis does come across as being a bit of a bare bones experience for the Sega Dreamcast but then that is forgetting that this game was originally sold as a budget title (2,079 yen) which was intended solely for online use. Put some time into the game and the subtle control will soon reveal its brilliance, especially when a friend comes over to play. In fact, supporting up to 4 players, Net De Tennis becomes one of the best multiplayer titles on the Dreamcast and an ideal party game. The single-player; however, and the subsequent lack of game modes is not the best and doesn’t really offer enough options or rewards for repeat sessions.