E3 06: Wii Sports Hands-On: Tennis

We find out how the Wii controller handles tennis (hint: pretty well).

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LOS ANGELES--One of the games Nintendo will be showing off for the Wii at E3 this week is Wii Sports, a compilation of assorted sports titles designed to take advantage of the unique controller. Though the final lineup and number of games to be included is still being determined, we had the chance to try out one game that was set to be included: Tennis. We played a few matches against a Nintendo rep in a split-screen competition that let us get a feel for how the game is going to work.

The brief demo jumped right into gameplay, with the screen being split down the middle. You'll take control of a team of two players, one in the front court and the other in the back. If you're serving you have two options: Flip the controller as if you're trying to flip a pancake in a pan, or press the A button. Either option will toss the ball up for your player to hit. Obviously you'll want to swat the controller as if you were really using a tennis racquet, to send the ball at your opponent. When receiving, you'll do the same to hit the ball back. Besides simple hits, you'll have the option to perform lobs. One of the tricks to successfully hitting the ball is adjusting your timing. If you manage to hit the ball at the right time you can adjust the angle of its return. You'll want to be careful, though, as swinging the controller causes both your players to swing. If you blow the timing and miss a shot with your player in the front court, it's unlikely that you will be able to recover in time to get a second chance. Overall, the game controlled well and was quite intuitive to pick up.

As far as the visuals go, the game won't blow anyone away with its gratuitous use of polygons, bump maps, lighting, and all the other graphics buzzwords that make the rounds. The game uses a simple presentation, with very basic designs for the court and players. In many ways the game's look and the concept of Wii Sports remind us of the idea behind the compilation cartridge that came with the old SuperScope for the SNES or, more recently, the EyeToy Play disc that was bundled with the EyeToy. The point of both discs wasn't to provide a mind-blowing visual extravaganza but, instead, to offer very fun ways to use their respective peripherals. In the case of Wii Sports, the compilation appears to be designed to provide a collection of sports games that show off how easy and fun titles can be using the controller. In that respect, Wii Tennis gets the job done handily. Look for more on the game from E3 later this week.

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