The Wii owes much of its success to tennis. Wii Sports came with every Wii sold, which means gamers (and everyone else) had a chance to experience motion controls before the term "waggle" was associated with just about everything on the system. Of the games bundled with the system, bowling and tennis were the most popular, and remained, for a long time, one of the most practical applications of the motion technology. It's been years since the Wii's launch, and as of yet no one has been able to top Wii Sports when it comes to tennis. Tiger Woods quickly overtook golf and Punch-Out!! recently dethroned boxing, but tennis remained unscathed. Seeing this missed opportunity, EA has stepped onto the court with EA SPORTS Grand Slam Tennis, hoping to take advantage of the Wii MotionPlus's arrival and create something that wouldn't be possible without the peripheral.
Grand Slam Tennis sports an art style that will likely lead many to think it's a casual title. This would be an unwise assumption. Beneath its colorful, characterized appearance lies one of the deepest tennis games ever created. It allows for several different control settings, giving players the option to play with or without the MotionPlus or Nunchuk. Using just the remote, for instance, provides a much more casual experience, letting the AI take over character movement and giving an experience not entirely dissimilar to Wii Sports (though still deeper). Plugging in the MotionPlus is an entirely different experience, blurring the line between gamer and athlete.
Well, the line might not be blurred entirely, but it's definitely much more difficult to play once the peripheral is attached. Instead of simply swinging at the right time, every motion is important. This means an end to mindless waggle, for better or worse. There isn't a tutorial in Grand Slam Tennis, meaning someone who isn't already familiar with the sport or willing to devote time to learning how to play by trial-and-error is going to spend a good amount of time failing. Know how to play tennis? You're looking at the absolute best simulation ever made. Haven't hit the court in some time? Unplug the MotionPlus and prepare to be served. There's great reward for learning how to play, and the sensitivity allowed with MotionPlus is without equal, but don't expect to be blown away at first. It takes practice and patience, making Grand Slam Tennis more of a simulation than other games on the market.
For being the first game in a series, Grand Slam Tennis offers everything that can be expected from a sports title. The problem is, while everything is included, some aspects aren't as fleshed out as they should be. There's a create-a-character option, for instance, but it's pretty weak. The career mode suffers a similar fate, and is more of a tournament than an actual career. Online play is mostly lagless, but it's limited to singles games in exhibition mode, when it should, by all means, allow for doubles. Needless to say, there's some room for improvement in terms of the basic options.
EA's recent crusade against calories bleeds into Grand Slam Tennis a bit, and there are rudimentary calorie burning option in the game. Beyond that, there's an assortment of mini-games, but none are really all too gripping. Usually they put a spotlight one of the game's problems: split-screen camera. From time to time, usually in doubles, the camera will focus on one player and not another, adding massive blind spots to the court. It feels like it should dynamically change and shift depending on the location of the ball, but too often it doesn't, creating massive gameplay issues. Luckily, no one should really care, because few people will spend time with the game's mini-games.
EA SPORTS Grand Slam Tennis is a great offering, and a fantastic first outing for the series. It isn't without fault, however, and isn't the casual experience some hoped it would be. It's deeper than that, which is an uncommon issue for a Wii title, and should provide plenty of gameplay for anyone willing to commit the time and effort into learning how to play with the Wii MotionPlus. Without it, expect something more akin to Wii Sports, but the option to play as some of the best tennis players of the past ten years, which isn't a bad thing either. That same learning-curve that will bring many in might also be a deterrent for others, though, and it's worth finding out which side of the paint you stand on before committing to a purchase.