Top Spin 3 is the latest tennis game to hit the Nintendo DS and aims to be the best of the lot. Succeeding where it's predecessor failed Top Spin 3 delivers a proper and playable Top Spin experience to DS owners. While the package is light in comparison to its bigger brothers it scores good points for being the only one that fits in your pocket.
To keep gamers entertained Top Spin 3 sports several familiar game
modes. There is play now which lets you get right into the action and
tournament mode which is essentially several play now matches in a row.
There is also a career mode, multiplayer and eight mini-games to mix up
the regular tennis formula. The main area you will spend your time
playing in will be career mode.
The career mode lets you create your own professional tennis player and
take them through a three year career. You may play as a male or female
and select from a handful of shorts/skirts, shirts, rackets and
hat/hair combinations. The much smaller list of customisation options
compared to other Top Spin games is forgivable and even favoured; I
personally never cared about selecting chin types and eyebrow colour.
Week by week you will advance through the career mode opting to
participate in one of three activities: training, attending special
events or entering tournaments. These options vary in length but are
usually only 'one week' long, which can take several minutes to half an
hour depending on the event. Occasionally you will receive emails from
your couch, sponsors or fans which reflect what has been going on in
Training pits you against the same mini-games from the mini-game main
menu option. Mini-games involve objectives such as opening trap doors
so you can trap robot balls all the way to playing a game of
tic-tac-toe by hitting the ball where you want to go. Successfully
completing training challenges will award you points that are used to
enhance your character's tennis skills, such as backhand, forehand,
speed and precision. The mini-games are enjoyable short distractions though are extremely shallow.
The special events range from sponsored tournaments for winning new
items to some mundane pictures that depict you as injured, depressed,
on holidays, etcetera. Entering the major tournaments though is what you
will want to do every time the option is available. Winning the
tournaments allow you to progress up the ladder, giving you access to
more exclusive tournaments, events and higher training levels. Not all
three of these career options will be available to you each week, other
times you will be forced to choose.
You may play as one of over 17 professional tennis players such as Boris Becker and Maria Sharapova, there are some exclusions from the roster but with the ability to create your own you won't worry too much. There are 14 tennis courts to play on ranging from the Amazon jungle to several famous tennis stadiums. Each one has its own visual identity and looks great, although many share the same background sounds.
Holding together the all the game modes is the same proven tennis
system Top Spin is renown for. The four face buttons are mapped to
standard swing, top spin, slice and lob. The R button is mapped to a
power shot which requires perfect timing to be performed correctly and
the L button for angle shots executed in the same manner as power
shots. Additionally, the bottom screen can be touched to activate a
boost for moving around the court more quickly. To win matches you must
make proper use of all of these abilities while paying special
attention to player positions on the court.
There is nothing wrong with how the Top Spin series has recreated the
sport although the nature of hitting a ball back and forth is
inheriting repetitive, and as such Top Spin is best played in short
sessions. If the back and forth nature of tennis isn't enough to make
you take a rest after an hour, the game's audio will certainly force
you to. The lack of background music and the limited amount of sound
bites means the audio is a barren wasteland of uninteresting sounds.
While the slimmed down custom character features are quite superficial,
there is another more pressing omissions that deserves to be mentioned.
The game contains no doubles events at all. Every mode in the game has
two or less players on the court. This is presumably because of the
underpowered nature of the DS hardware, but unfortunately this effects
the diversity of game modes on offer. Another major absentee is online
functionality, no online leaderboards or multiplayer at all. Quite
disappointing given Top Spin 3 requires two copies of the game to be
played in multiplayer. We could chalk this up to hardware limitations
again, but in the end this really limits the game to being just a
single player experience.
The new optional camera angle works
wonders with the game's 3D engine, which boasts impressive animation,
frame rate and attention to detail for a Nintendo DS game. The same
controls and gameplay from the proven Top Spin series return and
provides the same precision despite the handicap of the digital D-pad.
Depending on your priorities, the extremely light weight nature of the DS version
may be overshadowed by the convenience of owning a tennis game
on a portable platform. Like all games based on the sport it is repetitive, but it offers strong tennis gameplay to those who want it.
Platform reviewed: Nintendo DS