Tennis was one of the launch titles for the NES way back in 1985, and it succeeded in winning new gamers to the system in much the same way as Wii Sports. That begs the question, of course, why bother with this if you already have Wii Sports Tennis, which you got as a freebie with your Wii? Well for a start you control the movement of your player in this game!
For a game developed over 20 years ago, NES Sports Tennis is pretty impressive, and it stood out from its contemporaries at the time with its attention to detail. The rules of tennis are modelled nicely here and a fair amount of strategy can be used in the game. You can also have singles matches against a friend and doubles matches against the CPU.
The controls are pretty simple, you simply press A to do a strong shot, B to do a lob shot and use the D-pad to move. Very often you'll either hit the ball into the net or hit it out, which you don't have much control over. Even when you do manage to hit a strong shot, the ball goes slowly which provides your opponent ample time to react and run after the ball. In addition to this often when you try to hit the ball you'll either miss it entirely, even though it's an inch in front of you, or you'll hit the ball about a few feet in front of you, which seems to happen randomly. To rub it in the CPU rarely makes such mistakes; it’s fair to say that the controls can be a little unforgiving at times.
Mario makes an appearance in Tennis as the umpire calling the shots and faults. His next appearance as ref would be in the excellent Punch-Out!!, which we desperately hope will arrive on the Virtual Console very soon.
While Tennis is far from being a terrible game (unlike NES Sports Baseball) it is hard to really recommend it wholeheartedly. It’s a bit too clunky in its implementation when compared to the excellent Super Tennis on the SNES or Mario Golf on the N64. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait long for both of those games to make it over to the Virtual Console; until that time we would advise you stick to playing Wii Sports Tennis for the time being.