I know what you're thinking, of course an old tennis game for an old console would be rightfully forgotten - after all, there's certainly countless other tennis games just like this one right? Well, not quite. In fact, I would be surprised if there is any
other tennis game akin to the Turbografx-16's World Court Tennis. Before I dive in, I apologize in advance for the screen cap quality; I took these directly from my TV, and my digital camera, and corresponding camera skills, are average at best.
Start the game up, and you're treated to a pretty standard title screen. Nothing out of the ordinary yet right?
In fact, watching the demo that literally starts one second after the title screen flashes, it'd appear that this game is a standard, nondescript launch title.
The third mode listed betrays the secret of World Court Tennis. That's right, you're playing a Tennis/RPG hybrid. So let's fire up a new game and see just what possibly the world's only tennis RPG has to offer.
I had drafted a paragraph describing your quest, but I just can't steal Good King Tennis' thunder. That gibberish you see floating over his head is your password, and he's the only one who can provide it. That means you'll be making the trek back to the old king frequently to jot down that nightmare of a password. Anyway, he does a good job setting you up for your quest, but just in case it isn't clear, here's what the manual has to offer: Quest Mode - Get Ready for All-new Tennis Adventure!
Once upon a time, there was a peaceful, tennis-loving land. But one day, an evil Tennis King appeared and made off with all the prize money that had been won by the people in tennis tournaments. On top of that, he used his evil followers to set up tennis courts based upon a membership system, under which hardly any of the people could play!
But now, there is someone who can overthrow the bad Tennis King. That "someone" is you!
Setting off from the court of the Good King Tennis, we see the city overworld. Well, it definitely resembles Dragon Warrior, and is in line with the graphic on the mode selection.
So what might this fair city be named? Tennisville? The White Court? Racketown? Nope, this land is known as Chicago, which as well as know, has always been renowned as the tennis capital of the world. The first building you come to in this sprawling land of 5 houses is the shop.
Here are the three equipment slots in World Court Tennis. Better shoes make you run faster on the court, better rackets have more power, and better shirts...well, actually I'll save that for later, because it will make a lot more sense then.
You can't really explore these houses, they just house NPC's who provide such nuggets of information as:
Thanks there Bob, never would have guessed that. The hell with these Chicago yokels, it's time to head out and fight some monsters...er play some Tennis.
Like the town screen, the overworld bears a striking resemblance to Dragon Warrior. The terrain is water, trees, hills, mountains, and grass. You wander around, crossing the occasional bridge going from town to town. But wander too much...
These are the random encounters. Choose yes, and you play a one-match tennis game. This is where the game plays like any other tennis title.
It's actually a very good tennis game. The control is tight, the physics are great, and the graphics are very pleasing for a game of the era. At at one-game matches, you are usually in and out of a match in a couple minutes. You may have noticed that the challenger does give you a choice. This is where the shirt comes into play. If you have a low grade of tennis shirt, and try to say no to a challenge, you're likely to see this:
I guess if you have a class A shirt, the evil tennis player is so enamored by your designer shirt that they become docile, and you just get a friendly exit.
So what happens if you accept the challenge (or get pushed around into one) and lose? Well, you don't die, but you basically go through the same routine as thought you had. You end up back at the King's court, where he offers these words of encouragement:
He also gives you some paltry amount of money, usually $100 - as opposed to the $1500 you get from winning the early matches. So even if you lose a lot, you can use the King's donations to buy better equipment right?
Yeesh. It looks like inflation has taken a toll on the good kingdom of Chicago.
This world actually is quite large, and as is normal in older RPG titles, sometimes you'll be taking random encounters every step. Thankfully, the game does have a sort of magic, in the form of the warp spell. Each time you visit a new city, you gain the ability to warp to it automatically. Here is a quick list of what Tennis Kingdoms will eventually be open to you.
And way later, you do gain a mode of transportation. Most RPG's use the airship as the standard world-cruising vehicle. But what would World Court Tennis take, with its ass-backward time period?
Why, an innertube, of course. A generous old Tennis guru donates it to you late in the game, and it allows you to traverse the open seas. Luckily, there are no aquatic tennis courts, so once you have the tube, exploration becomes much easier. And really, you don't need to earn as much money as you'd think. Sometimes the game either glitches or you just get lucky, and a match will net some outrageous cash amount. Early on, you're lucky to get $1800 for a win - even then, 5 matches and you can upgrade, but one time I received a whopping $6800 for a match, which you can see it in the video posted at the bottom. And while the tennis gameplay is solid, the upgraded equipment is a little spotty. Shoes do make you run fast, but it's like the speed boost in a shmup: you definitely want a moderate boost, but get the maximum and suddenly you're out of control. Rackets tend to be more unpredictable. You get a harder swing, but it totally changes the timing needed to keep the ball from going out of bounds, so after buying a new racket, expect to be faulting all the time. That leaves shirts, which only serve to avoid battles.
Before I wrap it up, I have to bring up the music. It is so campy, so happy, and so damn cheesy that you can't help but get into it. The overworld music cracks me up every time, when you pair it up the fact that you're going on a tennis adventure. And the encounter music sounds so dastardly, with a hook that would make the vilest of Disney villains proud. Speaking of the villains, their portraits range from average looking Tennis guy/girl to incredibly bizarre.
Sometimes they'll have a piece of headgear.
Funny hair lines...
Sometimes the Good King apparently takes off the crown and has a go at you...
Sometimes they have...good god! What the hell is wrong with that guy's mouth?
But this is by far my favorite. Sadly, he doesn't have the mask on when you get to the Tennis court.
After travelling the world and defeating all the Tennis bosses, which basically involves finding tennis courts on the map and playing 3-match games with more randomly generated villain faces, you can hop on your tube and track down evil King Tennis to his island lair.
Now the entire game's cast of evil doers has been these average people with the occasional freaky mouth or hockey mask, so does their leader follow suit?
That's right, you're facing an actual tennis monster here. Actually, he might be the evil brother of the shopkeeper. I swear that palette looks familiar...
And he's tough as hell. So tough in fact, that I've never beat him. I've had this game for near 20 years, and I've never beaten him. Just to give you an idea, I've also added a video of my most recent attempt below.
Well that about does it for the quest mode of World Court Tennis. While it would be tempting to consider it a parody, or joke on the RPG community, everything comes across as genuine and earnest, like it was the dream of some developer who had dual loves of Tennis and RPG's, longing for a day when he could combine his chocolate and peanut butter.
For what it's worth, the game is actually pretty fun. A tennis game by itself is nothing especially exciting, but when mixed with RPG elements, suddenly you have an addictive little package. I contend that World Court Tennis should not be forgotten, because even if you aren't drawn into the hybrid gameplay, you'll probably find plenty to laugh at. Hell, this game even gave you the choice of playing as a female protaganist. For 1989, that was pretty cool.
Plus there's some funny easter eggs in the game as well, such as what your name becomes if you don't enter anything at the start: Video clips
If you'd like to see the game in action, I took a couple of video clips as well. The first is some basic gameplay; I mostly wanted to share the music, because it really does bring the experience together. The second shows why I've never been able to beat this game. Quest Mode Gameplay Evil King Tennis is Impossible
I'm Dr. Light ate your Magicite, and
Oh fine. Lousy Tennis villains.
LOOK WHO CAME:
Dr Light ate your Magicite