In Touch Tennis

Gachinko Tennis Android, iOS Review

A simple retro tennis game with 8-bit graphics and a lot of nostalgia for fans of old-school 2D games

Break out the Pimms, Lad

Remember Super Mario Tennis? If so, then you’re moderately old (don’t worry, so am I) , but you’ll also be in familiar territory when you play Gachinko Tennis. If you haven’t heard of this title it’s because it doesn’t have a big name like SEGA or Nintendo behind it, but rather the lads and ladies at MocoGame. They may be a small games developer, but the enjoyment in Gachinko Tennis is anything but. It’s as far from a realistic representation of the sport as one can get without stepping off the court entirely, but its simple stylish back-and-forth action is perfect for the odd 10-minute bout here and there on the commute, or on a warm, Pimms-soaked British summer evening. Mmm, quite.

A General Idea of Things to Come

You open up Gachinko Tennis to be met with a straight-shooting, matter-of-fact menu that includes an Exhibition Mode and an Elimination Mode, which are the game’s only two modes. No matter which mode you play, however, the gameplay is always the same. You view the court from above at a fairly standard 45-ish degree angle. Your player is closest to the screen while your opponent is on the other side of the net. Cue the start of the match and a series of vigorous volleys and smashing slices, and the better player is declared the winner.

It’s not as simple as that, however: Gachinko Tennis actually has a lot more depth to it than its 8-bit appearance would have you believe. It’s not swipe controlled – instead, you’ve got an on-screen D-Pad sitting comfortably on the left and what’s called a “main button” on the right. Your player moves about automatically, but you’ll find it’s quicker to use the D-Pad, which makes your player move with a little more haste. You perform virtually all shots with the main button, though a “Slice” button appears when you’re able to perform one. This control system works well, and in my opinion, is better than fiddling about with swiping with various gestures on the screen, which can get a little fiddly considering the number of different shots involved in the sport. It’s much better than any flash tennis game, too.

Ace

The surprising depth of Gachinko Tennis’ gameplay is apparent just from the “Help” section, which details around 16 pages of various techniques and pointers. The main take-home message from this section is that there are a lot of different shots you can perform. Straight shots, drop shots, and slices are just a few. There are also many kinds of serves you can perform, from basic to flat through to extremely powerful ones.

Speaking of power, you can’t hope to smash the living hell out of the ball without upgrading your character first. You can upgrade stats like your serve power and your speed on the court, allowing you to get progressively better as you play. It’s a real sense of progress when you start making your opponent run around the court after your ball rather than your opponent giving you the run-around.

Surprisingly Impressive

The depth keeps on coming with the two game modes, as well. Elimination mode accurately depicts the kind of tension one used to feel in old-school 8-bit games where there was no real save option, and a loss meant you were booted back to the start. Exhibition mode is also impressive, but arguably a little harder until you’re got a better character with better stats. It’s quite impressive that this game is free, too – the only thing better would be real-life Tennis for Free, but that’s not really an option for most people just wanting a swift match on their mobile phone.

Finally, the game’s visual style makes it a nice throw-back to games of old. Though the retro, 8-bit artwork is quite trendy at the moment (check out Tennis Club Story for a similar look) and has caused many developers to jump on the bandwagon, it feels like it’s been treated with respect and care by developers MocoGame, and the Japanse-English translation is much better than most, too.