Kairosoft try their hand at tennis management, with somewhat favourable results
Re-Skin to Win
Those who don’t know about Kairosoft will soon learn from their games that, as a developer, they have a habit of somehow getting away with releasing the same management-style simulator game over and over again, only essentially re-skinning for each release. It’s no different with Tennis Club Story, either, but this is a game that actually may interest some true tennis fans. Far from the back-and-forth action of your typical mobile tennis game, Tennis Club Story has you managing your own tennis club, built with your own two tappy fingers from the ground up. There’s training, resource/financial management, and stories of success to uncover here, and this review hopes to uncover the details.
Overview of the Action
Whether or not you’re actually a fan of Kairosoft’s massive collection of management simulation games, with their various styles based around the management theme, it’s difficult to deny that the developer have this style of game down to a tee, or a net as the case may be. The gameplay is focused around being at the helm of a tennis club that’s destined for success, provided you can attract the big tennis stars, get a load of tournaments going, win a load of said tournaments, and manage/generally tinker with your finances on a regular basis.
You won’t be engaging in full-on, 3D-rendered matches a la Virtua Tennis, or any first-person gameplay a la Out of Bounds, but the management, training, financial, and club-expansion aspects of the game are more than enough to keep any management-sim fan busy, as well as appealing in no small way to the more passionate fans of the sport through its technical tennis-training procedures. The act of managing a club and leading it to financial and professional success is immensely entertaining, and you even get to spend some time on the court with your freshly-created original character, too!
From Zero to Hero
The gameplay itself starts by naming your tennis club and also creating/customising your own so-called “original character”, who will be your main tennis star. Your character has stats that you can improve by making him or her engage in various training segments, which take the form of mini-games. In fact, it’s the first time that Kairosoft have included mini-games in their series so far, and they fit really well in the action, breaking up the otherwise numbers/management-based gameplay.
The bread and butter of your finances come from customers at the club. These customers get trained by your club’s players, and you can even watch them practising on the screen when you scroll over the courts of your tiny suburban club. It’s all about trying to keep the satisfaction of your customers topped up, which can be done by tapping on them when they’ve got an exclamation mark above them. The more they train and the better they get, the more money that your club will earn.
What I particularly enjoyed about the management aspect of the game is the level of detail the game goes into. You can even choose the coach that will be running the training at your club, as well as the kind of course that trainees will be following. Before you know it, your club will be scouted to take part in various events that are beneficial to it both financially and professionally.
Your tournament ranking is one of the many factors that quantifies your success. It begins at G, but soon rises to F and beyond the more you play. For example, you’re asked in the earlier stages to take part in a National Tennis Competition. No specific clubs or associations are mentioned – you won’t be getting a visit from officials from the Lawn Tennis Association, for example – but the point is that the more you play and the more you have your players/customers train, the more recognition and success you are likely to achieve.
Detail in Every Aspect
It’s quite amazing the level of detail seen in both the gameplay and the game’s graphics. Gameplay wise, in addition to the aforementioned managerial duties, you’ve also got mini-games where you will practise your skills and get to spend time on the court, testing out the various surfaces, each affecting how the ball bounces off them and therefore influencing each of the matches. It’s tiny details like these that really make the game.
The graphics are also wonderfully detailed. Rather than go for moderate realism, as in Grand Slam Tennis, Kairosoft have gone for the cutesy, 2D, purposely-pixelated design. It works really well, though the pixelated style doesn’t affect the detail of the on-court action – you can still see your tiny players bopping around with their rackets on the court, and your busy club still bustles with energy as you hover over it and take care of your management duties. The sound effect also provide extra detail and moderate realism to the action, though the generic music in the background does get a bit annoying, I have to admit.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the game, working hugely in its favour in contrast to most on the market today, is the fact that it’s a premium and not a freemium game. All too often, management games will be free to download yet either hassle you to hand over cash for upgrades and advantages, or simply make thing so slow and tiresome for free players that cash gets spent anyhow. Instead, Kairosoft have worked on making Tennis Club Story worth every single penny of the £3.88 that it costs.
So from managing your club’s finances to its customers’ satisfaction, through to morale, the coaches at your club, arranging tournaments, and rising to become the most notorious and successful tennis club in the world, Tennis Club Story really does have it all. This turned out to be not just as simple re-skin of Kairosoft’s other titles, but a tennis-based management game of unbridled success.