It's easy to scoff at the Hot Shots Golf series--wild-eyed characters in silly costumes almost maniacally enjoying a round or two of golf while wearing headwear that could draw a life sentence from the fashion police. That unrelenting cheeriness has a way of winning people over--thanks in no small part to accessible gameplay and enough challenge to keep serious sports fans interested. That same formula looks to be intact in the upcoming Hot Shots Tennis Portable for the PSP, which we played today on the show floor at TGS 2009.
Located on an upper level of the PSP section of the Sony booth, Hot Shots Tennis Portable featured a single match between a male and female player. After choosing our player, we could dress him up in a couple of atrociously cute outfits--the male player had the option to wear a bumblebee costume, which makes no sense on the tennis court or anywhere else. We could also choose from a couple of different rackets available to us--it's a safe bet that, as with other Hot Shots games, you'll be able to unlock new costumes and accessories as you play.
Once on the court, we played a best-of-three match against our rival. Controls in the game are as easy as can be. Each of the face buttons is tied to a specific shot type--lob, standard, and top spin shot--and you move your player around the court with the analog stick or the D pad. What did require some practice was the timing of the swing, which requires you to press the button when the ball gets close to your player.
The timing is delicate on these shots, and following the small tennis ball on the PSP screen can be a hassle. To help you out, a horizontal line appears when the ball gets close to your player, and it scrolls down toward you, giving you a better indication of when you should swing your racket.
With the timing under our fingers, we were able to quickly dispatch of our opponent in straight sets--a good thing too, since the 10-minute time limit for PSP demos on the show floor was in full effect. It wasn't long before the pleasant and attractive Japanese helper lady politely told us to scram and our time with Hot Shots Tennis Portable was done. The game's easy controls and impressive graphics--the grass and environment textures were some of the best we've seen on the PSP--make this game tough to ignore, silly costumes and all. Look for more on Hot Shots Tennis Portable in the coming months.