Note 1: Like Neo Geo Pocket Color games? Check out my review of Fatal Fury: 1st Contact!
Note 2: This game was played on a Neo Geo Pocket Color in a well-lit room. The Neo Geo Pocket Color doesn’t have a front light or backlight (unless you purchase a modded system or a Nyko light), but the game looks fantastic as long as you play in a room with adequate light).
Game Type: Sports
Players: 1 or 2 player VS (with 2 game cartridges, 2 handheld systems, and 1 link cable)
Quick History: Pocket Tennis Color was released in 1999 for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It was a launch title for the short-lived hand-held system, and isn’t terribly ‘obscure’ in terms of its availability; however, since the NGPC didn’t last long and many gamers have never played any game for the system, I’m reviewing it.
Modes: 3 modes are available in Pocket Tennis Color: Exhibition, Tournament, and Records. Exhibition is a single game against 1 CPU opponent (or human opponent in 2 player VS). You can select among 5 different courts (6 with two human players) and select the number of Sets you want to play (1, 3, or 5). In Tournament, you select a player and take them through a randomly named tournament against 3 other tennis players. Win all 3 matches, and you win the tournament and receive a trophy. In Records mode, you can view the trophies you’ve won in tournaments (tournaments have different names like ‘Oriental’ or ‘Virgo’).
Gameplay: If you have no idea how tennis works, here are the very basics. 2 players stand opposite one another on a court, with a net between them. Using a racket, they hit a ball back and forth, with the object being to hit it into a section of your opponent’s half of the court where they cannot hit it back to you – if you do this, you score. The first player to get to over 40 points wins. However, points work like this – your first score is 15, your second is 30, and your third score is 40. Score again once you have 40, and you win. However, in tennis, if you and your opponent are tied at 40, you’ll have to score twice more before you win. You play a ‘1st to 6 wins’ Set, so, once you have beaten your opponent once, the score re-sets to 0, and the next match begins, and so on. Whoever wins 6 matches in the Set first, wins the Set.
Control: The control stick moves you in all directions on the court. A hits a quick shot, and B hits a lob shot (higher, slower shot). You can spike the ball onto your opponents half of the court if you hit B when the ball is at the right point in the air. The controls are simple to master.
Music and Sound: The music in Pocket Tennis Color is simple, yet decent. Each court has different theme music. The sound effects could have used improvement, however. The ball doesn’t make any bouncing noises and no sound effect is heard when it is struck with a regular hit.
Characters: 10 characters are available for selection, although you’ll have to unlock 2 of them by beating them in Tournament Mode (they appear randomly). The characters are an assortment of men and women, plus an amoeba called ‘Amiba’ (an amoeba is a microscopic organism without a particular shape). Weird. Each player has their own speed or power, so you can play around and see which one you like best.
Difficulty: Pocket Tennis Color is a simple game, and after a couple of matches in a Set, you’ll be dominating the competition. Playing through all of the game’s tournaments will still provide a slight challenge, as often your final opponent will be a little tougher than the first two, meaning he or she can actually score on you. Overall, the game is a little too easy.
Saving: The game saves the trophies of Tournaments you win in your Records menu. You can win the same tournament multiple times, and the game even saves the date of when you won it.
Conclusion: Pocket Tennis Color is an extremely simplistic tennis game, but it is fun. You’ll want to fill up your trophy case, and the fact that the game saves your big wins is certainly a plus. The difficulty needed to be tougher, however, or in the very least, an option to change the difficulty should have been included.
The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: Far from being a ‘bad’ tennis game, Pocket Color Tennis is not perfect. However, there’s enough here to warrant a purchase if you own a Neo Geo Pocket Color. C+