Wimbledon is often a time for shock results. Becker, Stich, Agassi and Sampras. They arrive unknown to us Brit tennis 'experts' whose knowledge of the game extends from the last week of June to the first week in July - and barely past the price of a punnet of strawberries. When Sampras took the title, it meant instant stardom. In Britain, tennis is Wimbledon and Wimbledon is tennis. Although we imagine the Wombles would think otherwise.
Codemasters scored a similar shock victory with Sampras last year. Nobody seriously considered tennis being a big hit on the Megadrive, with the pile of other sims already out, but the quality of the game took it to number one. We guess they have similar hopes for this year's incarnation. In many ways it's much like its predecessor, but the team have added more than a few features that make it worthy of our, and your, attention.
The core of the game is the single player tournament option. This doesn't cover the conventional tennis circuit, but is a series of encounters with each of the computer opponents leading up to Sampy himself.
Sound is an area of distinct improvement from original Pete Sampras. The game has full speech scoring, with the umpire using the players' names. The response from the crowd is much more sophisticated than before. They respond to the action depending on the length of rallies or if particularly skillful tactics are employed. There are even lone shouts of support, and heckling for badly behaved players.
There are two hidden modes (at least) allowing you to take the game setting beyond the final frontier, and also play with a superhuman character. We will be revealing the methods in next month's tips section...
Against all the odds, Codemasters has managed to make the greatest Megadrive Tennis game even better. I really hate cliched commends, but whilst Sampras '96 retains the playability of the first game, the addition of extra shots and the parallax on the court, really does make it easier to play. The additions are nothing major, but the difference is like a year-old car that has never been serviced, and one that has.
Everything about Sampras '96 is geared towards making the game simple to pick up, yet behind the deceptively easy facade lies a game with more shots and skills than Martina Whatsername. Smart.
After three years, the Megadrive finally produces a tennis game that beats Super Tennis on the SNES. It certainly outdoes the original Pete Sampras, which had loads of playability, but not so much in terms of graphics and sound.
Rightly, Codemasters have avoided making this game unnecessarily complicated - although there is the chance to develop special tactics and shots. Instead, they have sought to improve the atmosphere of the game to match that of real tennis.
They have succeeded. The player reactions, the crowd, the umpire and animations all combine to produce a game that's great to watch as well as play. Reintroducing the J-Cart for free four-player expansion is an added bonus. This *is* the definitive 16-bit tennis game of any format. Don't look any further.
P. Nice court and players, with all the attendant ball boys and girls.
N. Little variety.
P. Those 5,000 frames cover all kinds of movements.
N. The sprites are slightly too small to appreciate all the detail.
N. A bit yeugh. Codemasters always produces this sort of naff europap title stuff.
P. Fantastic! Probably the best use of FX on any Megadrive game. Convincing samples and little sounds, like the net.
P. Easy to pick up. A deceptively wide range of options open to you.
N. The tournament option is limited as unrealistic.
P. With mates, this has deadly lastability. Hugely entertaining doubles option and hidden modes.
P. One of the definitive multi-player Megadrive games. As much as you could expect from tennis: Sampras has retained his world title.