Tennis no Oji-Sama 2004: Glorious Gold (Prince of Tennis: Glorious Gold)

Alternative title: Prince of Pong


The Lowdown

Pros: Lots of characters to unlock, two player mode, you can program "tactics" for your doubles player

Cons: Devoid of the story that made the series, ridiculous control scheme, surprisingly boring

Purchase at Play-Asia
Japan has had tennis fever for awhile now. The hit anime Tennis no Oji-Sama (aka Prince of Tennis) has been a hit in Japan. Its success has even generated an American fan base and the anime isn't even released here yet! With all of this buzz around the show, of course some company has to make a video game about it. Konami stepped up to the plate in 2003 when they released two Prince of Tennis games, Cool Blue and Passion Red for the Game Boy Advance. However, that was about a year ago and fans want more Prince of Tennis.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Prince of Tennis series here is a quick run down. The main character is Echizen Ryoma who plays on the Seigaku team. Echizen isn't any ordinary tennis player he's a tennis superstar from America and on top of that his dream is to be the best player. The story follows Echizen and his team as the battle rival schools during tennis matches. If they were just hitting the ball back and forth this may be a little boring, but this isn't the case. All of the characters have super moves like the ability to lob a ball at super sonic speeds and create illusions of balls. If this does sound a little crazy, just know that this show is popular. It was the number one anime in Japan at one time.

Anyway, on to the game. When you unwrap your brand new cartridge you can choose between singles and doubles matches against a computer, but you only have one character to start out with. Of course it is appropriate to start out with Echizen, but Konami could have at least given another character. One of the funniest things is if you want to play doubles at the start of the game you're forced to use two Echizens since there are no other characters. On the plus side there are 32 different characters to unlock for either Stylish Silver or Glorious Gold. Konami made two versions of Tennis no Oji-Sama 2004 and the only difference between them are the characters you have. Glorious Gold contains Seigaku (Echizen's school), St. Rudolph, Rikkai and Yamabuki. While Stylish Silver has Fudomine, Rokaku, Fudomine and of course Seigaku. In either game you're going to be spending time unlocking characters. Unlocking characters is a tedious process. You have to play with a character through all of their single matches or a specific combination of characters through all of their double matches. When you start out you'll unlock characters pretty quickly since you only have Echizen. However, if you want to unlock all of the characters you'll have to play through the game many times with random combinations or you have to consult your local message board.

If the process wasn't tedious enough to unlock characters, you actually have to play the game to do it too, which is a punishment in itself. First of all why did Konami remove the story of the game? Fans of the series would love to play through tense character specific battles and through alternate stories. Konami must have assumed that everyone already knows the story or they just decided it wasn't worth it to put it in. So there are no character backgrounds, no in game text to intensify the match, nothing. To be honest, Konami really could have gotten away without adding a story, after all this is a sport game, if they had some great gameplay. Of course, Konami didn't really put any emphasis on making a unique gameplay experience. I know no one really expects tennis games to be revolutionary, but after some good tennis games like Virtua Tennis and Mario Tennis the bar has been raised. Prince of Tennis: Glorious Gold doesn't pass the bar. It has the gameplay of the original tennis simulator pong with the addition of special moves. The controls are simple A is a basic shot while and B is a lobbing move. L and R can be used to place spin on the ball. When you actually play the game you'll quickly learn that doing basic hits (A) are sufficient enough to win matches. Scoring points and taunting your enemy fills up your special meter. When your special meter is full, your character is flashing white and you're holding L+R while pressing a button you can unleash a super move. Yes, the time when you can actually do a special move is as confusing as it sounds above. Completing special moves becomes more luck than skill because your character doesn't seem to flash at the right time. Instead of being able to do the move whenever you want you're forced to gamble between mashing A and completing a basic hit or doing the ridiculous button combination in hopes of a super move. When you actually perform a super move you're treated to a little graphical show and the move almost always causes the enemy to miss their hit. If you look carefully at the left hand side of the screen you'll notice that there is another bar next to the special bar. This bar is the enlightenment bar and when it is full you can hit L+R+start to activate it. This allows you to do unlimited supers until the yellow meter bottoms out.

While the supers are cool looking and the main highlight of the game they are way too powerful. Doing a super move pretty much guarantees that you're going to get points that round. At the best super moves can even knock the opponent's racket out of their hand. This is a huge benefit because you automatically win the battle after three racket drops in what is known as a racket KO. Konami also left so many things to exploit within the game that you can play the game and avoid actually "playing tennis". One of the classic tricks is doing a lot of dive shots to build up the enlightenment meter and then just let hell break loose with your unlimited special moves. Rinse and repeat until you are bored, which will happen quickly. If you choose to avoid using special moves you'll have a hard time beating the game. The computer will use a special move almost every chance they get, which means if you don't use special moves you'll be behind in points. All of these gameplay flukes take away from the "tennis" part of the game and it becomes more about beating the system.

If Konami did a good job in one area of the game it would have to be the visual presentation. Konami has some really detailed static images of the characters. The quick scenes where a character is about to unleash one of their super moves look nice too. Konami even has a character gallery with some well done pictures of the characters in the game. While Konami did make some good and large sprite based graphics, the actual in game graphics are nothing special. Maybe Konami didn't want to have heavy graphics to avoid in game slowdown, which would be devastating to the game. In any event, the graphics are probably the highlight of the game.

Prince of Tennis: Glorious Gold is something that only the biggest fan of the series can enjoy. The game has too many gameplay problems, too little entertainment and not enough story for people outside of the series to enjoy the game. Even fans of the series will get bored of the game pretty quickly because the game just isn't fun to play.

Import Friendly?

The majority of the menus are in English (except for the important tactics menu) and there is no story to worry about.

US Bound?

Doubtful US release on two counts the series isn't here and the game isn't any good.

Overall

You'd have more fun actually playing tennis or dreaming about playing tennis then playing this game.