Top Spin 3 had an uphill struggle from the start. Releasing a tennis game on a console that comes packaged with one of the best digital versions of the sport ever created can't be easy. Why would Wii owners want to buy anything else when Wii Sports tennis keeps them entertained for hours? This hasn't stopped 2K Sports from trying its hand with Top Spin 3, a game which looks to offer more depth than Nintendo's offering and a selection of licensed tennis professionals.
Although a very different game to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games of the same name, Top Spin 3 on the Wii attempts to offer a more realistic tennis experience. You hold the Wii remote with your thumb running down its right edge, as if gripping a tennis racket. When waiting to receive the ball you point the remote at the screen and then swing it out the side to prepare your shot. When you do this the Wii Remote vibrates and from this point you can control the direction of your shot with the nunchuck's analogue stick. The longer you hold a direction the wider your shot. When ready to play your stroke you simply swing the remote, aiming to swing as in time with your on-screen character as possible.
From that description it sounds pretty complicated, but it's not. In fact the game is far easier to pick up and get into than the Xbox 360 and PS3 games. Whereas timing in the next-gen versions is absolutely key, in the Wii game you can get away with a mistimed swing without such severe punishment. To play well you'll still have to concentrate, with the most powerful shots only possible when you time things perfectly.
Slice and Top spin shots were just another button on the next-gen console games, but on the Wii they're handled by your swing of the Wii remote. Top spin is generated by a down to up motion to your swing, whereas slice is the reverse, requiring an up to down motion. Although not quite as clear cut to perform as using a button, it doesn't take long to hit the right shot each and every time. Lob and drop shots are also options by holding down the Z button while performing a slice and top spin shot.
When serving you have two options. You can press and release the Z button to perform an easy serve, but for a more attacking serve you can use the Wii Remote, swinging it as you would if serving in real life. Striking the ball with the edge of the Wii Remote (instead of the face) will add spin and holding B will perform a risk serve, which requires better timing. The risk serve is the only risk shot in the game, with the next-gen version's risk shots for standard ground strokes being completely absent. While perhaps more in keeping with the Wii's audience, this does lessen the depth of the game somewhat.
Although competent it's hard to shake the feeling that Top Spin 3 on Wii played second fiddle to the next-gen version. This is all too obvious in the game's main mode, Road to Glory, which isn't a patch on the full career mode in other versions. Here you play in a series of events, split into categories, but you don't create your own player and there's no stat progression. A standard career mode with a player creator would have been far preferable.
Something missing completely from the next-gen versions of Top Spin 3 is mini-games, and their inclusion on the Wii game's main menu looked very promising. Sadly they're not really the kind of mini-games I expected, with Invincible Man being a very slight twist on normal tennis, and The Keys (Single and Doubles) scoring you on all-round performance, not the traditional tennis scoring method. With online play completely missing (four-player local play is included), these mini-games could have given the Wii version a reason to opt for it over the PS3/360 game, but what's on offer adds little to the game.
Considering the original Top Spin appeared on the Xbox it's fair enough to expect the Wii game to look at least as good as that game, but it doesn't. It's not ugly compared to what else is on the system, but considering tennis is just two players on a court it should have looked better. The smooth animation blending that makes the next-gen versions look so great is missing here too, which hurts the realistic look the developers have gone for.
Top Spin 3 on Wii finds itself in a quite unfortunate position. It doesn't have the cuteness and incredibly simple pick up and play appeal of Wii Sports Tennis and it's not really in-depth enough to be a simulation. It's a competent game of tennis, but nothing more, and when competing with what is arguably one of the defining games of this generation that probably isn't good enough.