Off the coast of Tokyo I had discovered a tennis court surrounded by a vast moat. I assumed it had to be the remains of Osaka Castle.
This assumption defied all conventions of basic geography, so it had to be correct. Before I ran into this hidden fortress to take my seat on its throne of tennis blood, however, I did what any good tennis ronin would have done: I retreated back through the lower depths of Japan and secured the perimeter. Also, Yojimbo. Allow me to translate that from cinephile jackass:
Way back in Chapter 4, I had noticed that there was another tennis court right outside of Tokyo that I had yet to conquer. As this one was freely accessible by land, video game logic dictated that it would be home to a much weaker tennis pro. I’d weaken the perimeter and then crash the gates.
This court was home to Keefe. Judging by his flowing mane and the feline quality of his facial features, I presumed him to be the lord of the tennis cat people – king of the Tokyo jungle. Or maybe he was just a spray-tanned crackhead with a tennis racket. Probably both. Either way, he probably had a pearl.
While Keefe put up a surprisingly good fight, he was no match for my particular brand of prophesied revenge-fueled tennis rage™. I was now 3 pearls short of the whole necklace. That was the best possible metaphor to use.
I started back towards Tokyo… but I stopped. What if there was another court over the horizon? Only a fool would try to storm a castle without fully weakening its defenses. The last thing I wanted to do was commence my siege, only to fall victim to a naval bombardment of Sam Groth velocity serves from the imperial navy. In an abundance of caution I sailed north from Tokyo. It was there I learned the horrifying truth about the geography of Tennis Kingdom.
While you wouldn’t know it from this picture, the tennis globe isn’t a globe at all. IT’S COMPLETELY FLAT. I could sail my tube this far and no further. The post-apocalyptic tennis wasteland theory was now right out. No weapon of mass destruction was powerful enough to unfurl an entire globe. Now that I thought about it, the Tennis Pangaea theory didn’t wash either; there were islands in this world. This had to be an alternate Earth. The only explanation could be that tennis world was a magical tennis court propped on the back of an enormous tennis turtle.
Before I lost my sanity to the sheer void of spatial logic before me, I refocused myself on the task at hand, and searched the seas to the east. There, I found another solitary hut. Barging in uninvited, as was my wont (perhaps this is why the lobotomites had been so generally unhelpful), I was immediately propositioned by another gentleman with a spit curl.
Despite my requests that he buy me dinner first, the man continued his approach. Tennis Kingdom really has an issue with consent. Suddenly, the screen flashed.
And with that, I was unceremoniously expelled from the stranger’s hut.
Let this be a lesson to all those that would travel the seas of Tennis Kingdom: do not walk into a stranger’s house unless you’re willing to have your racket forcibly enlarged. Consult your doctor if racket enlargement lasts longer than 6 hours.
IS THAT ANYWAY TO TREAT YOUR PROPHESIED HERO? Despite feeling used and trashy, I couldn’t help but view this as some kind of blessing in disguise. As all tennis in this existential hell was played on a 2D plane, theoretically, a larger racket would equate to less dropped volleys. I would abide this atrocity in stride in the name of forging my legend.
After that ugly affair, I didn’t feel like exploring any more. Tennis islanders were a superstitious, cowardly, and touchy-grabby lot. I sailed back to Osaka Castle and stormed the battlements. Inside, I found a man with the very Japanese name of “Wirt.”
As you can tell from the only file photo of Wirt I am able to produce due to technical difficulties, he just couldn’t handle the size of my racket. He was more or less Wirthless.
Are you done laughing yet? There’s an unwritten rule about video game quests of any type: if an enemy is isolated in a remote or hard to reach location, they will be uncommonly strong. In complete defiance of all gaming logic, isolating himself on a remote island had not improved Wirt’s tennis acumen one bit. Even the rules of game design don’t apply in Tennis Kingdom.
Having thoroughly exhausted all the prospective pearl locations in the North, I turned my search to the South… you know, towards Toronto and London.
In the Rocky Mountain foothills east of Spain, I found another secluded court. Under standard rules of video game engagement, mountain strongholds are right up there with secluded island fortresses. Surely, a legendary challenge awaited me within.
Her name was Brien, truly a tennis yuppie name if there ever were one. I had encountered this face before. It was the face of the woman I had met in the middle of Lake Superior. The one who couldn’t help me. I had cursed myself. Assuredly, the clone in Toronto’s waters had told her master that I was coming. Undoubtedly, Brien would be prepared.
She wasn’t. Brien has the distinction of being the only one of the Evil Tennis King’s minions to double fault. In fact, she double faulted twice. Astonishingly, she didn’t even get the benefit of the time-honored “ladies are faster than men” video game trope. While I applauded the Evil Tennis King’s desire to maintain an equal-opportunity work environment, CLEARLY he had not done his due diligence on this hire.
Having just vanquished three of the Evil Tennis King’s lieutenants, I was flush with Warren Buffett levels of Tennis Złoty. I now had the means to buy my way to true power; to upgrade to “A”gassi level gear. I marched back to Toronto, slapped down a cool half million, and suited up in the gear of a true champion. No sooner did I grasp the racket of the great one, was I struck with a powerful vision.
No Andre, there were no questions. There were only two hurdles left to clear, and I knew exactly what I had to do.
NEXT TIME: THE FINAL CHAPTER!