Tag Archives: 1989

Arcade Memories, Pt. 1: Crime Fighters

crime-fighters-screenshot-2016-09-07-20-39-46Crime Fighters
Arcade, 1989
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

This is NHL almost-legend Tim Kerr:

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Image source: tradingcarddb.com. He was actually a right winger.

Best-known for his 11 seasons (1980-1991) with the Philadelphia Flyers, Tim Kerr was a force to be reckoned with on the power play. In fact, as of this writing, Tim Kerr still holds the single-season record for power play goals: back in the ’85-’86 season he picked up 34. The only person to come REMOTELY close in recent history is Ilya Kovalchuk, who racked up 27 goals in the ’05-’06 season. To hold ANY record that long in modern professional sports is truly a commendable feat. ALL HAIL KING KERR, LONG MAY HE REIGN!

Despite being a lifelong Flyers fan, though, when I think of Tim Kerr, I don’t  think of hockey. I think of VIDEO GAMES.

tks
TK’s – Avalon Boardwalk – Doris Zogas, 1993. Click the image to see more of Ms. Zogas’ awesome watercolors.

What you are looking at there is a lovely watercolor of TK’s Seafood and Crab House in Avalon, New Jersey. I would have loved to post an actual picture, but the place is gone – has been for over a decade now (though Tim Kerr still maintains a powerful presence in the Jersey Shore area). While TK’s was an excellent place get your crab on, that’s not why I look back on it fondly.

Computer, enhance.

tkupclose

That’s the good stuff right there! You see, Mr. Kerr had the good sense to shove an arcade in the basement of his restaurant. Why waste your money on sea food that your child’s unsophisticated palette won’t even come close to appreciating? Just send them to the basement for 45 minutes while you get sensibly hammered. Now that’s what I call power play parenting!

I’m not sure if that arcade actually had a name, but it might as well have been called “here’s 20 bucks, try to be home by 10.” It’s where I spent many summer vacation nights as a kid, and it’s where some of my first memories of video games were formed. So, please, indulge me a bit as I wax nostalgic. Let’s quarter up and cruise down memory lane.

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The first game I remember when I think of TK’s is Konami’s Crime Fighters.  Crime Fighters is really a game of its era – and that era is the latest of the late ’80s. The introduction really tells you everything you need to know:

crimefighters
Side bar: Until I was 12, I assumed most relationships began with some kind of abduction/rescue/vigilante justice scenario. Thanks video games!

Those are some high stakes there. In most games, you just have to rescue one dude’s girlfriend. Crime Fighters isn’t messing around: its corpulent antagonist seems to have kidnapped ALL the ladies. At least 9, if we’re going by the number of Polaroids on the table. If that doesn’t get you motivated to go on a hot-blooded vigilante rampage, you or your parents probably voted for Dukakis.

Any guy crazy enough to kidnap that many ladies undoubtedly has a considerably large private army of faceless goons. But don’t worry: you’ll have backup. As you may have noticed, Crime Fighters is  a FOUR-PLAYER GAME. And the cabinet… it was just glorious:

crime-fighters-4-player-arcade-cabinet_1_cd262252c6be6e2d96825b972788afa1
Image source: worthpoint.com/worthopedia/crime-fighters-4-player-arcade-cabinet-1989

Crime Fighters definitely was not the first four-player arcade game; not by a long shot. But it IS the first four-player cabinet I remember seeing out there in the wild, and damn if it didn’t blow my 7-year-old mind. Just looking it takes me back to a simpler and more honest time; a time when the word “punk” meant “violent maniac with a switchblade,” and not “hipster with a mohawk.”  It’s like the designers based their entire perception of urban crime in America off of Crocodile Dundee 2. And it’s great.

crime-fighters-screenshot-2016-10-09-17-17-40
Accurate depiction of late ’80s subways. Only half joking.

The four-player limit meant that I could team-up with my older brothers and cousins without getting in the way, and back then, that was more than enough for me. I was just happy to play with the big kids! And it’s a good thing I’ve held on to those memories… because Crime Fighters is just an absolutely terrible and brutally difficult game.

crime-fighters-screenshot-2016-10-09-17-48-53
Please leave a comment if you know what “Hanny” is and whether or not it is worth playing .

Aside from the thrill of teaming up with four buddies to clean up the streets, Crime Fighters has just about nothing else going for it. It has all the visual trappings of a great arcade beat-em up: legions of colorful enemies, a diverse arsenal of special weapons, and enough urban decay to start a Christian panic. Unfortunately, there’s not much under the hood: hit detection is terrible, the AI has no qualms about sticking you in an endless hitstun, and you’re constantly over-matched and outgunned. Playing with a full compliment of four players is, perhaps, the ONLY way to have fun with Crime Fighters.

If you watched through to the end, you may have noticed that the good folks at Konami might have watched more than Crocodile Dundee 2 before coding this bad boy. Crime Fighters is filled with all kinds of legally questionable inspiration!

crime-fighters-clip-2-screenshot-2016-10-09-19-25-39

Behold! Hatless Freddy Krueger!

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Not quite Jason Vorhees!

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Blonde Schwarzenegger!

And, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t point out Crime Fighters’ most egregious sin – the way it shamelessly pits players against each other in a naked money grab! If at least two players are standing at the end of a stage, the game “rewards” you with the opportunity to beat one another up.

While this can be fun, it leads to nothing but profound sadness and lost quarters. I still remember when my brother Dave figured out the con: “DON’T! That’s what the machine WANTS us to do!”

So Crime Fighters is a terrible game. Despite its faults, though, I can’t help but look back on it with fondness. There was something magical about pulling up to that giant, colorful cabinet with your family and friends and beating up on punks until you ran out of cash. It was a spectacle, an event – it was hot trash, but even a dumpster fire can be fun to stare at with the right people by your side. Crime Fighters had one great thing going for it: it was always more fun with friends.

And also its incredibly creepy ending screen:

crime-fighters-screenshot-2016-10-09-19-57-53

World Court Tennis – Quest’s End

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

The Evil Tennis King had to know that I was getting ready to exact my vengeance by now. I’d just picked off two of his top lieutenants and his favorite quota-based hire. And if he hadn’t heard about that, he sure as hell had seen my embiggened racket looming over the horizon. All that aside, I wasn’t ready to face him just yet. I needed one more pearl, so I could get that magical ball. Incidentally, I had no idea what the magical ball did… but it had to be good, right? Otherwise they’d call it the cursed ball, or some other heavy-handed late ’80s RPG name. That’s just how these things work.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-35-15

I had to give it to the last of the of the sinister six: this side of the Evil Tennis King’s ominous castle at the North Pole, he had best secluded fortress in Tennis Kingdom. A remote mountain fortress hidden on the shores of a SECRET GROTTO. No subtlety here. I’m surprised he didn’t write “keep out” in the blood of his victims over the entrance. I give his efforts a B+. But a B+ is no match for “A” level gear.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-46-11

Rosen. Just look at this cocky bastard. That’s a serial killer smile if I ever saw one. His sweater vest told me he meant business, though. But crushing tennis flunkies was my business. And recently, business had been booming.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-58-06

Like his compatriots, Rosen wound up on the wrong end of my tennis legend. The butt end. But the scoreboard does not lie, he but up a valiant fight. I guess that sweater vest was made of a breathable knit, or perhaps a comfortable microfiber.

After forcibly seizing control of Tennis Kingdom’s economy, the Evil Tennis King had not counted on anyone amassing enough Tennis Bitcoins to buy their way to victory. He’d spent lavishly on sweet hidden fortresses when he should have been pumping steroids into his henchmen. As this game was programmed in ’88, nobody would have been testing anyway.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 21-24-05

I returned to the island home of the Parisian ball merchant. I now had enough pearls to go get myself a magical ball, which, as we’ve discussed, is the only thing in the universe that you can actually purchase with said pearls. As I now controlled the entirety of Tennis Kingdom’s pearl supply, you’d think I would have some leverage here. Were I a less gentlemanly tennis legend, I might have considered holding the magic ball market hostage until I got some more magical tennis apparel… but hey, Tennis Kingdom was apparently a rotational constitutional monarchy in a state of civil war. My pearls might be worth nothing in a day or two if I didn’t commence my attack soon.

At last, I was ready to seize the final piece of gear I would need to free the world from the supposed tyranny of the Evil Tennis King. What words of sage advice would be imparted to me as I acquired the felty green orb of destiny?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 21-25-04

Jeez. No sense of gravitas at all, huh spitcurl? Hey, why did all of the spitcurls live in isolated huts in the middle of nowhere? Were they some kind of persecuted sub-race of lobotomite? Should there ever be a sequel to World Court Tennis, I truly hope they tackle this important societal issue head on. #ISTANDWITHSPITCURL. Yes, even after he forcibly enlarged my racket. #NOTALLSPITCURLS.

I had done it. The Agassi gear. The magical ball. The large racket. I had come so far. Even if I failed, my place in the annals of tennis history had already been secured. Tennis bards would sing my story for ages. But glory was not enough. Now… now I needed REVENGE. I hopped in my inner tube and set course for the North Pole. It was time to put an end to this. Thankfully, film crews were on hand.

Yes, that’s how it actually happened. It didn’t happen like this, no sir, not at all. It certainly didn’t take me 45 minutes to beat him.

SUCCESS! I HAD DEFEATED THE DEVIL HIMSELF. I’M A REGULAR CHARLIE DANIELS, YOU SONUVABITCH, I”M THE BEST THERE EVER IS. The magical ball had suppressed Tennis Satan’s demonic serve. Without his black magic, he was no match for my arsenal of overpriced sporting goods. Truly, this was a victory for capitalism.

But I needed answers. While the Evil Tennis King had bequeathed Tennis Kingdom to me in his last official act, his authority to do so was suspect at best. What did “a” Tennis King have to say about this?

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-27-44

Naturally!

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-27-56

I thank you for thinking me. I thank. Or is that think your for thanking me? I thank you know what I mean.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-28-22

I’ve already bought every purchasable item in the world. I don’t need them. Sure, why not.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-28-44

Thanks. I’ve always wanted to rule over a geographically distorted, completely flat parallel Earth. I think… but wouldn’t that make it my tennis kingdom, and not yours? And why the hell did you want me to save your godforsaken kingdom if you were just going to give it to me for a handful of jewels? THIS ISN’T ADDING UP.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-28-52

… go on.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-29-09

I’ve been known to dabble.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-29-22

Final Lap? You mean Final Lap Twin? HAS THIS WHOLE THING BEEN A SALES PITCH?

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-29-37

You mean my land, right? You’re just going to take all of your Final Lap Twin money and retire to some Japanese dating sim game, aren’t you. Screw you, “a” Tennis King. This place was pretty peaceful to begin with anyway.

TennisEnd

And so, I had solved the riddle of tennis steel (it is not the racket, but the size of the wallet that wields it), and brought the era of high tennis adventure to a close. I, STEV had become king by my own hand, and now wore the crown of Tennis Kingdom upon a troubled brow. This would not be the end of my adventures…

Conan-the-Destroyer_Another-Story

 

 

 

 

NEXT TIME: There is no next time. OR IS THERE?

World Court Tennis – The Pearly Gates

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-35-15

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:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-13-45

 

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-15-04

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-22-05

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-36-37

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.

Turtlecourt
Tennis Kingdom, from space, as theorized by our research department.

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-37-00

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-37-04

And with that, I was unceremoniously expelled from the stranger’s hut.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-34-29

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.”

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-40-01

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-16 21-02-42

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-56-17

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-32-39

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.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 22-08-03

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!

World Court Tennis – The Endgame Begins

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Had I known I was up against Tennis Satan himself, perhaps I might not have rushed headlong into humiliating defeat. It was going to take more than my legendary forehand and prophesied tennis instincts to take down the Evil Tennis King and free Tennis Kingdom from… uh… well…

World Court Tennis - First Tennis King Battle Screenshot 2015-09-09 19-31-17

You know, I still wasn’t sure just what this world needed to be “saved” from. Sure, it was geographically a mess, but that was about it. All anybody did here was play tennis. I mean, I can’t blame “a” Tennis King for being a little bit antsy about having a green tennis demon/doppelganger living at the North Pole, but it seemed like he mostly kept to himself. On top of that, nobody in Tennis Kingdom seemed like they were particularly unhappy or evil (except maybe the tennis rapists and this guy). There were tennis courts EVERYWHERE. How bad could this place really be?

None of that truly mattered anymore, though. I’d gone too deep, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave tennis kingdom without avenging my loss. I had to know that I truly was THE GREATEST TENNIS PLAYER IN THE LAND. My battles thus far had taught me exactly how to accomplish this goal: OBTAIN BETTER SPORTING GOODS THAN MY OPPONENTS.

I knew a few things:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-28-59

1.  A man in Toronto was selling “A”gassi ranked gear. At this point in time, I lacked the funds to acquire that gear.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-24-52

2. There were six “fixed” tennis courts in Tennis Kingdom (as in “not the ones that materialize out of thin air every five seconds”). I had conquered two of those courts when I defeated Witt and Sevens. Each of those victories had earned me a pearl. Presumably if I could find the other four pearls, something good would happen.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-11-17

3. There was a big lake in Paris. Something should be there.

As I wasn’t in the mood to run headlong back into a tennis match just yet, I figured the first logical step was to warp back to Paris and check out that lake. Now that i had an inner tube, aquatic exploration would not be an issue.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-36-49

Sure enough, something WAS in the great Parisian sea. An isolated doghouse. I wondered how many tennis francs this primo piece of real estate had cost. Inside?

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Finally! The mystery of the pearls revealed! I’m no economist, but something told me that this guy would have better luck moving his merchandise if he set more reasonable prices. Currency that you can only obtain by beating the world’s greatest tennis pros is necessarily in short supply. I guess you have to dream big if you live on an isolated island with no means of escape.

At this point in time, I concluded that the next logical step would be to fight my way across the wilderness looking for the remaining tennis courts, while at the same time gradually earning the tennis food stamps necessary to purchase that “A”gassi gear. I was curious though… there had been lakes in Toronto and Tokyo. Why didn’t I check them out first?

Well I’ll be, Toronto apparently had a lake-dweller as well.

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A step up in quality from the Parisian doghouse I had just visited, no doubt. What useful information would I find here?

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You know, if I lived in the middle of a lake in post-apocalyptic Canada, I would probably be asking for help instead of refusing to dole it out, but hey, what did I know. Maybe I’d find the Japanese to be a little more hospitable? I warped back to Tokyo and took to the seas.

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A-ha. Whatever I was about to find, I was sure it wasn’t going to be hospitable. It was time to make like Commodore Perry and bust Japan wide open.

NEXT TIME: PACIFIC THEATER OF OPERATIONS

World Court Tennis – Genre Pioneer

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Fear not, tennis fans – I haven’t abandoned my quest. Quite the opposite, in fact. However, sifting through 6 hours of virtually identical looking footage of video game tennis can be quite time-consuming. Particularly when you’ve got a day job! The quest, for good or for ill, has concluded. It will be chronicled in due time.

With the defeat of Sevens, though, we’ve hit what is more or less the turning point in STEV’s tennis legend. He’s finally accumulated enough tennis capital to do some real damage. That being the case, in the time-honored tradition of pointless cliffhangers, I can’t think of a better time to interject a video game history lesson that nobody asked for. Here we go!

Dragon Quest was one of the first (if not the first) role playing games released for a home video game console. Released to Japanese audiences in 1986, Dragon Quest was a rousing success, selling millions of copies and spawning 9 sequels (with many more undoubtedly on the way). It’s often credited with creating the genre we now know as the “JRPG” – the Japanese Role-Playing Game.

If you simply google “Dragon Quest 1 Screenshots,” you’ll get a very clear idea of the the visual and gameplay style Namco was aping when they programmed the quest mode for World Court Tennis :

Dragon-Quest-NES-Screenshot-2

That’s Dragon Quest. This is World Court Tennis:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-55-30

You COULD call World Court Tennis’ quest mode a blatant ripoff. However, given the fact that the HuCard also contains a full-featured non-quest-based tennis game, I’m willing to give the developers the benefit of the doubt. We’ll just call  it a “loving tribute” instead.

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-22 20-03-58

This, in and of itself, isn’t terribly interesting; loads of games have borrowed liberally from Dragon Quest. Your average American gamer in the late ’80s, however, wouldn’t have known this. Dragon Quest didn’t make its way to North America until August of 1989, when Nintendo renamed it Dragon Warrior and unleashed it on the Western audience, in an effort to introduce Americans to the RPG craze that had taken Japan by storm.  Dragon Warrior certainly wasn’t the first RPG to make it to the Western console market – Sega’s Phantasy Star arrived at some point in 1988 – but it may as well have been. These days, it’s commonly thought of as the game that introduced the Nintendo generation to RPGs.

This is precisely why World Court Tennis must have been a really confusing present for a select few American boys and girls back in 1989. Not only were they confused as to why their parents got them a TurboGrafx-16 instead of a NES , their tennis game was a bizarre cross breed of a sports sim and a genre they had probably never SEEN before. Seriously, this is funny now –

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-42

– but can you imagine how weird this must have seemed to some 8-year-old tennis fan back in 1989?  It might as well have been named “Ivan Lendl’s Magical Pearl Quest.”

Making this even MORE interesting is that the best North American release date I can find for World Court Tennis is “1989.” The TurboGrafx-16 launched on August 19, 1989. Assuming the Internet is accurate, and World Court Tennis, was, in fact, released between August 19 and December 31 of 1989, it was likely among the very first console RPGs released in America. There’s a slight chance that it even beat Dragon Warrior to the market – it DEFINITELY arrived before Final Fantasy, which didn’t hit North American shores until mid-1990.

So there you have it. Not only was World Court Tennis a surprisingly decent tennis game for its time, it was also one of the first RPGs released to American audiences. Definitely among the first ten.

And with that, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

NEXT TIME: WE GET ON WITH IT ALREADY (FOR REAL THIS TIME)!

World Court Tennis – STEV Rising: REVENGEANCE

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

I had taken out Witt. Conquered one of the six tennis courts and obtained a mystic pearl of unknown purpose. I knew I probably needed more practice, but vengeance – no – REVENGEANCE was running through my veins. I needed revenge against Sevens.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-30 20-35-12

Ah, just look at his stupid face and Hitler youth haircut! I couldn’t move on until I cleansed the stain of my loss to Sevens from my near pristine 15-36 record. Yes, I would have to beat him, and I would have to beat him in a crudely edited montage set to Finnish power metal.

I hope you enjoyed that. It may be the most work I’ve ever put into anything ever. Someone send me a certificate. I now use Windows Movie Maker at a 10th grade level.

NEXT TIME: WE GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!

World Court Tennis – IKUZE!

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

After recuperating from my devastating defeat at the hands of the sinister Sevens, it appeared that a new plan was in order. I clearly wasn’t good enough to take on a serious challenger yet… or was I? Clearly, I had been called to this surprisingly verdant sports themed wasteland for some reason. Somewhere deep in my heart of hearts, I just KNEW I was destined to save this kingdom – or at least spend untold hours of my life chronicling my attempts to do so for a “fanbase” of less than 2,000 readers.

No. The more I thought about it, it was just impossible. I was great at tennis. My “D” ranked shoes, racket, and shirt, however, were not. They had abandoned me in my time of need. What I needed was “C” ranked gear. Gear that would appropriately “C”ompliment my prophesied tennis greatness.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-34

Ah, the mysterious northern town! This had to be where I would find the racket of destiny. It was time for another pilgrimage. But to where? Germany? Finland? Maybe… Buffalo? Western Europe had been just  a short jump from Chicago, after all. Regardless, I concluded that my quest would have to proceed northward. Whether it was German beer, Baltic herring, or hot wings, I was up for the challenge. So I started walking…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-55-30

Through the foothills….

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-55-56

Through the fjords and the forests…

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Over bridges and through more fjords and forests…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-56-40

Between secluded sylvan streams…

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Into  barren river vall…. OH FOR GOD’S SAKE, WORLD COURT TENNIS! HOW COULD YOU JUST SHOW ME THE FRIGGING TOWN IN THE DISTANCE AND MAKE ME WALK FOR ANOTHER FIFTEEN MINUTES. I HAVE OTHER THINGS TO DO, YOU KNOW! PEOPLE HAVE JOBS! I’M NOT EVEN FACTORING IN THE FACT THAT A MENTAL INVALID STOPPED AND DEMANDED THAT I PLAY TENNIS WITH HIM EVERY 5 SECONDS.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 19-05-17

YEAH, NICE HAT PAL. REAL GOOD DISGUISE. THAT HAT CAN’T HIDE YOUR HIDEOUSLY DEFORMED ORBITAL BONES. I CAN TELL YOU’RE THE SAME DOUCHE THAT TOLD ME TO GO NORTH IN THE FIRST PLACE. I’LL ONLY RUN INTO COPIES OF YOU WITH CLOWN LIPS, A HOCKEY MASK, OR SUNGLASSES ABOUT 15 MORE TIMES BEFORE THE END OF THIS THING. WOULD IT HAVE KILLED THEM TO PROGRAM A FEW MORE FACES? 

*ahem* Sorry about that. Got caught up in my passion for tennis there. Anyway… after questing through the wild nuclear forests of the North, I finally happened upon a town.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-57-22

Since my journey had taken me in a generally northwesterly direction, I reckoned that I was somewhere in the middle of what the ancient ones called the Atlantic (you know, in the times before the great tennis cataclysm). My best guess? Reykjavik.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-45

Good God! How?

GlobeTennis

Looked like sushi was on the menu. Most expert cartographers will tell you that east, or perhaps west, is the best direction to head if you want to get to Japan from France. Conceivably, I could have taken Santa’s Shortcut… but that would have required me to head northeast, not northwest. I was now convinced. I was in some sort of temporally distorted Pangaea that had somehow been filled with modern cities and populated with tennis playing lobotomite clones. Or maybe androids. It was the only explanation. The real horrors of Tennis Kingdom lied in the hidden truth of its origins. What had happened here?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-58-14

Tokyo was a modest hamlet – far from the vibrant electric metropolis I knew it to be in my home realm. Six huts, a shop, and a giant lake. I was eager to hear what its inhabitants had to offer.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-23

Fortunately, I got two of ’em. HA!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-59

That’s a relief, I haven’t been vaccinated for that particular affliction.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-05

I am quite happy with my size, and don’t call me “racket.”

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 19-00-05

Don’t try to butter me up, pal. I can tell you’re a member of the Sevens series of lobotomite androids. I’ll never forget that face.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-58-53

Anyway, Tokyo didn’t have much to offer. It DID have a shop filled with “C” ranked gear, though. “C,” as it turns out, is far more expensive than “D.” I needed to acquire some more Tennis Yuan… and that meant more… well, tennis, what else?

I hurriedly left Tokyo, back through the fjords, forests, and valleys. My destination? Paris. If I needed to mug some tennis rapists, it would only be more enjoyable if they were French. After a solid 2 hours of tennis-assaulting some Gauls, I had amassed a princely sum of Tennis Drachmas. I warped back to Tokyo and equipped myself some beautiful “C” ranked gear. “C.” It stands for “Champion.”

While wandering around the Parisian wilderness, I noticed that there was a small peninsula to the east that I had not yet explored. My curiosity getting the better of me, I just had to take a look.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 19-05-59

A tennis court. Literally, about a ten second walk from Paris. I silently cursed this Parisian, who had sent me on a ten minute death march towards the doom known as Sevens.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Clip 1 Screenshot 2015-07-15 21-34-00

This court was inhabited by a gentleman named Witt. Like Sevens, he also possessed a pearl, which for some reason, I craved. What had happened to Tennis Kingdom? Who exactly was the Evil Tennis King? The answers – they just had to be buried under those pearls. It was time to show Witt just what a “C”hampion was.

Oh, what? You don’t have 15 minutes to spare to watch me drunkenly force my way through 8-bit tennis? Fine. Here’s the synopsis:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Clip 1 Screenshot 2015-07-15 21-35-02

 

I had tasted blood. Sevens would know retribution.

NEXT TIME: VENGEANCE!

World Court Tennis – Advantage: Sevens

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Despite some initial miscues, my plan to buy my way to tennis godhood had finally commenced in earnest. Dressed in my finest “D” grade Parisian sportswear, I was now a credible threat. It was time to take retribution on those tennis rapists. The rape-ee would now be the… wait. No. Forget I said that.

It was time to leave the lobotomite infested hellhole that the before-ones called Paris. But where would I go? Seeking guidance, I opened my menu, and saw that I now had the power to “warp” to Chicago. My latent tennis legend powers must have awakened upon contact with my expensive new French racket:

HKSJR-RQT21

That’s it! I’d return to Chicago and seek guidance from “a” Tennis King! Surely he’d know what to do. You don’t become “a” Tennis King without acquiring some degree of tennis questing mastery. I quickly zapped myself back to Chicago and made my way towards “a” Tennis palace.

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-17 20-19-12

“A” Tennis King would undoubtedly be impressed with my progress. I was sure he’d been keeping something from me – some ancient legend, some apocryphal wisdom – for the very occasion when I could prove to him that I was worthy of the quest with which I had been tasked. It was now time for him to divulge the hidden knowledge of the ancients unto me, the prophesied one!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-07 20-44-29

“Go.” Go. All he could say was “Go.” What, did I catch him having an affair with Chris Evert or something? I was beginning to understand how “a” Tennis King had lost his kingdom to his evil twin. You know, maybe if he treated his prophesied heroes a little better, he wouldn’t be in this pickle. Was he too busy cooking the city’s budget? Typical Chicago politician.

My efforts again stymied, I thought back to what I’d learned from the mentally disfigured inhabitants of post-apocalyptic (or perhaps prehsitoric – I hadn’t yet dismissed my Pangaea theory) France:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-16

No, not him. The other guy.

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Surely, this was not merely idle chatter. If this mentally infirm Frenchman wasted his last sentient thoughts conveying this information to me, I was surely meant to seek out this court. TO THE WEST!

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I began my trek westward, across the scorched Atlantic, and was happy to note that my new garments were, as promised, allowing me to avoid tennis challenges.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-07 20-35-52

My plan was working – it seemed that the touchy grabby brigands of Tennis Kingdom were so impressed by my “D” ranked visage, they were finally beginning to understand that “no” meant “no.”

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-07 20-40-11

Well, most of them, anyway. I must have passed into the ruins of a destroyed frat house, or something. But it didn’t seem to matter – with my new racket and faster shoes, I had finally started winning regularly.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-08 20-26-35

THE PROPHECY WOULD BE FULFILLED (whatever it was, anyway). Finally, after hours of walking through the Atlantic wasteland and its spontaneously generated tennis courts, I happened across…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 19-47-49

…well, another tennis court. But this one had an aire of importance about it. It was of permanent construction – presumably bound to our corporeal realm by some sort of tennis magic – and ensconced in a mystical forest glade. What mysteries awaited me here? Batting cages, I hoped. I was secretly getting tired of tennis.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-30 20-35-12
Whoa, buddy. We just met.

Alas, I would befall no such fortune. As I stepped into the forest glade, I was approached by a menacing figure in terminator sunglasses. This was the man only known only as Sevens. I presume he was named this because he eight more than a few nines. Or maybe the Japanese tennis gods who translated this game couldn’t get a handle on the name “Sven.” Either way, this six was not afraid of Sevens. I knew not why I had to beat him, but something told me I needed a pearl. And he had one.

WorldCourtSevens

I dropped a close first game to Sevens, but this was clearly a contest of supreme importance – we’d be playing a full set. I smiled, knowing that my shiny new racket would help me win the day. Oh how wrong I was.

DAMN MY HUBRIS! WHY HADN’T I FORESEEN THE SIDE SWITCH? Having never played on the top half of the screen before, I was ill-prepared for this perverse distortion of perspective. My limbs failed me. I may as well have been playing with my controller upside down. Racket, I mean. Not controller. Racket. I don’t think I need to tell you how the rest of the match went.

Having hit another roadblock on my path to predestined greatness, I decided to take a rest. But that Sevens character had looked familiar… had I seen him… in… Chicago?

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-07-01 19-34-40

No. This couldn’t have been all a perverse decoy… could it have been?

NEXT TIME: THE ROAD TO RETRIBUTION!

 

World Court Tennis – The Quest Continues

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

My initial foray into Tennis Kingdom having been thwarted by roving tennis rapists, I took some time to lick my wounds before venturing out into the wilderness again. Clearly, I had a lot of practicing to do before I could even consider taking down the Evil Tennis King. In my heart, I wasn’t even sure why I was trying to take him down. For all I knew, he was just taking his rightful turn at the rotational constitutional throne of Tennis Kingdom. Why should I, STEV, do the bidding of “a” deposed Tennis King? I had no stake in this battle!

But enough. I am the prophesied one. Heroes do not doubt, and doubt of any kind can be ended in action alone. It was time to prepare a battle plan. As I sat in my home, concocting my strategy, I remembered the words of a particular Chicago yuppie who was kind enough to offer me advice when I walked into his home uninvited:

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-17 20-15-49

EUREKA. If I couldn’t beat them with my talent, I’d simply outspend them. If years of Nike commercials have taught me anything, it’s that talent is just a paycheck away. I’d just scare those tennis rapists away with flashy clothes! While my losses far exceeded my wins, I’d amassed some cash – “a” Tennis King had been kind enough to give me cab fare every time I Iost.

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-07-01 19-31-32

It would have probably been more helpful if he’d given me full access to the Tennis Kingdom treasury. He HAD asked me to save his kingdom, after all… but hey, haggling wasn’t an option. It was time to hit the shops.

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No, he couldn’t. As any RPG player worth his salt knows, “E” stands for equipped. I already had all this junk. While I’d amassed a princely sum of $9,200 Tennis Coronas, it looked like my plan to spend my way to the top wasn’t getting off the ground in Chicago. I’d have to venture out and find another shop.

I commenced the arduous trek east from Chicago, fending off every feral scumbag in a polo shirt that dared to stand in my way (actual record: 5-8), into what I assume was the desolate remains of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Before long, I stumbled across a humble settlement. What could this be? Baltimore? Philadelphia? What horrible fate had befallen the Eastern Seaboard in the tennispocalypse?

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Dear God, no. How could this be? I’d somehow crossed what was once the Atlantic Ocean and made my way to the city of lights, only to find it occupied by a race of tennis playing cro-mags. Or… was this a Pangaea situation? Had the whole world become unstuck in time, transplanting modern towns into a pre-divide land mass? WHAT TRICKERY WAS THIS, EVIL TENNIS KING?

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But the time for questions had passed. I was in too deep, and the only way out was through. It was time to see what was left of Paris. Paris was quite larger than Chicago, spanning several screens – perhaps it had been spared the full wrath of the Evil Tennis King. It had no less than 10 houses. I prayed that its inhabitants would be more helpful than the residents of Chicago.

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I sought to save them, but they spoke in riddles….

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brainless platitudes…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-42thinly veiled threats…

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and pointless declarative statements. Clearly something was rotten in the former France. That being said, at least two Parisian zombies offered some useful information.

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This disturbingly ecstatic gentleman divulged the location of a tennis court. While I was perplexed as to why you would need a tennis court in a land where they can seemingly materialize out of thin air, I was certain I would have to explore this.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-34And this man, who appeared to be suffering from some kind of severe skeletal deformity, divulged the location of another settlement of Tennis survivors.

But I didn’t come to Paris to chat. I came to Paris to shop. What did the local pro shop have to offer?

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This inventory looked suspiciously familiar… oh God, could it be that “E” didn’t mean “equipped,” but…

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My conscience forbids me from reiterating the stream of expletives that sprung forth from my mouth upon discovering that I’d spent four hours of my life fighting off the tennis hordes with grade “F” gear. IS THIS ENTIRE KINGDOM CONSPIRING AGAINST ME?

Putting my rage at the world aside, I ponied up the cash for some “D” ranked gear, confident that this would only help my quest. I then put my controller down and took a rest, vowing to return again. I would not be broken by this clumsy user interface! Because, after all, as a lobotomized Parisian once told me…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-16

NEXT TIME: WESTWARD, HO!

 

 

World Court Tennis – The Legend Begins

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

World Court Tennis is just like any other Tennis game from 1989, save for two notable exceptions. One: it lets you play as a cat man named Grans:

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-22 20-39-16Two: it has a quest mode.

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-22 20-03-58Seriously! A quest! There’s really no point in talking about any other mode, is there?  I’d just be wasting our time. Now let’s go rescue Stefi Graf. Or Ivan Lendl. Or whatever it is you do on a Tennis Quest in the late ’80s. ROLE PLAYING TIME!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-34-30Ahh, a king! And he’s been waiting for me! I must be the prophesied one, or maybe the descendant of Bobby Riggs. My legend precedes me.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-36-54So wait, you are just “a” king of Tennis Kingdom? Is this some kind of rotational constitutional monarchy? Are you some kind of regional warlord? So many questions. Anyway, sure, what do you need, Tennis King?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-40-15 Sounds like Connecticut.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-43-01Wait, I thought you were the Tennis King. Are you saying you wrecked everything, or do you have some kind of doppelganger? Something isn’t adding up here, pal.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-44-38I really hope this isn’t some kind of long twisting switcharoonie, where I learn that he’s some kind of Robin Hood figure, and that I’ve been working for the wrong side all along. Don’t screw with STEV, Tennis King.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-49-18Now how did he do that? Who is he, Carmen Sandiego? Is he going to steal the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center next? I don’t care if your kingdom was peaceful, Tennis King; you just can’t let things like that happen on your watch. Negligence, plain and simple.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-52-28Complaining. Can’t have that, no sir.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-23 19-53-25Again, are you referring to “Evil Tennis King” or yourself? Forget it, never mind. As I apparently have no choice in the matter, I will complete this task, and put an end to all this awful complaining.

And just like that, my legend began. No sooner did I accept “a” Tennis King’s challenge, than I was spit out on to the thriving streets of…

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-23 20-03-27CHICAGO? Good God, what did the Evil Tennis King do to this place? People are so busy complaining that the city has returned to the Earth and nature reigns supreme! Either that, or this game takes place in a post apocalyptic future where only the strongest tennis players survive. This plot is much more nuanced than anticipated.

Anyway, Chicago doesn’t have much, just four modest huts, a pro shop, and the Tennis King’s castle. The huts were filled with people who offered me all kind of useful information. Take, for example, this jolly citizen:

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-17 20-16-07And how could I forget all the laughs I shared with this guy?

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-17 20-15-49Anyway, as the Tennis King only saw fit to give me $500, and there’s nothing in the pro shop that isn’t less than $3000, I began my quest in earnest.

First things first: The Tennis King clearly stated – and I QUOTE – that “people can’t play tennis and are complaining.” That was clearly not an issue here. No sooner did I step out into the surprisingly verdant wastes of Tennis Kingdom, did some random yuppie challenge me to a match. I knew something foul was afoot.

Not only did he challenge me, he absolutely DECIMATED me. If you’ve only ever played modern tennis games – say, from about Virtua Tennis onward – you’ve probably never had much trouble making ball contact.  Today’s tennis sims tend to give players a little bit more leeway; you get with in stabbing distance of a volley or serve, and you’ll have no problem getting your racket on the ball. This is not the case in World Court Tennis: if the pixels of your racket do not make contact with the pixels that comprise the ball, you will miss. Horribly. Prophesied tennis hero or not, I had some practicing to do.

And by “practicing” I mean “losing.” At least the game gave me a nice assortment of randomly generated faces to lose to. BEHOLD:

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 BALD CAP WOMAN!World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-19-57
FISH-FACED CLOWN LADY!
World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-21-23THE BEAST WITH TWO MOUTHS!World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-22-25
TENNIS JASON!World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-26-06

…and this character, who I fondly call the “Tennis Rapist.”

Each loss threw me back to Chicago, so my progress was incremental at best. After about an hour of scratching and crawling, racking up a record of roughly 5-12, I managed to venture over three bridges, two rivers, and miles of forest to encounter – at LONG LAST – a mysterious hut in the middle of the woods!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-24-18

What could this hold? A new racket? A wise tennis sage who will teach me the backhand of Sampras? The secret of John McEnroe’s rage?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-24-52Ah, a doofus with a spit curl with one sentence of information. Great.

Overwhelmed by the futility of my endeavors, I copied down my password and decided to take a rest, silently vowing to return to the desolation of Tennis Kingdom and bring the racket of vengeance to its oppressors – for I am STEV, the PROPHESIED ONE.

NEXT TIME: PARIS!