Top Spin

This is the box art for the first Top Spin game on the Xbox!

Top Spin is a sports-themed tennis game developed by PAM and released by Microsoft for the Xbox as part of their XSN brand. This is a very simple, straightforward tennis VS. game that allows you to play as some of your favorite tennis players of both genders as well as some fictional ones.

I've had this practically just as long as I've had my Xbox, because it came in a sports game double pack. The other game was NCAA Football 2005, which was very enjoyable (because it was college football, thank you very much), but this one was the one I played more easily and found more enjoyable.

A major thing I love about this game are the controls. Not only are the default buttons set up perfectly, but they encompass pretty much everything you could possibly do during a game. You used the four main buttons for lobbing (Y), slicing (X), top spinning (B), and standard hitting (A), and you could use the left and right triggers for drop shooting and risk shooting. These two were really useful for serving, and are an excellent strategy element. Otherwise, you just use the left analog stick to move.

There is one function that I think is the corwning achievement of the exhibition matches: taunting. Regardless of whether you win or lose a rally, you can press Black, White, or both to do some interesting taunts, either against you opponent or yourself, depending on whether or not you did well. This was really fun to do over the course of a match if you were killing time, because you can have these normally very composed players acting like goofballs (even Pete Sampras!), and I pretty much do it every time.

Anyway, another interesting feature (especially considering the era this was made) is that you can fully customize your own chaaracter (which you can then play as in the exhibition mode), and train him or her to earn coaching stars, win matches and money, and buy new stuff. What I like about this is that it's very straightforward in a lot of ways, but realistic as well. For example, you could not only train and compete in all kinds of tournaments, but you could also get sponsors for merchandise and TV spots (which earned you more green!).

I liked this feature a lot, and even managed to get my character fully trained, to the point where he was a good match for even the professionals in the group. I do wish that you could have used periods in the names, though. The closest I could get was commas, which is rather lame. All in all, though, this feature almost makes the entire game worth it.

If I had to choose one thing that I disliked about this game, it would be that you couldn't have players of opposite genders go against each other. What, are these game designers sexist? Are they crazy? Well, regardless, this issue was fixed in the future titles, but it kind of seems like a peculiar flaw, even for the first title.

In the end, this game is fantastic for sports fans, tennis fans, or fans of anything (like monkeys or whatever) alike! This game is available on the PS2 and PC, so if you can't get it on the Xbox, you may be able to play it with backwards compatible consoles. No matter how you play it, it's an excellent title and I fully recommend it.