The bedrock of any successful tennis game is fluid, intuitive control. It's the old 'easy to learn, hard to master' mantra, where the refined subtlety of the control system gives the player confidence to swat the ball around the court with precision almost through instinct. Smash Court Tennis 3 instantly fails in this regard, and no amount of practice allows you to get over this basic hurdle. You're constantly left fighting against poor controls, lame player AI and sluggish response.
It's always ominous when faced with a dedicated tutorial in a game as intuitive as tennis, but to get anywhere with Namco-Bandai's latest effort you're more or less forced to slog your way through 22 lessons. Having endured similar japes in Top Spin 3, there was at least the hope that Smash Court Tennis 3 would also offer payback in the form of eventual enjoyment. But no. Instead, the more likely scenario is mild bafflement as you end up replaying lessons to suss out the nuances - such as the wafer-thin difference between a 'nice' shot and a power shot. You might also wonder why directing precise serves is such a tall order, or why the shot mechanic never builds in any headroom to allow the player to instinctively reach for shots.
It all starts off quite promisingly, though. The way the game illustrates the serve mechanic is sensible, with a rapidly contracting circle above the player's arm providing the visual cue for the sweet spot. Unfortunately, directing the ball where you want it to go is inexact, so the chances of smacking it into the far corners are practically zero and you're forced to play it far safer than you want. In other words, you lose out on one of the tennis player's key weapons.