Final Match Tennis is the best tennis video game (review)

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Final Match Tennis is a milestone in gaming history, and its gameplay is still unique and unsurpassed. You should play it, and we tell you how.

Characters, courts and tournaments

The roster is made up of 16 characters based on as many tennis players in vogue in the early nineties, each with specific characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.

Final Match Tennis player's names translations

The game was only released in a Japanese version. Although the texts shown during the game are in English, the names of the characters are an exception and are shown in the Japanese language. Don’t worry, here are the translations:

Final Match Tennis player's names translation

The character animations are basic but well done, in keeping with the overall design of the game. The movements reproduce with a certain fidelity those of the corresponding tennis players through the use of different and specific frames for each character, including any two-handed shots.

There are no official statistics on the abilities of individual characters, but decades of gaming experience have taught us what we show in the following table.

PlayerServForehandBackhandVolleySpeed
Ivan Lendl9.5101058
Boris Becker1098.58.58
Michael Chang7.59.59.57.58.5
Mats Wilander7.59978.5
Kevin Curren77887.5
Pavel Slozil7.57.577.55.5
Guillermo Vilas6.59976.5
Ken Rosewall66.56.58.55
Stefan Edberg98.5108.58
John McEnroe866 105
Andre Agassi79.51077.5
Jimmy Connors677.5 6.55
Miloslav Mecir7.587.57.59.5
Henri Leconte8.588.586.5
Bjorn Borg6.5776.59.5
Rod Laver67.57.57.58.5

The available surfaces are hard, grass and clay, with relative differences in the ball’s bounce as it happens in reality. There are Grand Slam tournaments, which can only be played in a predetermined order.

There are three game modes: Exhibition (single match), World Tour (Grand Slam tournaments) and Training. Local multiplayer is available for up to four human or AI players in any combination of single and double.

Forehand, backhand and the other shots

Final Match Tennis gameplay is sublime. A bit arcade and a bit simulation, simple and deep at the same time. You can make all the shots typical of this sport: serve, forehand, backhand, volley, half volley, smash, lob, drop shot. Forehand and backhand you can play them flat, in top spin and slice. You can do the swing volley and the drop volley. You can even perform a spectacular dive from time to time!

There are no “guided” shots like in modern tennis games, the trajectory is determined by the following factors:

  • Timing of execution. In the event of a cross shot, the more you anticipate the execution, the greater the angle of the trajectory. That’s because the impact of the racket with the ball occurs when the athletic gesture is in the “ending” phase.
  • Position of the player relative to the ball.
  • Duration of pressing the directional stick in a certain direction among the 8 available in the time interval between pressing the button and impact with the ball.
  • Distance between the ball and the playing surface (height) at the moment of impact with the racket.
  • Individual characteristics of the chosen character (see table in the Characters, courts and tournaments section of this article).

It goes without saying that all these variables make each shot unique and unrepeatable, a bit like in reality. The strength of this game lies in the feeling of total control transmitted to the player and in its pioneering effort in decreasing repetitiveness and predictability typical of tennis games.

The longline is the hardest shot, and you require a high degree of mastery and concentration to execute it well, but in many circumstances it can be your best weapon.

Normally the choice of character should be made according to your play style, but you can break the mold and take away the satisfaction of playing as Lendl and attack the net to Becker before he does! 🙂 Watch how in this 8 second mini-video:

YouTube video

How can you play it

Final Match Tennis is a game released by Human Entertainment in 1991 for the PC Engine console. Excluding you sell a kidney to buy consoles and CD-ROM on the second-hand market, you have 2 options to play it:

  1. On your PC/tablet/smartphone using an emulator like Retroarch with Final Match Tennis ROM. This is only legal if you own an original copy of the game blah blah blah.
  2. Via browser with an online emulator, such as RetroGames.

In both cases you can save your games several times to be able to resume them later, maybe you want to take a break between the French Open and the Wimbledon during a Grand Slam 🙂

If you want to raise the level of the AI challenge you can activate the cheat mode: hold Select + II, then press Right Arrow 10 times and Left Arrow 4 times in the title screen. This gives you access to a screen where you can choose from 5 extra difficulty levels.

Closing Words

Retrogaming is often inspired by nostalgia or the desire to recover “skipped” gaming experiences, but in the case of Final Match Tennis there is also and above all something else. It has aged very well, and the pleasure of playing it has endured intact over the decades. This only applies to a few masterpieces of video game art.

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