Review: Sega brings on the luv in tennis
Sure, tennis isn't the most popular sport out there, but Sega seems to have a knack of pleasing everyone. By releasing Virtua Tennis, fans of the sport receive an addition to the slim line-up of tennis games available, and gamers, who haven't dared to play tennis in the past, will also be pleased. Virtua Tennis offers everything that can be found in a real tennis game, only leaving out the fact that it's only a game and not real life.
Virtua Tennis sports some sweet visuals showing just how powerful the Dreamcast can be. The players in the game are detailed with real life characteristics, such as their lucky hats and other accessories. Everything from the players to the surrounding area is smooth, making this "game" seem like a real life tennis match on TV. Various animations and small clips of the tennis player's reaction to winning the point are included at certain points as well.
In the game, you have a choice between two camera angles, and of course, the one that shows the nicest graphics, lacks in 100% playability. Although the closest camera is set at a graphically spectacular view, it's too close to the tennis player keep on through the whole game. The wide angle is much easier to play in, however, you will miss the perspective with all the nice graphical touches. The replay in the game is shown when a player makes a point, and has a nice dragging, slow-motion streak to everything.
The one visual imperfection of Virtua Tennis would have to be the crowd. Sure, it's not half bad, but when the view is too close to the stands, you will see the 2D fans get ugly. Most of Virtua Tennis looks like Virtual Reality to me, and you should agree.
So, what does Virtua Tennis offer audio wise? Every sound that you hear during tennis matches on TV is presented in the game. When the ball meets the racket, the sound of the contact is presented, along with a grunt from the player. You will hear either cheers or boos from the crowd, which depends on the calls from the court judges. The announcer talks in the home language of where the game is being held and some tunes in the game are of the native culture, as well as mainstream background music. Throughout the game, when listening to the audio, I must say that everything was covered with top-notch style.
The gameplay in Virtua Tennis is easy and addictive, naming it one of the best titles to own for Dreamcast. There are various ways of hitting the ball back over the net, mixing up the type of shot you can use against opponents. Other maneuvers can be performed like rushing up to the net for some close and speedy action to score some major points. You can brush up on your skills in the World Circuit by practicing at the different training facilities, mastering a variety of moves.
The control is simple and anyone who wants to pick up and play the game can easily figure them out within seconds. A serve can be powerful if you stop the energy bar at the max, or slow and weak if you aren't fast enough in tapping the button. Running back and forth from the right and left side of the court is critical, considering the real key to scoring a point is to hit it into the pocket where the other opponent is farthest away from, and won't be able to reach in time. Wow, just like in real tennis...or something. There are different types on styles of hitting the ball back over the net, including forehand and backhand, which can be chosen by hitting the designated button.
With each exact way the ball comes across, your tennis player will hit with a different method. For example, when the ball is high overhead, your character reaches up above and smacks it down over the other side of the net. If the ball is hit to the other corner of your courtside, you may press the same exact button while running closer to the ball, and your player will dive to save the point. Using the method of hitting the ball into the pocket where the opponent isn't, doesn't always work well in doubles matches, considering there are two players covering the one side of the court. With this you must create another technique to earn the point and win the match. Very challenging at some points, which will turn into pure addiction.
Virtua Tennis features three main modes, doubles and singles for two and four player games, and a number of top ranked tennis players. Modes include Arcade, Exhibition, which are very predictable as far as style goes, and World Circuit, which is the true gem of this game. In World Circuit, you pick a player, and go along on the tennis life, conquering different championships throughout various countries around the globe.
This is also where you will also find the very entertaining training facilities, which challenge you to use one type of technique to complete a mini-game. In one type of training game, you must hit the machines with tennis balls that pop out of them in a certain amount of time. Sound easy? Well, when you are being shot red balls at the same time, out of the same machines, you can easily lose the machine you hit and shut off, resulting in it turning back on. Other games include knocking down pins by serving, and hitting the bull's-eye, trying to score a set number of points.
Tired of playing all those matches and mini-games? Then take some time off to go...shopping? It seems Sega has added a tennis store in the game where you can buy various items and supplies to improve on your game. Only problem is, you need money to have the power to purchase. No credit cards accepted. In the store, you will be able to unlock players for the arcade mode, purchase the right to play in two stadiums, tennis wear, and game accessories.
You won't be limited to playing by yourself either. Virtua Tennis allows you to play against another opponent in a one on one singles game, or a doubles match with up to four players. This can be quite exciting and probably one of the greatest parts of the game Sega included.
So, with all these features presented in the game, what could have possibly been left out? Well, after playing the game, two major things come to mind, the first being no net support. After playing this game, you just want to shout, "get me online!" and take part in a tourney. Alas, Sega didn't add it to the game, which is very disappointing, considering online play, is so close to being complete. Maybe in a Virtua Tennis sequel, that is, if this title does well enough in sales for the company to make another.
The second part that was definitely missing from the game was a license. Sure we have such large name tennis players like Jim Courrier, Tommy Haas, and Carlos Moya, but where is Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and the women? No Anna for you! Also, there is no license for the stadiums or actual championships to play in either. Considering Sega didn't get a license for this title, I have to say they didn't become cheap on the graphics and blur the settings and players. I think this game aids the game of tennis more and Sega should have been paid to take the license and create this game. Well, maybe I went to far there. The lack of license, however, doesn't affect the gameplay or any of the other factors in the game...it just would have been nice to see.
The replay was the part of Virtua Tennis that brought it farther away from being a perfect title, although wouldn't prevent you from wanting to own it forever at the same time. Single player mode offers a lot considering the World Circuit will last you awhile. Once you rank first in the world, you may start losing interest at that point and only find yourself picking it up when you can play against another human player.
Whatever you think of playing tennis as a sport, you should consider at least renting this game. Trust me, it may not sound like your type of game at first glance, but once the power goes on, and you pick up the controller, you will fall in luv with this game.