Sega Superstars Tennis Review

Geoff White

Not everyone that owns a 360 is a fan of First Person Shooters. Yes I really did say it. While some of you may need a minute to get over the shock, I will continue for the rest. In a world full of shooters and racers it seems the only sports that get covered are the ‘Big Four’ from North America and Football for us Europeans, with the rest of the sporting world seemingly having little attention paid to it. In Tennis terms the 360 has only seen Top Spin 2 and Virtua Tennis 3 released so far and now it’s time for Sega to enter Superstars Tennis. Developed by Sumo Digital who are no strangers to the Sega world, working on two of the previous Virtua Tennis games as well as Outrun 2. So we know that Sumo have the pedigree to make a good game, but can they live up to their reputation?

Centre court at Wimbledon looked different somehow

Now let’s start off with the fact that this isn’t designed to be a realistic tennis sim like Virtua Tennis 3. Somehow, I think the Lawn Tennis Association may have a problem with Dr Eggman running around on Centre Court during Wimbledon fortnight, let alone a giant blue hedgehog. There would be strawberries and cream everywhere – it just wouldn’t be pretty. Sega Superstar Tennis is an arcade style tennis game and its controls are simple; with normal and slice shots are played using A and X, with drop and lob shots played by pressing one after the other. It really is that simple. The only other button needed is the Trigger button, which launches ‘Superstar Mode’. This gives you a short cut scene of your character changing into Superstar mode (i.e. Sonic changes into a nice Gold colour), and you then get 10 seconds of your special shot. This varies between characters, from Sonics’ shot where the ball changes direction by 45 degrees at the net, to Dr Eggman who throws four grenades down the court after the ball.

As with all standard tennis games, there are two gametype options. The first of which is your standard tennis mode, whether in tournament or friendly mode. This can be done on the console or against your friends over Xbox Live. The only downfall I found on Live was the lack of people on the servers, but then with this being written just before the release date it is to be expected and will surely be resolved soon. You’ll be presented with three different difficulty settings ranging from the ridiculously Easy that allows anyone to play the game even if they are strangers to an Xbox, let alone a tennis game, to Hard; wherein everything toughens up a bit but veterans of previous tennis games won’t struggle too much. Again, this seems to be the aim of the game with its arcade roots.

The second, and more interesting, gametype is the ‘Superstars’ challenges. Within Sega Superstar Tennis, there are 15 ‘mini worlds’ from the Sega Universe including such games as Outrun, Virtua Cop, Space Channel 5, Golden Axe and Alex the Kidd. Some challenges range from a simple Singles Tournament in which you’re rewarded with new characters to the Virtua Cop take where you have to stop criminals using your serve, to Monkey Ball where you’ll be playing billiards with monkeys in... balls! When a challenge is completed, you will be given a grade from E through to AAA. You need to earn at least an A grade to unlock the next challenge but fear not as most people won’t have any problems unless they’re going for an AAA grade; something only Completionists and Achievement Whores need to worry about as some of the last challenges in each world can prove frustratingly hard to get the full score on. Going through the challenges will not only unlock 8 characters to compliment the 8 you can start with, but you will also unlock more courts and some additional music. When you first venture into a world for challenges you have one song stuck on repeat, but thankfully by the end of the challenges you will have a choice of three to run round the court with.

If only you could go there on holiday

The courts look amazing, with each one relating to the world that it’s mean to represent really well. From the beach court at Daytona for Outrun to Sonic’s home court with its spectacular trees and waterfalls, so much detail has gone into each court that at times you can find yourself being distracted from the actual game, whether that is by Dr Eggman's robots or by a dragon flying past. The characters have all had their appearance brought up to next-gen quality and all look great. This all really adds to the atmosphere of SST which is quite typical of a Sega game in that sense; no matter how dark and overcast it may be out of the window, you know you can switch on your TV and get some Sega sun and the world will be a more cheerful place.

The characters have all been given voices and will make comments and the end of rallies. Unfortunately, each character reads from the same script, so it can be a tad repetitive every now and then. The umpire also has all the character names in the database, so will say Sonic instead of “Player One”, which always bugs me on sports games. The music in the game is all themed to the world you are playing in, and you can unlock tracks as mentioned earlier. Once these are unlocked (variety is the spice of life after all), you barely notice the loop, which is a good thing. Too many games are spoiled by a lack of variety. Overall, the sounds work well and really add to the atmosphere – especially when playing at Amigo’s court when he gets the Samba party going!

The Achievements in the game are a great combination. There are several online ones, however the most wins you need is 10 ranked, so a little bit of boosting will soon sort those out. The rest of the Achievements are for playing through the game with the majority of them being for unlocking courts, characters, music and game types. There are also a few that will be unlocked just playing the game through, such as 100 Aces and Run 10 Kilometres. Whilst these may not be the most original Achievements the world has ever seen, it is a tennis game after all. 200 Stealth Kills wasn’t really an option. Overall, most people will have no issues turning out 940 quick points, with the last 60 being awarded for the AAA ranking in each event.

Ain't no party like a Sega Samba party

This game is obviously going to be compared to three tennis games from recent years, namely Virtua Tennis, Wii Tennis and Mario Tennis. Let’s talk about Virtua first. Yes, it’s from the same company. Yes, they are both simple to pick up. That really is the end of the comparison though. This game isn't trying to be a serious tennis sim and compete with the likes of Top Spin, it's about bringing back the feel of the games I misspent my youth on at the local arcade. Which links us nicely to Wii Tennis. The Wii control system is designed for getting drunk and having a laugh with mates (and for young children occasionally as well – not young children drinking though!), and as such is a fun way to play. However, once you get past the novelty controls, the game itself lacks in a major way. Sega will keep you coming back for more at the times when it seems too much effort to play the Wii. The last comparison is probably the most valid. Nintendo’s Mario Tennis was a quality, fun game that delved into the history of Japan’s Console King. Whilst Sega’s back catalogue of characters may not be as recognisable to some of the younger people playing the game, the wiser (read: older) amongst us will certainly be taking a trip down memory lane. The quirky graphics and fun gameplay are certainly on par with Mario Tennis. Basically, think of this as a Next-Gen version of Mario Tennis, brought up to date graphically and visually, and then swap Nintendo for Sega.

In a way, what I’m trying to say, but have been avoiding for the whole review, is that this game is FUN. It’s never going to be nominated for Game of the Year, and it’s never going to make it onto the Top 10 games played on Live. However, while you’re playing, it will make the time pass quickly, will make you smile, and won’t leave you with any regrets about playing it. At the end of the day- is that not what a game is all about?

It's nice that every charcter has been given a voice, but it wouldn't have hurt for the phrases to be completly different. At the end of the day, it's a tennis arcade game. It doesn't need a huge musical score, but I do feel that some improvements would have gone a long way.

All the graphics are crisp and smooth, and the game looks good all the way through. Again, with this type of game it doesn't need the most cutting edge graphics, but it packs a heavier punch than you would expect.

The game is incredibly simple to pick up. Almost too easy in a way. Noone will struggle to play the game, which will lower the replay value for a lot of people. It is the kind of game that kids and guests can pick up instantly without a disadvantage, so great for visitors. It really does play like the old arcade machines, so if that's your thing, you'll love it.

This game set out with a game plan of exactly what it wanted to do, and it delivers on every level. It isn't trying to be competition to the tennis sims, it's providing an alternative option that is simple, easy and fun.

Good mix of Achievements, most of which will be unlocked by playing through the single player campaign. There are a couple of challenging ones that will need some skill and effort to put in, but over 900 points can be done without these. The multiplayer achievements are not too taxing either. Would have been nice to see a few more unique challenges, but there isn't too much you can do with a tennis game.

This is a good, fun game that any Sega fan will love - for a while. Once the challenges have been completed once, and you have played it for a few hours on multiplayer, I am just not sure that it has the staying power that is needed. It's one of the games that you will put in your console occasionally and enjoy it, but you won't put in the console that regularly. Kids will love playing it, and it's a good game to play when relaxing with some mates round. Other than that, the game is too short/easy. However, while you're playing it, you will be enjoying it, which is more than can be said for many games out there.

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