Virtua Tennis: World Tour
The classic Dreamcast game makes its way to the PSP.
I've always been an avid fan of Virtua Tennis, Sega's brand of racket-swinging tennis games. I was first introduced to the series back on the Sega Dreamcast a few years ago, where it became an instant household favorite with me and my friends. We would play for hours on end hitting the ball back and forth and trying to get the better of each other. Then came Tennis 2K2 for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, which continued the fun while putting a few new touches on the formula to expand it. Now, while we await the arrival of Virtua Tennis 3 for the next generation of consoles and arcade, we get a handheld version, Virtua Tennis: World Tour, due for release next month on the PSP. We managed to get some serious hands on time with the game and one thing became immediately clear: Sega's going to ace the competition when this game debuts on October 5.
The first thing you may notice right off the bat is that Hitmaker, the folks behind the series, aren't completely behind the development. Instead, Sumo Digital, the folks that worked on the home version of last year's Outrun 2 for Xbox, have stepped in. But that's not necessarily bad news. In fact, Sumo is quite on their game here, as the sport is wholly represented just the way it's supposed to be.
Let's first talk visuals. The game looks like an absolute smash, capturing the entire view of the court and even giving us dramatic like smashes that rip across the court or a cool little victory shot. The animation is very fluid and there are little touches on some of the professionals including Andy Roddick and Lindsay Davenport.
The courts are varied, ranging from a typical grassy setting to a hard clay court, lit up by flood lights and showing detailed shadows on the ground. It's very cool stuff and it looks marvelous spread across the PSP's screen.
The game also has some good sound including an announcer who lets you know the score and some great background music that goes right along with the sound effects. It's nothing to write home about, but Sega represents tennis the way that it's supposed to be and doesn't muck up the affair with licensed tunes.
Then you have the gameplay, and this is what really makes a game series like Virtua Tennis shine. Sega doesn't try to complicate things with ridiculous play or super-shots that are just impossible to make. The company knows how tennis is supposed to play and they worked alongside Sumo to make sure the feeling was captured. The result? The game plays like a dream, complete with players reaching across a court to keep a ball in play or getting in a tricky shot between the legs to keep the flow going. In doubles, it's even more chaotic, and you can position your co-op player in front of or behind the net if they're computer controlled. Sumo has taken some notes from Hitmaker and it is truly showing here.
As for extras, there's plenty. There are three different modes to choose from: World Tour, Exhibition, and Tournament. Exhibition allows you to build up your skills and work your way up the ladder, Tournament puts you right into the middle of competition and lets you earn some cash, and World Tour is the best of all, not only giving you some competitive match-ups but also letting you take on some addictive mini-games, such as knocking out tiles with well-timed shots or avoiding rogue balls while you hit the real ones.
On top of this, you can also customize your own player for on-the-go play and challenge up to four friends through a Wi-Fi connection. Sure, it's not as simple as hooking up four controllers to a Sega Dreamcast system, but it's a wonderful feature that's ideal for players that are on-the-go. Four-player is really where this game's at because it's a fantastic party experience.
From what I played, Virtua Tennis: World Tour is an absolute must-purchase. We'll have a final verdict on the game once it's released next month, but you can expect high marks. And I don't even play tennis!