Sega Sports Tennis Review (PS2)
Perhaps the biggest sleeper sports title of the last few years, and, arguably, the Dreamcast’s last great title, was Hitmaker’s highly addictive “Virtua Tennis”. When Sega decided to get out of the console building business and concentrate on software, they were quick to snap up the engine and start a franchise of their own for the PS2. “Sega Sports Tennis” was born.
If you’re a Tennis fan who ever dreamed of running between the chalk with Venus, Serena, or Monica. Or if you are just a gamer looking for a great blend of multiplayer fun, single player depth, and strong replay ability. We may have found a…”match”.
Bucking OS tradition, I have to start with gameplay first, because it is, by far, the strength of “SST”. With only a few minor gaffs, “SST” delivers the strongest gameplay that PS2 owners have seen. Where other titles have tried and failed, Sega delivers a product with great arcade fun, with just a pinch of sim, to keep all their rabid gamers happy.
Through 3 game modes (Exhibition, Tournament, and the highly addictive World Tour) you choose from 8 top females and 8 top males from the WTA tour for singles, doubles, or mixed doubles action. Or create a fictional player to compete in World Tour mode to earn virtual cash to expand the games replay. The mini-games in World Tour mode will easily steal hours from your day as you hone your skills to earn enough money to buy fresh gear or attempt to hire a tour pro to play as your double’s partner (sorry fellas…you can’t buy Anna!).
Once you’ve mastered your stroke, take it to the Tournament mode and take on the pros elimination-style. I found that even on the easiest setting, winning a tournament was challenging and took a great mastering of the controls and skills.
Speaking of controls, Sega locked in Hitmaker’s already polished control system for “SST”. With a barrage of lobs, smashes, drop shots, and wicked serves, the controls are simple, but it still requires the skills of a sports gamer. Not too much arcade and not too much sim. “Virtua Tennis” got it right the first time, and Sega wisely settled with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.
If there is a noted weakness in this title it comes in the graphics department. It’s really a mixed bag. The player models are pretty solid in general. Their faces, bodies, and outfits are nicely done and seem quite reflective of their true life counterparts. Believe it or not, I could tell Venus and Serena apart instantly on the screen even from the high camera angles. The tennis courts themselves look good. In fact, the clay courts even react to the player’s movements during the game. However, sadly the stadiums and most of the graphics are more filled with “jaggies” then with fans. Did it ruin the gaming experience? No, but they clearly ported this game over from the Dreamcast without utilizing the extra power to polish up the look.
Those issues aside, the animations in “SST” are top shelf. Everything looked very clean and polished. There were no over-the-top moves that detracted from play, or choppy transitions to complain about. I found the jumping overhead smash came up a little too often, but everything else was smooth and solid.
Sega made all the right decisions in the audio department. Like real tennis, where the commentators are simply there to say “Great shot” after each point, “SST” doesn’t see the necessity for play-by-play. They instead opted to let the sounds of the game do the talking. From the bounce of the ball to the polite, yet excited, affection from the ground, the team at Sega captured the feel of Tennis. They even captured Monica Seles’ signature grunt for a little comic relief.
Game, Set, and Match to Sega Sports Tennis! This pseudo-sequel to “Virtua Tennis” serves up a high quality, fun, and addictive gameplay experience for gamers on all levels. With the sudden influx of Tennis games on the market (I blame Anna); PS2 owners have a clear winner on their hands. See you on the courts.