Sega of Japan
Genre: Sports - Arcade
Number of Players:
The Good Press:
Gorgeous graphics, simple gameplay, and tons of multiplayer fun give this title legs like Steffi Graf's.
The Bad Press:
Unrealistic gameplay, horrible AI, and a frustrating single-player mode will have you throwing John McEnroe-like tantrums.
Supports: Arcade stick, VGA box, Jump Pack, VMU
Raymond M. Padilla
This arcade game--dressed as a sim--offers magnificent multiplayer excitement, but its single-player mode leaves much to be desired.
Several years and many pounds ago, I played on the junior tennis circuit. I was good enough to compete, but I was far from being a dominating force. Some of the guys I played are currently on the ATP Tour. I never beat any of them--actually, they pretty much kicked my butt--but it's pretty cool knowing I went toe-to-toe against some pros. Anyway, some of my friends found out about my junior tennis days, and they told some of their friends. The stories of how good I was and whom I played with were greatly exaggerated. Last I heard, I used to dominate Pete Sampras in the juniors before I blew out my knee.
Virtua Tennis has been getting the same treatment as my junior tennis career. I've been reading reviews about how flawless and incredible this game is. Well, I'm here to set the record straight: I never even played Pete Sampras, and Virtua Tennis is far from perfect. Although it's one of the best multiplayer games I've played this year, its single-player mode has several quirks that will annoy the hell out of you.
This Naomi game has three modes: arcade, exhibition, and world circuit. In arcade mode, one or two players must defeat five opponents in a row to become champion. Exhibition mode allows up to four players to compete in a single match. Finally, world circuit mode has you choose one player to compete all over the world, with the ultimate goal of becoming number one. The money you earn in this mode enables you to unlock five additional tennis courts, eight more players, and dozens of outfits. It also has eight training courts, which have fun mini-games like pin crasher (wherein you practice your serve by knocking down bowling pins), and giant ball (which requires you to hit powerful shots to knock huge balls behind the baseline).
Graphically, the game is phenomenal. The players look incredibly detailed and lifelike. Little touches like the dry areas on the grass courts where the most balls are hit and the small clouds of clay that form when you slide make this game a joy to watch. The sound, on the other hand, isn't as good. Aside from the announcer speaking in French at the French courts, the pseudo rock soundtrack is straight out of Beverly Hills 90210.
Although the game looks like a sim, the gameplay is 100 percent arcade. You only need to hit two buttons: shot and lob. Although it would have been nice to have had the option to select topspin, slice, and flat shots, the simple gameplay makes it easy for anyone to get into the action.
Now for my laundry list of complaints.
The gameplay is incredibly unrealistic. I know this is an arcade game, but most sports/arcade games exaggerate the sports they're based on. Virtua Tennis contains so many fallacies, it's painful. The most cardinal of these sins is that you can dominate a point from the middle of the court; this is a big-time tennis no-no. Standing halfway between the net and the baseline leaves you in an incredibly vulnerable position, yet in this game it has no detrimental effect.
Almost as horrific is the game's view on doubles matches. Doubles is far more than a tennis match with four players on the court. It has its own strategy and is won by whoever controls the net. If you watch a doubles match on television, I guarantee you that nine points out of ten end with all four players at the net. Yet in this game, that rarely happens.
Although the four different surfaces make a difference in gameplay, it's only a negligible one. It should be difficult for serve-and-volley players to attack the net on a clay court. Likewise, baseline players should have a hard time staying back on grass. Yet in this game, any style of tennis can be executed successfully on any surface.
Single-player games are a headache waiting to happen. When you're playing in the background, you are at a distinct disadvantage. When a computer-controlled player is in the background, he plays the same. It would have been nice if your point of view could remain in the foreground in single-player games. The computer seems to have its own set of rules, since it hits and gets to shots that are nearly impossible for you to make. The computer also plays cheap, and attempts shots that no professional would try. Although the players' speeds vary, they all have a problem with changing directions quickly. It's hard to make it through a game without your player rolling around on the ground. (Perhaps all the players were programmed with two left feet.) Swinging the racquet is also sluggish; if you swing too early, you have little chance of taking another crack at the ball. This is hard to believe considering most racquets weigh around ten ounces.
The above paragraph of complaints refers strictly to the single-player mode. These issues aren't as big in multiplayer games.
Finally, one last minor complaint: who the heck picked these players? Although all of the real players are in the top 75 and four of the eight are the best in their countries, none of them are household names. Most gamers could care less about Cedric Pioline's graceful game, Mark Philipoussis' bombastic serve, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov's solid groundstrokes. It would have been nice to have had Sampras and Agassi on the roster. It would have been even nicer to have had women players, especially considering that the WTA Tour is more popular right now. Plus, we'd all love to have the Anna Kournikova naked code.
Despite its numerous single-player problems, Virtua Tennis remains one of the best multiplayer games for the Dreamcast. It's easy to get into, and it's hard to put down. For two or more players, Virtua Tennis can't be beat.
- Man cannot live on power alone. Get your body in the right position and swing early to get sharp angles on your groundstrokes.
- Make sure to change your strings and down some recovery drink. Doing so between every other match will make sure you have enough power and mobility.
- If you're out of position, don't be so quick to hit to the open court. Your opponent will most likely pass you. Keep hitting it back to your opponent until you get in a position to take a good offensive shot.