Even after a decade of time elapsing, Virtua Tennis has remained one one of the most engaging tennis experiences ever made. After a layoff, and various iterations that were forgettable, Virtua Tennis is back. The main problem with series isn’t what it does so well at it’s core — arcade style tennis — it’s that beyond that, what’s been added to the game doesn’t improve that experience at all.
Graphically, Virtua Tennis 4 shines. Player models are, for the most part, clean, crisp and mirror their real-life counterparts. The body mechanics of the players are fluid, and the animations within game are excellent. However, if you’ve played the previous iterations before, you will notice that they really haven’t changed at all. Sega really needs to add more variations as it would help add vibrancy to the experience. It looks fine, but if you’re a fan of the sport then fine might just not be good enough.
The winning formula for Virtua Tennis has always been the over-the-top, arcade style game mechanics that made the games enjoyable to play. That part of the game hasn’t changed, and it’s almost hard to believe that it’s been over ten years since the series first launched, but it’s just as enjoyable (and easy to pick-up) now as it was then. The controls are sharp, responsive, and you can still hit the ball exactly where you want with a great degree of accuracy. Tournament play can be hectic because things get difficult quickly, but I found myself sticking with it for one reason: I was having fun. The World Tour is another story; it’s convoluted, random, and makes what would be an otherwise good experience hard to follow. World Tour forces you to move in , what can only be described as board-game style play. One is forced to move in what feels like a random progression that takes away from being able to just “jump in” and play.
One of the most exciting additions is what Sega calls the “Super Shot”. Super Shots build with a gauge on the screen , that once full, pulls off an impossible Crane Kick “If done correctly no can defend Daniel-san” shot that’s awesome to watch. It’s not easy to build the meter (it took me a few sets) but when you do it’s worth it. Super Shot fits in with the core of what I think VT is all about, and more of these types of implementations would serve the series well.
While controls are great with a standard controller, the same can’t be said for Move. It’s an awkward situation really. On one hand the mapping appears to be accurate and reflects what you’re doing before the serve or return. It’s just that in actual gameplay, it doesn’t quite work that way. It’s hard to see exactly what’s going on at time, and the Move just doesn’t lend itself to the arcade-style of VT4. It’s not that you can’t play with Move, and it might be a good change of pace option from time to time, but it’s not the most enjoyable experience and it feels tacked on.
The greatest strength of the game is also it’s weakness: lack of innovation. The original arcade style doesn’t necessarily need changing, but some modern adjustments could have gone a long way. Perhaps a more traditional model of updating rosters or characters, and maybe even places based on what happens in the world of tennis. This is a game aimed at entertaining fans of the sport, so even the most minor of implementations can really spice the experience up, but unfortunately there really isn’t anything of the sort found here.
There are mini-games available, but they really aren’t worth sampling more than once. It’s almost as though Sega didn’t want to touch their “secret sauce” that is the core Virtua Tennis 4 and decided to just tack on filler to flesh the game out more. Another annoyance is the roster. I’m not a tennis expert by any stretch of the imagination, but the world of tennis is extremely popular worldwide . There’s a large roster that Sega could go about acquiring, yet this title has almost the same offerings as the past few releases. How about securing the rights to legendary players in a final showdown? Or giving us special characters like Michael Hardy from Virtua Cop? If you’re going to invest your resources into the game and don’t want to touch the core that’s fine; just supplement it.
Virtua Tennis 4 remains as fun as others in its series due to succeeding at its main goal of providing arcade-style entertainment. Where it falls short is in everything else that surrounds the core of the game, from variety to innovation. For Virtua Tennis to survive, it needs new ideas, and a more robust experience wrapped around the fast-paced experience. Otherwise, I see a future where Top Spin is the norm, and games like Virtua Tennis 4 will just fade into the past.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Fluid graphics and animations.
– Frustrating career mode.
– Needs content and/or innovation.