Sega Superstars Tennis

Year: 2008
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Sports
Review Date: 3/30/08
Rating: ***

"Sega Superstars Tennis" is a fun diversion that doesn't require nerves of steel or a huge time commitment. It's basically a simplified version of "Virtua Tennis" that utilizes various characters and settings from several classic Sega games. Naturally, "Sonic the Hedgehog" is at the top of the list, and other games include "Space Channel No. 5", "Super Monkey Ball", "Jet Set Radio", "House Of The Dead", "Samba De Amigo", "Nights Into Dreams", "Golden Axe", and several others. If nothing else, the collection really strikes a nostalgic chord with Dreamcast enthusiasts.

The tennis itself is only average, and the controls can take a couple of hours to figure out. Unfortunately, points tend to rely more on luck than skill, and volleys can last an uncomfortably long amount of time. To spice things up a bit, each character has a superstar attack, which gives the ball a crazy trajectory that can be difficult to counter. Where the game really shines is in its vast collection of clever mini-games, and clearing missions unlocks new stages, courts, characters, and music. Sonic's missions involve collecting rings, while "Monkey Ball" missions use monkey balls, and "Jet Set Radio" missions deal with creating graffiti. By far the best mini-games are the "House Of The Dead" missions, which involve hitting zombies with tennis balls. This is extremely fun.

The presentation of the game is quite good, and the graphics are bright and whimsical. The character modeling is good and the animation is nice and smooth. The music is pleasant (with the exception of the "Jet Set Radio" pieces), but there doesn't seem to be enough variety. The controls are pretty good for the most part, but they can seem a bit sluggish. The weakest aspect of the game is the voice acting, which can be downright grating. After each point, the victor shouts out a victory slogan, which quickly becomes annoying. Thankfully, you can click past the animations and quickly get back into the game, but the audio nuisance is still there. I was elated to find that Amy Rose is an unlockable character, but her voice is so irritating that I have trouble playing her. In fact, the only reasonable sounding character in the game is "Space Channel No. 5's" Ulala, and her voice work is superb. (I don't know if Apollo Smile reprised her role or not) She's also one of the most balanced players in the game (along with Amy), so I almost always choose her.

One feature in the game that annoys me is something that I've seen in the last 2-3 games I've played. At startup, the game forces you to confirm the auto-save feature and then asks you for your output resolution and aspect ratio. Wouldn't these settings be preserved in the game's config file so that you don't have to enter them each time you play? That's an extra two clicks before you even get to the intro bumpers, which is extremely frustrating - especially if you boot the machine and then walk away for a few moments while it starts up, which I often do. (plus, there's the contradiction of manually having to confirm an automatic feature) But aside from these niggles, "Sega Superstars Tennis" is a great game that you can pick up and play with minimal hassles, as long as you can survive the initial learning curve first.