The idea to create a game which would include all your favourite SEGA characters came around in 2004. Named SEGA Superstars, the game was specifically designed from the ground up for Sony’s PlayStation Eye Toy system. It included all your favourite characters from previous SEGA games ranging from Sonic the Hedgehog to Gilius Thunderhead from Golden Axe. Now 4 years on and the team at Sega are ready for another re-union of your favourite characters for a game of Tennis. So have SEGA served up an Ace or have they just hit a double fault?
SEGA Superstars Tennis brings legendary characters from around the SEGA world into one fun tennis game. Players can take control of Sonic, Amy, Shadow, Tails and the evil Dr Eggman from the Sonic series, along with Beat and Gum from Jet Set Radio, NiGHTS and Reala from NiGHTS into Dreams, Aiai and Meemee from Super Monkey Ball and many more in your quest to become the ultimate Superstar.
The game itself doesn’t have much of a story line. Career mode known as Superstars involves players moving from stage to stage in order to unlock various items including new characters, new music tracks, new missions and new arena’s to play in Exhibition mode. Each stage represents a different SEGA game and has missions/mini-games to complete related to that specific game. For example on the Jet Set Radio stage players have to complete a series of mini-games related to Jet Set Radio. These vary from asking the player to collect ‘x’ amount of graffiti spray cans within a set time limit to hitting the tennis balls into the desired graffiti spots across the other side of the court. This can and will become very repetitive, but for some reason still strangely becomes addictive. Now although the mini-games are fun, this is after all a tennis game so I was disappointed to see that the mini-games seem to be loitered all over the career mode and that very little ‘tennis’ is actually played.
When you finish Career mode you can either jump into a Quick Match or a Tournament, as well as play single player or up to a four player set of mini-games; although only eight mini-games are available here even once you have unlocked them all in career. The Playstation Network is also another option but i’ll get round to that.
The AI in SEGA Superstars Tennis don’t seem to pose much of a challenge when it does come down to the nitty gritty of playing actual tennis. Even with the difficulty increased to the highest difficulty (hard), the AI doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat and losing a game will soon become a shock regardless of which opponent you’re playing.
You would think that simplifying the controls would make the game easy to pick up and play, and it does for the casual gamer, but for the tennis pro like myself, looking for other various shots you have to use the two button system which can become confusing. I don’t know why they didn’t just leave the controls the way tennis games should be left… the Virtua Tennis way.
After a few well placed shots you will notice one of the cool features in SEGA Superstars Tennis, Superstar mode. The star underneath each player will light up every time you hit the ball and eventually it will beam brightly when it’s maxed out. Selecting ‘L1’ or ‘R1’ when in this mode will trigger that characters Superstar mode. Each character has their own ‘unique’ mode, take Amigo for example. When activated, every shot Amigo hits will drop Mexican Maracas onto the opponents side of the court obstructing their movement and allowing for an easy point.
This is where the game definitely gets top marks. The graphics. Although it’s nothing compared to the realistic visuals seen in the likes of Top Spin 2 , it does work well with the type of game SEGA Superstars Tennis is. All the courts do well to represent there native games and the character resemblance is splendid (as it should be since they are all SEGA characters). The screen will often burst into a colourful display when Superstar mode is triggered and is especially delightful when playing in HD quality.
The music in the game features original music found in their original games, with my favourite being the Samba de Janeiro by Bellini when playing in Amigo’s hometown of Mexico. Although the music is great and keeps the game flowing, the character voices are terrible. This is not due to the vocal talents, just their over use. Win a point and you hear a phrase or chuckle from your character, win another point and you can more often than not hear that same phrase or chuckle again. This can become annoying.
By far the best part about the game, Playstation Network. It features the usual ranked and player matches we recognise from Virtua Tennis 3 including the TV mode, which allows you to view live and pre-recorded matches (don’t know why though, I don’t know anyone who has sat and watched someone else’s match but it’s there if you want it). More importantly, enjoy a doubles match with your friends online, which when Superstars mode is triggered, all kinds of magic and mayhem is released in high-definition. The best thing is online is relatively lag-free. There are also leaderboards for your viewing pleasure. The only negative is that Sega seemed to have forgotten to include online mini-games… yes, i don’t understand it either.
To wrap up and conclude my review I would say SEGA Superstars Tennis has neither served an ace or hit a double fault. It’s definitely a fun game to play with vast amounts of mini-games to keep you going. The single player does lack depth however and there’s not much replayability for those looking for a solid single player game. The multiplayer is where the fun is to be had and with it’s colourful presentation it’s certainly worth having if you can get your hands on it. A must buy for any Sega fans out there.