SEGA Superstars Tennis
At Nintendo they’ve been doing it for ages already: bringing famous characters together in some sort of fight-, sports- or party game and then wait until the money comes pouring in. “We can do that too!”, they must have thought at SEGA, and the conception of SEGA Superstars Tennis was a fact. That developer SUMO Digital, earlier on already responsible for Virtua Tennis 3, was given the task of making the game was already a good omen. We played the Wii version and checked out whether the game can fulfill the expectations.
During the cool intro some recognisable characters already pass the lineup and in total 16 SEGA-icons are present to play ball with. Some of them will be familiar to everyone, think of Sonic and Tails or AiAi from Monkey Ball, but for some you’ll have to delve deep into your hardcore gamer memory to find their origin.
The SEGA elite has lost quite of its fame and even pales when compared to the famous heads of Nintendo. Still, I’m sure that the fans of the past will shed a nostalgic tear when seeing Alex Kidd, Wonderboy or – hold on – the dwarf Gilius Thunderhead from the prehistorical Golden Axe!
Also the environments bathe in the SEGA-sweat. Locations from games like Jet Set Radio or Outrun are transformed to virtual tennis courts, sometimes accompanied by the known tunes. Many of these decors, characters and tunes do have to be unlocked first, and that can be done by hitting aces in one of the five difficulties.
The Superstars Mode is the most important part and consists out of a mix of singles and doubles alongside some mini-games. The latter are very highly represented and often have the feel and gameplay of classic SEGA franchises. Think of a Super Monkey Ball tennis court where you have to hit a couple of monkey balls to their goal with well-placed fore- or backhands. Or think of a House of the Dead setting where zombies fall for your hard returns. The fun factor of these mini-games varies from fun to plain shit and that’s actually quite typical for this game that never manages to rise above mediocracy.
This is because the tennis playing itself is less cool and deep than we would have hoped for. There are a number of ways to control (the Wiimote, both horizontally and vertically, the Wiimote-Nunchuck combination, or the classic controller) and all work nicely. Of course the Mote-Nunchuch combo appeals most but you’ll soon find out that everything is quite shallow.
You do have some influence on the trajectory of the ball, but the accuracy of the motion-sensing controls isn’t quite so great. Although lobs, effects and dropshots are present in your hitting arsenal, most games end up in a baseline bombardment where you send the opponent from left to right until he can’t reach for the ball anymore. Each character has one supermove, but also that couldn’t get me excited.
A downpoint in the Wii version is the lack of online multiplayer. Where PS3 of X360-owners can give each other a love-game over the internet, Nintendo fans have to do with an oldfashioned four player mode. As such not a world disaster as I don’t think many people will be checking out this game online. This tennis party is made for standing in front of the TV with some friends and swaying around like idiots.
Sega Superstars Tennis is at times an amusing game that is most fun in multiplayer. A lot of nostalgic fans and so-called casual gamers – what an annoying term – will certainly have fun with it eventhough it falls short in just about every aspect. Developer Sumo Digital didn’t completely miss the ball, but hitting it right on is clearly something else. Let’s see it as just next to the line.