Review: Sega Superstars Tennis

SST_360_FOB_1_15.jpg Sega Superstars Tennis, much like the Smash Bros. series, is every bit as much about nostalgic fan service as it is fun gameplay. The thing is, for a game with the words “Sega Superstars” in its title, there are surprisingly few real Sega superstar characters to choose from. Of the 16 total characters, only about half are actually superstars if you ask me. Sonic, NiGHTS, Alex Kidd, Gilius, Ulala, Dr. Eggman and Tails; these are no-brainer choices for playable characters for a game of this type. But come on, what are second-rate characters like Gum, Pudding, Reala, Amy and multiple Super Monkey Ball monkeys doing here?

Sega’s character pool runs as deep as any video game company in the business, so I’m saddened that so many classics were left out. Characters like Ristar, Kid Chameleon, ToeJam & Earl, the Bonanza Bros, and Vectorman would’ve fit so perfectly, and if Gilius from Golden Axe was adapted to mesh with the lighthearted art direction surely the same could’ve been done for Shinobi or even a Virtua Fighter character or two.

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Although the character selection isn’t as star-filled as expected, Sega did at least squeeze in themes and cameos from numerous game franchises. Jet Set Radio, ChuChu Rocket, After Burner, Puyo Pop Fever, Samba De Amigo, Space Channel 5, House of the Dead, Virtua Cop, Space Harrier, OutRun, Super Monkey Ball, Sonic the Hedgehog and a few others are all well represented, be it via court themes, mini-games and/or music tracks. Though again, many of the classic franchises mentioned in the previous paragraph that didn’t get characters in the game also have no other presence.

But enough bitching about what franchises and characters aren’t represented, let’s get to the game itself. Shockingly, the actual tennis is merely average, mainly because the gameplay runs on an extremely dumbed down version of the already-accessible Virtua Tennis engine. The same basic feel of the VT games is intact, but the control nuance and subtle depth is all gone. So all’s you pretty much do is hit the ball back and forth and run your opponent from side to side until you win the point — lob and drop shots don’t seem to serve any purpose. It doesn’t play poorly by any means; it’s just very, very simplistic and thusly not particularly thrilling.

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However, on-court tennis competition is only a small portion of the game’s focus. As it turns out, Sega Superstars Tennis is more about mini-games, and thankfully the mini-games are inventive and an absolute blast, whether they’re played solo or with up to four players. There are eight main mini-games, each appropriately themed after a Sega franchise. So in the Sonic mini-game, for instance, the objective is to run around the court and collect rings while avoiding hazards like spiked balls. Then there is the House of the Dead mini-game in which you defeat hordes of incoming zombies with your shots.

Some get pretty elaborate too. Like the ChuChu Rocket mini-game which has you hitting balls to rotate arrows markers in the appropriate order to create a path that’ll lead the ChuChus safely to their rocket ship, or the Virtua Cop event that takes away the tennis court altogether and has you using a tennis racket like a gun to shoot at pop-up enemy targets from a stationary position very much like a light gun experience.

Frankly, if it weren’t for these mini-games, Sega Superstars Tennis would’ve been a completely forgettable game. But because they are so much fun, I can at least give the game a solid rental recommendation.

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Pros:
+ Cleverly themed mini-games are a joy to play
+ Attractive presentation and vibrant graphics

Cons:
– Disappointing character roster, so many true Sega superstars were left out
– Core tennis gameplay is too simplistic and just very dull overall

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox 360, also available for PS3, PS2, Wii and DS.
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sumo Digital
Release Date: 3/18/08
Genre: Sports – Tennis
Players: 1-4

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!