Sega Superstars Tennis (DS)

Review: Sega Superstars Tennis (DS)

DS Review

"Gameplay-wise, the title (unsurprisingly) owes a lot to the Virtua Tennis series, playing like a slightly watered down version of Sega's flagship sports-sim."

Sega Superstars Tennis has a lot going for it, even before you've put the cartridge in your DS. A quick glance at the box reveals a tantalising bevy of Sega mascots - Amigo (from Samba Di Amigo) is there; Doctor Eggman (Sonic's nemisis), Ulala (from Space Channel 5), Ai Ai (the plucky lead simian from the Super Monkey Ball), and (of course) Sonic the Hedgehog. Although Sonic has squandered his reputation somewhat in recent years, there is enough unblemished Sega talent on display here to pique your interest, and as a gamer it is hard to not feel at least a little bit of excitement.

Arriving alongside the Wii version (also recently reviewed here at N-Europe), this DS version is likely to sell bucket-loads merely on the strength of its branding alone. The popularity of the similarly star-studded Super Smash Bros. series no doubt played a part in convincing Sega (and its accountants) that a game featuring an all-star line-up would be a great idea, but to write the title off as a cynical cash in would be doing it a great disservice.

There is a fair amount of the Sega magic of old to be found within the game. The first thing that hits you are the visuals. The title rarely fails to capture the essence of its source material, whether it be the dark and sinister décor of 'The House of the Dead's Curien Mansion, or the relentlessly colourful and chirpy world of Super Monkey Ball. Sonic and co. are also perfectly realised, and the title feels resolutely 'Segaish' throughout. The vibrancy of Sega's trademark colour palette is perfect for Nintendo's handheld and, if ever there was a game to show of the quality of the DS Lite's screens, this is it.

Gameplay-wise, the title (unsurprisingly) owes a lot to the Virtua Tennis series, playing like a slightly watered down version of Sega's flagship sports-sim. Offering a solid experience, controls are tight and responsive, and it takes no time at all to get into the swing of things. The DS's d-pad handles the onscreen action perfectly, and although stylus control is available, it is best avoided.

Structurally, this DS version is pretty much identical to the home console versions. There are three main modes of play available – single player (tournaments or one-off games), multiplayer (sadly with no online option) and finally a range of (Sega-themed) mini-games. Generally, each of these modes are perfectly suited to the DS, ideal for the bite-sized on-the-go gaming that the handheld is designed for. The tournaments are short enough to fit into an average train journey, and the mini-games are a great way to fill a few minutes. Multiplayer is very well implemented and does a lot to extend the lifespan of the title. Single-cart play is available, though in this instance players are limited in their choice of characters (i.e. you have to play as Sonic!).

So, for those looking for a spot of tennis on the go, the game generally ticks all the required boxes nicely. Unfortunately there are a few small design decisions that prevent it from achieving perfection. The biggest bugbear is the 'Superstar State'. Achieved simply by performing well, the 'superstar state' allows your chosen character to unleash a special shot that is extremely difficult to return. They are far too easy to obtain, and can unfortunately unbalance the game. The brief animation preceding the shot can also quickly become grating and disruptive to the flow of play. It is hard to shake the feeling that Sega has included it purely as a means to further push their IP, and that a far more elegant solution could and should have been reached. Superstar shots can be deactivated for multiplayer and single player one-off matches, but you are unfortunately stuck with them during tournament play.

The many mini-games that are available would also have benefited from a bit more refinement in execution. Although generally enjoyable, a fairly large number can feel like watered down versions of the games that inspired them, hamstrung by the tennis theme. Chu Chu Rocket suffers particularly badly, as the tennis-based control scheme does little more than cloud the purity of the original. Knocking down zombies at Curian Mansion, while great fun, suffers from poor explanation of goals and some of the Space Harrier levels are very nearly laughable in their simplicity. The mini-games are definitely a welcome addition to the package, but better use could have been made of Sega's heritage.

Speaking of heritage, Sega's illustrious past could have been more fully explored. While it's always a pleasure to see Gillius Thunderhead in a game (this particular reviewer pumped a lot of 10 pence pieces into 'Golden Axe' arcade cabinet during his youth…), and the likes of Sonic, Beat, Ulala and Nights exude charisma, there is a worryingly small number of games/series represented (eight it total). Whether this is a result of laziness on Sega's part or that they simply have one eye on the future it is hard to say, but 'Sega Superstars Tennis 2' seems like inevitability.

The title is a solid first instalment into what could be an excellent series. It is a shame that the game hasn't embraced Sega's past more comprehensively and that Sumo Digital didn't spend a bit more time refining the gameplay, but one shouldn't complain too much. Ultimately, it's an enjoyable and well-featured package, and a worthy addition to the DS's library. It is good to see Sega back on some kind of form, but we just hope that next time they decide to put a lot more Sega on show!

Check out our final review scores below!

N-Europe Final Verdict

More than just a cash-in, but not quite perfect either, the title is nevertheless a great outing for a motley crew of Sega characters.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability3
  • Visuals4
  • Audio3
  • Lifespan3
Final Score



Excellent visuals
Tight controls
Solid mechanics
Great cast of characters


... but not enough characters!
Unbalanced in places
Minigames bordering on being too shallow
Annoying special moves

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