Review: SEGA Superstars Tennis (Wii)
Posted 27 Mar 2008 at 23:09 by James Hamilton
|"Granted, not everybody will have played Space Channel Five or Jet Set Radio, but the characters are all recognisable and, more importantly, fun to play as."|
A lot of Wii owners have been waiting for Sega Superstars Tennis. Not because it features a host of wild n' wacky Sega mascots as playable characters - surprisingly enough - but because it's the first proper tennis game to hit the console, and therefore the first to offer a real alternative to Wii Sports. Even those precious few (and they are precious) that didn't grow bored of the latter after a few months have kept an eye on this one, because Wii Tennis was terrific fun, and we've all been waiting for something to capitalise on its potential. And while Sega Superstars Tennis doesn't quite reach that game's dizzying heights of accessibility and family entertainment, it's still a fun and worthwhile title in its own right.
These comparisons with Wii Sports are unfortunate, but necessary - though little more than a demo, that game set the benchmark as far as controls are concerned. Predictably, Sega Superstars Tennis does not play with quite the same level of finesse. Of the three control methods the game offers, Standard is the one most newcomers will opt for - just using the standalone Wiimote for aim and power - but it doesn't feel quite as responsive as it should be, and the use of the A and B buttons rather than your wrist to play different kinds of shots will feel like a step back.
Alternatively, you can play with the nunchuck attached, which gives you control over the character as well, or with "traditional" controls - and all of these options, it should be said, work equally well. While they aren't quite as intuitive as Wii Sports, the controls are still pretty good - its use of the buttons make it feel much more like a traditional game, but given that it's a port, it's easily forgivable. While the motion controls in the tennis matches work well, however, the game insists on making the player use traditional controls for the mini-games. It's a simple case of turning the remote onto its side, but it's also a baffling decision on the part of the developers - especially when they went to the trouble of creating decent motion controls in the first place. It's as though Sega didn't have any faith in their own abilities, and weren't quite brave enough to make the "Standard" motion controls, well, the standard.
Despite this, the mini-games are excellent fun. Different enough from the main game without being too gimmicky, they present an entertaining Sega-themed distraction from the more straightforward tennis matches. Unlockable characters and courts provide further incentive to play the mini-game levels, which grow more challenging as you progress.
The tennis matches too are a pleasant surprise - the characters are balanced and varied enough to encourage you to experiment with different styles and tactics, and the AI provides a decent challenge without being annoyingly difficult. The inclusion of special moves for each character (pressing A+B together instigates a quick "power-up" cutscene before imbuing them with a fancy tennis move for a few shots) will definitely grate with some, but doesn't feel as intrusive or as irritating as it probably should do. While Nintendo's own Mario Power Tennis employed a similar mechanic a few years ago, here it's not only less irksome, but also easier to counter with skilful play. The game encourages you to develop tactics if you want to stay on top, while the gradual difficulty curve usually keeps you on your toes.
The presentation of the whole game is very colourful and slick - not quite the same as its cousins on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but it's clear that Sega put a lot of love into developing this game - and it is, after all, a celebration of their history. Granted, not everybody will have played Space Channel Five or Jet Set Radio, but the characters are all recognisable and, more importantly, fun to play as.
Like most tennis games, Sega Superstars Tennis shines in multiplayer, and all the usual modes are available - but the lack of online play for the Wii version is a kick in the teeth; especially when it's available on other versions. Ultimately, which one you buy will depend on whether you prioritise motion sensitive control over online play: the controls are good enough to justify a purchase if that's what you're after, but if you're expecting the game to play as well as Wii Sports does, you might be disappointed. Sega Superstars Tennis feels like a traditional game, even with the motion controls - but that doesn't matter, because it's still very good fun, not to mention a celebration of all things Sega. Don't expect great things from it, but it's definitely well worth a play.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A surprisingly good celebration of all things Sega. If you liked Mario Tennis, you'll like this too. Entertaining stuff.
Lots of Sega goodness
Motion controls not perfect
No online play
Special moves will annoy some