N+ Review: SEGA Superstars Tennis (DS)
By seaempty. Tuesday, April 1, 2008 6:05:06 PM
Hot on the heels of their extremely successful sports title, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, SEGA have released another character-packed game. SEGA Superstars Tennis features a plethora of SEGA favourites, battling it out for grand slam glory. It's not the first time videogame greats have taken on tennis, and Nintendo's Mario Tennis series sets the benchmark. SEGA themselves aren't new to the sport and can happily boast about the successful Virtua Tennis games. Does Superstars tennis live up to this pedigree, or is it game, set, and match to Mario's mob. N+ have taken the DS version out for a top spin to find out.
Although Mario Tennis has not made an appearance on the DS, a version has graced four Nintendo consoles. It has been a successful (and highly enjoyable) franchise, and due to the obvious similarities, it's hard not to compare it to SEGA Superstars Tennis. It's so similar, in fact, that it almost feels as though SEGA have taken the game, and just replaced the Nintendo sprites with their own. Although there's probably not a great deal of variation that you can apply to a tennis game, but if you have played MT you will no doubt get a very distinct feeling of déja vu whilst playing Superstars. Although this may sound like a criticism, it's not. To say that the tennis mechaniccs in Superstars is at the very least on par with MT is a compliment. Straight away you feel at home with the game, comfortable with the controls, and at ease with the way it plays. I did find that Superstars is ever so slightly less responsive than MT, but once you adjust to this, the game is smooth, and a joy to play. The default control setting is using the buttons, but you can opt to play with the stylus. This is, however, awkward and unconvincing. Hitting the ball is automatic in this mode, and so it's just up to you to manoueuvre your character to the ball.
For SEGA fans, the character line-up probably will make you go giddy at the knees. I have to admit that I was ignorant of a few of the characters, but there's enough variety in the selection to keep interest. Each character is strong in a certain skill, be it speed, power, control, or spin, and there are eight characters to choose from at the start of the game. Completing tournaments in either the singles or doubles modes unlocks new ones to choose from. The characters also have their own "Superstar State", that can be activated when the power meter has been filled. When in Superstar State, the character's shots are harder to return, similar to the powershots in MT. I personally feel that this feature ruins a good game of tennis, and although this mode can be turned-off for friendly matches, it's ever-present in the tournament mode.
With regards to the different game modes, Superstars is pretty shallow. There are three tournaments to complete, each getting progressively harder. You can play in one-off matches, and also take on friends via local Wi-Fi. Although there are a large number of characters, completing the tournamnets won't take long. This isn't helped by the fact that each match only consists of a few games. You only have to win two games to win the match and progress to the next round, which is quite franlky pathetic. As a result, the game feels empty, and you can't help feeling that the game is lacking something to keep you playing. The handheld versions of MT had the RPG element where you could create your own character and level them up. The console versions had better multiplayer modes. It's also infuriating that there is no save function in the tournaments, meaning that once you start, you have to complete it or lose your progress. This is a serious deterrent for me, and makes me take the game less seriously. As a portable game, this detracts from the "pick up and play" mentality. The DS's ability to suspend the game by closing the screen helps, but it's not ideal.
What Superstars does have is a great selection of mini-games. There are 8 to choose from, each with their own classic SEGA game theme. There's great variety, from shooting tennis balls at criminals Virtua Cop-style and House of the Dead zombies, to potting Monkey Balls into portals and guiding mice into rockets. It's nice to see some thought being put into creating mini-games, rather than tacking them on as an afterthought. Each game has several missions to complete and unlock, but some are considerably easier than others.
As a tennis fan, I really enjoyed playing SEGA Superstars Tennis. I'm pretty sure if I was more of a SEGA fan, I would have loved playing it. The DS version plays very well, has great crisp and bright graphics, and is by far the best representation of the sport on the console. There's enough variety in the characters and courts to keep interest, and the game is only let down by the shallow nature of the single-player game. I would have liked more multiplayer options, and in particular the ability to play online, but for me, having a very playable tennis game is the main thing. SEGA Superstars Tennis is that, and if you are looking for a tennis game on the DS, it should be first on your list.
Game: SEGA Superstars Tennis
Developed by: Sumo Digital
Release Date: All dates if possible
Rating: Pegi - 7+, ERSB - E for Everyone
Supports WFC: No
Video available: No
N+ The tennis mechanics are solid
N+ Great graphics
N+ Superb sound
N+ A SEGA fan's heaven
N+ Fantastic selection of mini-games
N- Shallow single player
N- Not overly original
N- No online multiplayer