bitparade: SEGA Superstar Tennis (PlayStation 2)

Take two parts Virtua Tennis, one part Mario Tennis, and mix in a whole ton of SEGA nostalgia and you have yourself SEGA Superstars Tennis. Sound good? Well, it is, if you happen to be a big fan of what SEGA have done in the past.

Y’see while Nintendo present you with characters from their best known games in their sports tie-ins, SEGA Superstar Tennis relies upon you knowing some of their back catalogue, well, at least more than just Sonic the Hedgehog anyhow, although its unsurprising he has a big part to play, and will no doubt be the first character most people use. But its not just SEGA’s most famous output that makes an appearance, theres also showings from Ulala (Space Channel 5), Beat (Jet Set Radio), AiAi (Super Monkey Ball) and even the long forgotten Alex Kidd, among others, which can only bring a smile to those who favoured a SEGA console over the opposition at least once in their life.

Courts too are themed on SEGA franchises, with all the above titles getting their own courts alongside others which don’t have any in-game character representation, such as House of the Dead. Of course, none of this would count for anything if the game played terribly, and you’d be forgiven for being wary of it based upon a lot of SEGA’s recent output, but rest assured, Sumo Digital have taken the engine from Virtua Tennis 3 (which they also ported from the arcades over to the XBox 360 and PS3) and built a highly entertaining game around the engine and nostalgia they had at their finger tips. Not only is it highly entertaining, but as with its sibling its incredibly accessible to begin with and has quite a bit of depth to its gameplay the more you play it.

However, its not without its problems. Games can feel a little too easy to win at times, the first 5 tournaments or so I managed to get away with just hitting the ball from the left of the court to the right side, and whilst its always good for a game to start off easily and make things that bit simpler for you to get into it, this level of difficulty goes on for far too long and is only affected by the rather random feeling special abilities that each character has that are activated by keeping a rally going until the star around your character is completely yellow and glowing then hitting the pre-designated button. Although these can be just as harmful to your game as they are to your opponents, especially against an AI opponent.

But, as a SEGA fan of old, I find this game incredibly charming and entertaining, I’ve not been the only one to get enjoyment out of it either as my young daughter loves watching the characters run around the screen hitting the ball back and forth which shows that this is a game that the whole family can enjoy it together.

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