If you’re going to make a Tennis game for consoles, now is as good a time as ever to release it, squeezed in between the two mid-year grand slams. Sega have certainly realised this by producing another iteration of their ever popular tennis franchise, Virtua Tennis 2009.
One of the great things about the franchise throughout its history is the fact that it’s so accessible, so it doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s your first set. But it does reward players for playing sound tennis strategy, such as serve and volley tactics, or being a constant big server, which is quite a canny knack for such an arcade-style title.
However, rather than add something new to the mix, VT 2009 seems a more refined version of the earlier game (Virtua Tennis 3) released in the current gaming generation’s infancy and, if anything, waters down the greatest feature of the title, the World Tour mode.
This time round you start out as a 100th-placed amateur, and can compete in tournaments to help move up the ladder towards pro status. However, this is a slow process, compounded by the fact that it is rather easy. You also won’t often be tested, let alone lose a match, making this a thoroughly tedious process.
There is an alternative, however, as it’s possible to rise through the ranks online via the SPT Online Tour. But most games this reviewer has encountered have been a touch on the laggy side, and the usual solid animations and visual detail takes a dramatic down turn.
Outside of the on-court tour action, there are the traditional training mini-games, as well as the tennis store and your ‘home base’. The training mini-games have been seemingly robbed of their previous VT significance, as they aren’t paramount in you moving along in the world tour and you will barely notice the difference if your character has gained two experience points on his forehand, for instance.
Though not containing any importance of note, the mini-games still keep their fun nature, and will have you testing yourself to beat any high scores you rack up, both within the tour and via the Play mode in the main menu.
One thing VT always prides itself on is the fantastic graphical detail. You just know you’re playing a Sega title with the brilliant colour displays within, akin to other games such as Sega Rally. One of the major improvements in the entire game also comes under this category, as player movement is much more realistic and fluid, rather than the jerky animations that have been in some other titles. Audio content is also great, as all the authentic sounds of any tennis match are there, and helps bring the experience closer to you.
Chances are that if you’ve played Virtua Tennis 3 you may be slightly disappointed, as the usual high bar that is the VT series hasn’t been quite reached this time round, and 2009 is quite similar to VT3 to begin with. But if you’ve never experienced a Virtua Tennis title it is a great game to pick up, as its accessibility and charm will have you hooked for hours.