When you think of tennis as a video game it’s fair to say that one of the games which will pop to mind first is SEGA’s Virtua Tennis. The series has been around a long time and while it may not always get it right, generally it’s been a pretty safe bet for fans of the sport. Having already made its debut on other systems, the latest game in the series, Virtua Tennis 4, is now getting set to arrive on the PlayStation Vita and once again, if you are a tennis fan, then it’s worth betting your money on.
Starting up the game, you are met with a fairly familiar site in the menu screen, with all of the options from the console version and a few others there to greet you. This means that not only do you get the fully comprehensive World Tour mode, but also Arcade mode, an Online mode, some mini-games and also some Vita specific options, which to be honest, just feel like they are tacked on for the sake of it.
Thankfully the World Tour mode is practically untouched from its console cousin. You create your player then spend the next four years on the road, climbing the ranks and taking part in tournament after tournament in your quest to become the World number one. This mode revolves around the World Map, seeing you travel across country after country using tour tickets. Each ticket can have a different value, allowing you to decide where move to on the map, with each section having different options, be it training, meeting the fans, practice or taking part in tournaments. Depending on which option you choose you’ll earn stars and cash. Stars count towards your reputation, therefore earning enough of these allows you to skip the qualifying rounds for major events. Any cash you have earned can be spent on new equipment or indeed tour tickets, giving you more choice when moving around the map.
On your travels you’ll recruit new doubles partners, learn different play styles and improve your player in others ways, thanks to the various practice matches and training events. Practice matches help improve your players stats, as do the practice matches. Anyone who has ever played Virtua Tennis will know all about the training, which sees you doing things such as collecting just-hatched chicks and returning them to their pen, while avoiding oncoming tennis balls; playing wind matches; plate smashing and more. The training matches are very bizarre, although that’s all part of the charm of Virtua Tennis 4.
The tennis itself is as familiar as it’s always been. You can pull off various types of shot using the face buttons, with power and accuracy dependant on your timing and position, while you can also use the touch screen to add spin to your shots. Matches are fairly short affairs, however this at least keeps things flowing, allowing you to more along the World Map at a decent pace.
While the World Tour Mode does require some commitment, the Arcade Mode is completely the opposite, seeing you play through the four major ‘grand slam’ tournaments, before facing you off against a legend in a one-off exhibition mode. It has to be said that the Arcade Mode is great for the Vita, since it allows you to have a quick blast in order to get your tennis fix. What’s great about this mode is that you can even play through it in doubles, which for me at least, made it even more challenging.
As mentioned earlier, the VT Apps do feel like a bit of an after thought, rather than a mode you must play. Here you get to sample the delights of VT Cam, which allows you to have your photo took with a pro; Rock the Boat, which sees you use the motion sensor to title the pirate ship, while shooting at the targets; VR Match, allowing you to view the match from the players point of view and finally, my favourite, Touch Vs, which basically takes a birds eye view of the court and allows you and another player to have a game of tennis, air hockey style. Like I say, these modes aren’t exactly essential to the game, but I suppose they come with the bonus of showing off some of the Vita’s features.
Finally there’s the network mode, allowing you to play Ad Hoc and more importantly, Online. Here you can play in a Ranked Match or the less competitive Unranked Player Match. Being in this mode allows you to view your current online ranking and experience. There are also leaderboards included here which are broken down into worldwide and friends, although unlike some other games there is no options for Near.
One of Virtua Tennis 4′s biggest strengths is almost certainly its visuals, this game is a looker and is definitely up there alongside the best of the launch titles in the graphical department. The animation of players is almost perfect, while player likeness is pretty much spot on. All of the courts and their surroundings also look fantastic, making for one of the most authentic portable games of tennis you’ll have ever played.
It goes without saying that if you are a fan of tennis then you need to have this game, it provides the perfect simulation of the sport, plays wonderfully and best of all, is packed with lots of options and features, giving you lots of value for your money. Virtua Tennis 4 may not be for everyone, especially those who already own it on other consoles, but it’s still one of the best looking and enjoyable launch titles for the system. If you are still deciding which games to purchase at launch, you should make sure that this one at least makes its way into your thought process.
Virtua Tennis is released on February 22. You can pre-order your copy here.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: PS Vita)