There's a great deal of yays and nays going on with Virtua Tennis 3. In one corner, stands a group, most of who recently had a taste of the competition (Top Spin 2) and found it less than satisfying due to its high learning curve and delicate realistic edge. And it should come as no surprise that most of the gamers who make up this group are, in fact, diehard fans of the series hoping this iteration would ultimately end up the king of the court, delivering a few new twists and surprises. Opposite of this group is the rest of the pack, who desire a deeper, more realistic experience.
It's the debate of arcade vs. simulation, which begs the question: Which do you prefer? If it's the latter, then sorry to say, Virtua Tennis 3 is not for you. I came across a report that described this installment as "the perfect game for those who live in fear of failure," which I found insulting. Personally, I have nothing against making errors in a sports game, but I don't want to spend hours and hours frustrating myself as I try to skillfully interpret the right opportunity to use a drop shot or a lob. Perhaps if I spent more time with Top Spin 2, I would have eventually found the game very rewarding. It certainly trumps the visuals of Virtua Tennis 3 by a longshot. But for me, I found the learning curve a bit too steep.
VT3 is a good game, packed with enough entertainment value to satisfy fans and newcomers alike.
Virtua Tennis 3 deserves more respect than being considered "Tennis for Dummies". Yes, it does have issues, like a high rate of unintentional dives that players will undoubtedly make during their first few sessions. It's definitely a head-scratcher considering how infrequently that occurred in Top Spin 2. Even more puzzling is how often one can go back-and-forth with consecutive rallies, and yet none of the shots will lead to an instant win (unless they come from the hidden characters Duke and King). My biggest challenge was learning to pull off cross-court shots and executing them with some force behind them. As it turns out, these shots can only be successfully achieved if your character is standing still. At this point, you must hold the button down and then carefully aim the right analog stick to the intended direction. Long before I started to understand the basics, I was simply trying to get easy wins with top spin shots... but as my skill developed, this actually became a bit of a turn-off (and my hands did start to hurt).
Tennis fans who are fond of (or even prefer) the female pro players will be greatly disappointed to learn that Sumo Digital only licensed six... that's right... six. Can you say "imbalanced?" The rest of the roster features familiar male players, including Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Tommy Haas. This makes the career mode feel less than authentic as you're left facing off exclusively against the pros. It's strange that Sega didn't opt to incorporate some generic players which would make the ranking system more logical since you start out as a 300-ranked player. When you begin, the pros end up being on your level, but once you advance to 200 and lower, they become more formidable and before long, the dominated become the dominator. Periodically, the pros approach you in a bit of small talk, which may as well been left on the cutting board since it's a one-sided element. This aspect could have been developed further by giving the player the ability to actually... well, hold a conversation. Alas, all they do is basically tell you things along the lines of wanting to challenge you in the near future and acknowledging when you improve.
Spending time with Exhibition Mode should serve as nothing more than a training ground for when you ultimately face off against real, human players online. I don't care too much for the online multiplayer experience mainly because it's generally difficult to set up or locate ranked matches. (Psst, more of you should consider picking this up.) For the moment, player matches (read: non-ranked) surprisingly enough appear to be where it's at.
As someone who has become fond of the achievement system, I felt it necessary to voice my concern with some of the achievement-related issues in VT3. It's been my general understanding that a developer creates one, maybe two methods in which an achievement can be unlocked. Not so in VT3. The biggest offender lies with the Men/Women's achievements which allegedly require you to play under default settings (not to be confused with the settings under the Options menu) which to created mass confusion and frustration throughout the web. Some reported unlocking them with another player, online, or only after they altered the settings to something other than 1 Match, 1 Win, Easy difficulty. Needless to say, it was a headache I could live without.
Make no mistake, despite my criticism, it's still a winner in my book. Every day, I devote a minimum of two hours playing or offering tips to other players online. No lie. That's not something that you'll find me doing often with sports games. So yes, VT3 is a good game, packed with enough entertainment value to satisfy fans and newcomers alike. This year's edition showed a lot of promise, and I hope Sega builds on its foundation to make the next iteration the definitive arcade experience.