Sega Superstars Tennis deserves a big 'ole asterisk stamped onto the front of the box. Yes, it's from Sega and it's definitely a tennis title, but calling these characters superstars is a stretch. They should at least make superstars lowercase, out of respect to their more esteemed videogame colleagues. Sure, Sonic and some of his less offensive gang appear, but beyond that... they're certainly not stars in any sense of the word. Any video game fan worth their salt will recognize and appreciate both the selection of the characters and the levels, but the question remains: should even hardcore Sega fans bother to string their racquets up?
Sega fans (most especially Sonic fans) have suffered some pretty substandard games over the last several years. In a lot of ways, this Virtua Tennis/Mario Tennis mash-up won't help that shovelware image. At it's worst, it's a short, shallow tennis experience. In particular, this portable version features nothing different than any of the other platform ports, outside of nearly unusable touch control. Thankfully, there's a bit more to the title, especially for the diehard Sega fan.
Sega fans (most especially Sonic fans) have suffered some pretty substandard games over the last several years. In a lot of ways, this Virtua Tennis/Mario Tennis mash-up won't help that shovelware image.
There's a bit of fun in the tennis itself, albeit in small doses. For a DS title, sometimes a bit of fun is all you need. Virtua Tennis 3 developer, Sumo Digital, did their best to bring a solid tennis simulation to Sega's world, but Superstars dumbs things down a bit. It covers all the basics, featuring all the necessary tennis shots: topspin, slice, lob, drop shot and smash. The problem is that the level of control over those shots is not as precise as it needs to be. Aiming shots doesn't have the accurate feel of a simulation like Virtua, while trying to push two buttons in sequence to pull off a lob or a drop shot can be a trying experience. A real trying experience is attempting to use the optional touch controls, which are downright terrible.
In addition to the basic shot selection, each character also features a special move. To pull off your move, you'll need to build up your character's meter by hitting some great shots. When the meter is full, you can enter Superstar State. While in Superstar State, everything you hit across the net will be some variation of a wacky, zigzagging shot. A quick word of warning though, you'll want to go to the options menu and shut off the animation for the move, because it'll occur every time either you or the AI enter Superstar State. Turning it off will result in fewer missed shots, as the break for the animation just destroys the flow of a natural tennis game.
Having the special move animation break up the flow of the match is just about the only thing that will slow you down. The competition is pretty easy, to the point where most of the time you don't even have to worry about changing your shot type. Hitting the ball away from your opponent on a consistent basis is enough to win all three singles tournaments. Doubles tournaments are bit more difficult, as your AI controlled partner can screw things up for you. They have a tendency to hit a bunch of shots you don't want them to take and then stand there idly when you expect them to step up and smash it.
Temporary AI brain damage aside, there are at least plenty of characters to partner with, each with a focus on speed, power, etc. It doesn't really seem to make much difference though. Outside of Sonic and Tails, the characters are a bit obscure. Nice for Sega fans, but not all that compelling for everyone else. There are characters from Sonic series, Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5 and Samba de Amigo, among others. There's also plenty of fan service in the levels and mini-games as well. The unlockable levels feature stages based on classic titles like Outrun and mini-games based in the universes of other classics, including Space Harrier and House of the Dead. The classic shout outs can really put a smile on any Sega fan's face. There's certainly nothing like smacking some zombies in the head with a tennis ball.
Still, the nostalgia factor wears thin pretty quickly, and the tennis isn't deep enough to keep you playing this title longer than a couple of hours. Multiplayer might have tacked on some playing time, if not for the fact that it is local play only. No meeting up with out of town friends for a set or two. It's too bad, as trips down memory lane are usually better with company.