Sega Superstars Tennis Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Sega Superstars Tennis Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

For the Fans

Tennis dates back to the 1800s, where bored aristocrats would smack a small yellow ball over a net to each other again and again for hours on end. Over a century later, it has become one of the world’s most popular sports, with millions of people getting in on today’s more adrenaline-fueled approach to the game.

Sega Superstars Tennis screenshot

As a fan and player of the sport, any tennis game that nears release gets me excited. Whether it is the realistic physics of Top Spin or the laid back stylizations of Virtua Tennis, there is just something about the sport that makes me want to take on the world. Taking a nod from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Sega has decided to let its mascots run rampant on the hard courts with the release of Sega Superstars Tennis. Though not as flashy as Brawl, Sega Superstars Tennis is a party game worthy of mention. The question here though is, “does the DS version do the title series justice?” Well, it really just depends on how much you love tennis…or Sega.

Throughout the years Sega has been preoccupied with continued releases of adventure and role playing games, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t delved a little into the sport genre. Mentioned earlier, Virtua Tennis is actually a product of Sega’s sport division known as Sega Sports. So naturally, that title would be one to build off when making Sega Superstars Tennis, right? Well, what is strange is that Sega’s latest actually deviates a little from the mechanics found in their more realistic tennis offerings. Now, that doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t play like your typical tennis game. Through different button and pad combinations, you can lob, strike, drop, and over-head shots into certain areas of the court. Serves can be placed inside, out wide, or right at your opponent depending on where you aim. Ultimately, though a little sluggish at times, the handheld version plays out like it should, though it would’ve been nice to see a better use of the touch screen. Aside from the scoring, there is the option to play with the bottom screen, but the feel of it is so unnatural that you will be wishing it never existed; just stick with the control pad.

What is commendable about Sega Superstars Tennis is how well the A.I. performs throughout the game. Most handheld releases see brain-dead A.I. mindlessly just trying to keep up with its superior human adversary. This is not the case here, as beginners will be frantically trying to chase down several of the well mixed shots thrown at you by the computer. The difficulty settings are adjustable and add their own new dimension to the gameplay, whether it is in the form of intensity, shot-making, or how often they use their special moves. Speaking of, an arcade style tennis game wouldn’t be complete without some form of fiction, right? Well, considering that all the players are imaginary video game mascots doesn’t do much for realism anyway, I suppose.

Sega Superstars Tennis screenshot

Nevertheless, it is these special techniques that help differentiate every player from one another and make each match a little more interesting. However, to use the moves you will need to build up points until your special meter is full. Once it maxes out, you will be able to send a crazy shot back to your unsuspecting rival in the hope of scoring a point or throwing them off balance. The only problem with these little trump cards is that, unlike the console version of the move where the ability can literally take you out of the point, the DS version just loops the ball in crazy patterns. This would be all well and good “if” the path of the ball wasn’t already pre-determined before it lands. All too many times I would use my special move on my winded opponent, only for them to stand in the same place and casually return the ball to my side of the court. Say what? The moves are a tad more effective against human opposition, but the computer, especially on the harder setting, will have no difficulty returning your flashy spins and slices.

After you are finished playing singles, Sega Superstars Tennis also allows for doubles matches. That’s right; now you and a mentally deficient computer can duke it out with two difficult computerized players. I always wondered why when you are paired with artificial intelligence, it is your partner that is the dumbest of the three computers. It’s like they purposely dumb them down in order to make your experience harder. Well, it isn’t so much hard as it is frustrating. Whether it is missing an easy ball or moving too far to your side when you already have a clear shot at it, your doubles partner can be a tad burdensome at times. This doesn’t mean the whole mode is bad; it’s just that they probably could’ve done a better job with the buddy system.

Sega Superstars Tennis screenshot

Okay, let’s forget about tennis for a moment and move on to Sega. What is it about Sega that has allowed them to have such a strong foothold in the world of video games? Could it be their legacy with the Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast? Perhaps it is their undying devotion to their respective line of games?

Sega Superstars Tennis screenshot

According to fans, it is devotion so deep that the game nostalgically presents characters and stages from over ten of the company’s finest installments. Whether it is a court covered in zombies from the House of the Dead or musical tracks from the Sonic series, Sega doesn’t disappoint on the fan-service. Surprisingly enough, even forgotten favorites such as Alex Kidd and Gilius Thunderhead make their own return appearances (why a monkey boy and a Viking would want to take place in a tennis tournament is beyond me). Arriving at the end of the tunnel is a mini-game mode lets you participate in a number of scenarios. These range from a Space Invaders-type game where you have to hit moving targets to a puzzle themed Puyo Puyo event. With so much fan-service present, you have to wonder why companies don’t do this kind of thing more often.

What companies should do more often is provide players with a better presentation, and Sega Superstars Tennis doesn’t disappoint too much in that regard. The music is pleasant without being overbearing or repetitive, and the sound effects are traditional tennis fare. Characters have little sound clips that help bring out their personalities, though they mostly just jabber on after a point or fault.

Visually, the DS version obviously lacks the interaction and flare of the console versions, but you typically can’t fault it for that. The mini-games, especially the House of the Dead and Virtua Cop ones, are vibrant enough that you can tell what is going on. Character sprites are a little blocky, but not to the point where it is distracting. As you can probably surmise, the game isn’t a visual masterpiece, but what more can you expect from a handheld tennis title. In the end, you take what you can get.

When it comes down to it you have to ask yourself these two questions: “Do you like Sega?” and “Is tennis something that you enjoy either as a hobby or pastime?” If you answered yes to either of these questions, then Sega Superstars Tennis is a solid purchase. Sadly there is no online play, so the only way you are going to be able to play with a partner is through direct connectivity. Even without a friend, Sega Superstars Tennis holds up well because of its fan-factor, solid presentation, and replayability on the road. Sure, it isn’t as good as Mario Tennis, and occasionally the game feels a bit too linear, but ultimately you get what you pay for. With niche titles like this you were either excited about this from the start or never cared to begin with; let that be your guide.

Nothing fantastic, but the environments and sprites are recognizable. The action is fluid, but there could’ve been a bit more going on in the background. 3.4 Control
Just use the control pad and buttons and everything will be alright. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound effects are really what make the game here. Recognizable clips from past characters and games really bring out that nostalgia factor. 3.5

Play Value
With four game modes, characters to unlock, and a two player option, Sega Superstars Tennis will give you plenty of entertainment. The only catch is . . . you should probably like tennis. Also, an online mode would’ve been nice.

3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Up to fifteen characters are playable, with many taking part in several of Sega’s greatest titles over the years; Sonic, Tails, Robotnik, Alex Kidd, NiGHTS, and more.
  • The game’s arcade style matches are played out on courts based on environments from Sega games of the past such as the lush tropics of Sonic’s Green Hill Zone or the street fair fiesta of Amigo’s Carnival Park.
  • Choose from a mission mode, tournament mode or mini-games that take you back through several Sega universes.

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