When Virtua Tennis was originally released in 2000, it became an instant hit with a great number of Dreamcast owners. The game was full of quality gameplay and was considered by some to be a "party game" with its fun four-player mode. Now it has made it's way to the PC thanks to a conversion by Strangelite Creators and Developers. Now we have to see if this conversion stands up to the quality of the original.
If you haven't played the Dreamcast version, don't make the mistake of turning your nose up to the fact that this is a tennis game. This game is simple and is based on a sport that many think is boring, but it actually offers hours of fun.
The graphics in this game are pretty solid. The character models retained the fairly high polygon count from the Dreamcast version, especially when it comes to each player's facial details. When you see a player yelling, you can actually see the inside of his mouth, with the teeth and tongue made up of their own polygons instead of being "drawn" on one flat polygon.
On the other hand, textures aren't as sharp as they could be, especially in the advertisements on stadium walls and on the player's clothes. The all-too-common "cardboard cut-out" audience seems a bit pixilated for today's standards, too. This isn't to say the textures look bad, but most new games have much sharper and more detailed textures.
The controls are incredibly simple. All you need is one button for hitting the ball, one for lobbing the ball, and one to change the camera. I highly recommend using a gamepad however, since the console-style controls are very awkward on a keyboard. One flaw I noticed came from the lack of an analog stick when I wanted to aim. It was much harder to pinpoint where you wanted the ball to end up than in the Dreamcast version. This was only minor, and was rarely noticeable, though.
The game starts you out with seven players to choose from and eight you can unlock. There aren't any big name players, and you aren't able to choose any female players, so this may be a slight disappointment to some. You also start out with five stages scattered across the globe, and with five more that are able to be unlocked later.
The game consists of three modes of play; Arcade mode, where you'll play five progressively tougher computer opponents and try for a high score; Exhibition mode, where you simply play a single match against a computer; and World Circuit mode, which I'll explain below.
In order to progress in the game, you must play the World Circuit mode. This mode consists of stages to unlock, training levels that are basically tennis-based mini-games, shops, and the world ranking. The object is to try to unlock each stage by defeating computer opponents, as well as to try to achieve a first place world ranking. The stages and training levels each consist of three levels of difficulty. Each time you beat a stage, it levels-up (unless it is already at level three), becoming tougher and
giving you a better world rank. When you beat a stage or training level, you also earn money, which you'll use to purchase items at shops. In the shops, you are able to purchase players and stages to unlock access to them in the Arcade and Exhibition modes. Other purchases only affect the World Circuit mode. These include partners, tennis wear, strings, and recovery drinks.
Sound / Music
The sound effects are of ample quality, with the crowd cheering and the commentator calling the scores. The players never produce any vocal sounds, however. Many times when you score, you will see the player you chose screaming something like "YEAH!" on the screen, but there is never any sound to go along with it. There are some other nice sounds, though. The player's shoes squeak or scuff on the ground, depending on the type of surface, and the tennis ball makes a pretty accurate sound when someone hits it.
It's too bad the music is less than stellar. It does tend to fit with the game sometimes, but it can get boring and dull.
The multiplayer mode is essentially the same as the Dreamcast version. You and up to three other friends can compete on one computer, but they have also added a network mode to connect with other computers - an excellent addition if you ask me.
In the end, this is virtually a perfect port of the incredibly fun Dreamcast game. If you've never played the Dreamcast version, or if you absolutely need the added network play, give this game a try. It is a guaranteed fun game for sports fans, arcade fans, and others too!