Sega fan service wrapped around a decent arcade tennis game.
Sega Superstars Tennis, much like Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing after it, is building off the success of a Nintendo Franchise, in this case Mario Tennis. This isn't just a cash-in that's trying to be Mario Tennis, though, as Sega has managed to create a fun Tennis game with many a homage to different Sega games and franchises. This game is a complete package that offers great entertainment for younger and older audiences, and displays a healthy amount of fan service through its Planet Superstars mode.
Sega Superstars Tennis can be played by yourself, or with up to four players. You can instantly jump into a match against a computer(s) oppenent or with a friend(s) via the main menu, as well as Ball-Multiplayer minigames that can be unlocked via Planet Superstars Mode. The game also features a tournament mode which lets you climb a ladder with increasingly difficult opponents. There are 16 playable characters in the game, ranging from Sonic the Hedgehog to Beat from Jet Grind Radio. Some characters need to be unlocked, along with courts and different music tracks. The aforementioned can be unlocked via the games biggest single player mode, Planet Superstars.
Planet Superstars presents you with over 100 missions, whether it be challenges or simply tennis matches against AI. You will be spending a chunk of your time in this mode unlocking hidden characters, courts, and music tracks. Planet Superstars is broken up into different levels, each level themed after a Sega game or franchise. Some of these levels will simply feature an unlockable character or court that is themed after the game or franchise, and will offer only tournaments or matches with no challenges. Others, though, often feature a gameplay mechanic that is akin to the game or franchise it originated from. For example in the Virtua Cop level, you will be given a range of different challenges in which you must take down cardboard cut-outs of criminals that pop-out around the level.
There is also an online mode, though I was unable to get into a match as the online community for this game is pretty much completetly dead. When I attempted to get a match going, there were only two other players online, and I ended up watching them play via the TV mode. If you're looking to play some multiplayer, it looks like the best option is to do so with friends locally.
As for how the game controls, it is very similar to Mario Tennis, you will move your character around the court, and hit the ball by pressing either the X or A button. You can control the strength and direction of your serve with the A button and control stick, and also smash the ball when a high ball is dropped, as well as perfrom a chip shot by pressing the X button and quickly pressing the A button afterwards. Character movement can feel a bit loose and sloppy sometimes, and sometimes when you try to return a ball, the game will not read that you have hit the button when in front of the ball, though this happens very rarely.
Aside from basic control, each character in the game has a superstar move that they can activate by gaining enough starpower, and each character has one that is unique to them. Sonic transforms into Super Sonic and can manipulate the direction of the ball after he hits it, Beat causes the opponents side of the court to be covered in graffiti, causing them to slip all over the place, and so on. These are obviously inspired by the power moves from Mario Power Tennis, but they don't feel as threatening as those did. It can be easy to overcome an opponents superstar move, though often it works well against the AI. Some of these moves are clever, but it is very annoying having to watch the same clips whenever one is activated, which is the same problem that MPT had. It would be great if you could simply activate these powers seamlessly without having to interrupt the action for a 3-second FMV, but alas, maybe they'll figure this out with the next licensed Tennis game that comes out.
The games graphics look very colourful and sharp, and I had no problem with them really. The courts are highly detailed, and do a great job of capturing the look and feel of the game they are based on. The character models look fine, though the characters that you will find standing on the sidelines of matches can look generic, with some exceptions including the presence of Sonic characters that aren't playable in the game in the Green Hill Zone court. The game runs very smoothly, and I had no issues with framerate dip or texture pop-in while I was playing. The graphics aren't anything spectacular to be sure, but they work well in this game and I have no gripe with them.
The audio in this game features tons of fantastic songs from different Sega games, and tons of annoying voice-over. I can only bear hearing Beat say GOGOGO! everytime I score a point with him so many times, but what the game lacks in bearable voiceover it more than makes up for with its brevity of great music.
Developer Sumo Digital has made something great here. Sega Superstars Tennis builds off the success of Mario Tennis in a very polished way, and features a lot of fan servive in its planet superstars mode and great arcade tennis gameplay to boot. It can feel loose and awkward in spots, and voiceover could've been less repetitive, but the game does what it does well and should be looked at by Sega fans and tennis game fans alike.