Dare to be Stupid
Sega Superstar Tennis : It’s a tennis game with assorted Sega characters. Or at least the Dreamcast-era Sega characters.
Story : I don’t think there is much of a story here other than the story of a bunch of big-eyed cartoon characters getting together to play tennis. Okay, here’s a storyline, one executive at Sega says to another “hey! Nintendo makes tennis games with their franchise characters. We already make tennis games. Lets make a tennis game with our franchise characters!” Who says Sega does what Nintendon’t?
Sega Superstar Tennis allows players to pit Sonic against Tails in a dream battle of tennis, or at least a doubles match of Sonic and Tails against Dr Rob…Eggman and miscellaneous. Most of the characters in the game seem to be of the cute, family-friendly variety, including the inflatable doll from Space Channel 5, the methed up skater from Jet Grind Radio and most of the monkey characters throughout Sega’s history. You can unlock the dwarf from Golden Axe, but that’s about the most interesting hidden character, otherwise your bonus unlockables are clones like Shadow The Hedgehog or… evil NiGHTS.
I guess what I’d like to say is, if you’re going to go with an absurd concept such as a mascot tennis game, then run with it! Let me play as Vectorman or the Comix Zone dude or the vigilantes from Streets of Rage, the Sega games people look back on fondly. Get that guy from Shenmue to open matches by saying in his trademark monotone voice “I am going to play a game of tennis” to team with Shinobi against the dude from Splatterhouse and a Panzer Dragoon dragon flying around wielding a small tennis racket.
There’s a novel mini-game collection that divulges in the fan-service territory that’d you wish the rest of the game attempted. You have these mini-game sets based on obvious picks like Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball that involve collecting rings, but you also get sets based on House of The Dead, Space Harrier and Virtua Cop. There’s some novelty in watching a guy with a tennis racket run through a Space Harrier stage smacking balls into giant stone heads and dodging pixilated fireballs. The games aren’t great, but they are mildly amusing and work in a pinch if you’re trying to kill time on a bus.
And I guess there’s a tennis part of the Sega Superstar Tennis game. The tennis here is very basic; you have a button for slices and topspin swings, and otherwise the game figures out the rest for the player. I stand that one of the strengths of the Mario Tennis games is that they’re so basic with the controls that someone who’s never touched a controller before could jump right into an exciting four player doubles match. On the most basic level, the gameplay here is of the same level of accessibility, and I can imagine most gamers being able to pick up on this game and smack a ball in Tails’ face. The one single twist is that each character has a little star meter that fills up during play and, when maxed out, enables players to trigger a 3 second cutscene. After this annoyance, every shot you throw back at your opponents will curve around or go in some kind of weird pattern before hitting the ground (the pattern varies between each character). The kicker with these super attacks is that the only genuine way to respond to these attacks is to have actually spent a bit of time playing against each character, which hampers the whole idea of the game being accessible to non-players. On top of that, I’ve had games where three AI players on the court all decided to trigger their super attacks in succession of each other in a conspiracy to completely kill the flow of the game.
However, the multiplayer aspect is kind of hindered by the fact that this is the DS version I’m looking at. With a single copy of the game, you’re restricted to playing a Sonic vs. Sonic singles game with another DS owner, and to play otherwise requires the other players to own the game…and well my personal philosophy on multi-card play is that it can screw off; I can’t be made to try to sell fellow DS owners on buying a game. Now, when 3 other owners of Sega Superstar Tennis aren’t around to have a good doubles match with (which is all of the time), then you can play a series of “tournaments”. Calling these tournaments feels like a farce as you’ll always play against the same opponents in the same order, and the AI tends to be a breeze.
In the absence of Mario Tennis, I’d wager that the console versions of Sega Superstar Tennis would make a semi-decent party game. This Nintendo DS version, on the other hand, has significantly less value, other than presenting the chance to kill a few seconds of time between bus stops killing zombies with tennis balls. Only pick this one up if you find it in a bargain bin for pocket change.
Pros: Except for accessing the Options screen, there is absolutely no forced use of the touch screen!
Cons: Sub-par audio.