Virtua Tennis: World Tour
Ah, tennis. The rich man’s sport; played by grunting girls with ever decreasing skirt lengths, and men named “Pat” and “Andre”; watched by strawberry-and-cream eating posh knobs, forever keeping up with the Jones’ by extravagantly detailing what Benedict did at private school last week, and how Robert is getting on with those new heated leather seats in that Bentley he bought with his bonus last year.
Thanks to SEGA, it isn’t only posh knobs that play tennis, either. Their home console versions of Virtua Tennis started with the Dreamcast, pulling people into shops off the street with cunningly placed game booths by the windows. You know it, I know it, and we all did it;standing in front of that booth and staring at the sheer sight of the game, and after a few minutes pulled our credit cards from our wallets and shelled out for a system. And what fun it was.
I very much doubt that Virtua Tennis: World Tour will sell many PSPs on its own back, but there’s no denying that this smash fest is just as much fun as the original. The series has always been easy to pick up and play, yet hard to master. Within minutes of loading up the UMD, you’ll be smashing and volleying Tim Henman on his way to a grand slam final, then hours later the difficulty level will be raised, and after a few days you’ll venture into World Tour mode and be lost from family and friends for a good few weeks at least. Yep, I loved this game.
This is a replay, obviously.
One word of warning, however. If you have homebrew content or emulators on your PSP (and let’s face it- who hasn’t?), then before you play this game you’ll be asked to update your firmware to 1.52. Deleting the illegal content won’t stop it, so that’s something you must consider before buying this game. To be honest, I was quite annoyed to find this as I loved playing Toejam and Earl when on the go, but seeing as there are people out there finding a way through each firmware update, it won’t be long until you and I can play both Megadrive games and Virtua Tennis. So upgrade now.
Everything here is the same as the PS2 outing Virtua Tennis 2, with the exception of an updated rosters, so if you’ve mastered either Dreamcast version or smashed a few balls on Sony’s fine console, you’ll feel right at home. Square lobs the ball, X your standard smash shot with circle taking care of the slower, precise shots to outfox your opponent. As with the console versions, the d-pad lets you move easier but with less control on shots; to get a serve right on the line, you have to hold that particular direction for ages, and then some, whereas the analogue slider will prove far easier to shoot an apple off of someone’s head.
Hey it’s that guy that never wins Wimbledon. What’s his name again…?
But there’s a problem; the analogue slider isn’t really suited to the fast and intense madness of Virtua Tennis. I constantly found my thumb moving either onto the screen (this putting a nice sweat mark on it) or moving up towards the D-Pad, and couldn’t get the same responsiveness in terms of positioning on court that I did with the stick on the PS2; this is a huge shame, as you’ll most likely shun it for the D-Pad and end up smashing shots right at the opponent instead of in the harder-to-reach areas of the court.
That said, and this is coming from someone who’s clocked up a fair amount of hours on this beauty, it is possible to run with the D-Pad, hold down the button for the corresponding shot and quickly switch to aim with the slider. Tricky? Yes, infact very, and certainly the game wasn’t designed for this. However it does make you look like a world class gamer, even if the shot goes out of bounds, and it adds a certain amount of tactical wit to matches.
Okay, things are getting a little weird now.
You’ll get used to the controls with the help of World Tour mode, the general meat-and-bones of the PSP outing. Creating a male and female player for use on the tour, you must level them up through wacky training routines, which not only add skills but also money if you complete them. As you progress through the years you’ll encounter championships and grand slams, in which the further you progress the higher you’ll climb the rankings, meaning more competitions to enter and thus prize money to be won.
Prize money is used to unlock extra kit such as racquets and clothes, and to pay a computer character to team up with you in doubles tournaments. There are also tennis venues and players to unlock too, though sadly no tennis footage or memorabilia can be bought. I’d have given this game a straight ten, without sampling it, if I’d have been promised that footage of the comedy matches they have at Wimbledon with Mansour Bahrami and his pals. It’s classic stuff, with their fooling around and would most certainly attract more people not only to the sport but the videogame also. Opportunity missed.
Right, that’s it, I’m leaving.
The real jewel shining within Virtua Tennis: World Tour is the multiplayer, via a wireless connection. Remember coming home from the pub with 3 drunken mates, loading up the tennis on the PS2 and playing until you passed out? Just imagine sitting, well, anywhere really, drunk or sober, with 3 mates within a few metres of each other, playing tennis. Insane? Absolutely! Fun? Hell yeah! Days in the park on a sunny day will never be the same again.
And that’s pretty much it. The World Tour mode will take an age to complete, especially if you want to stay at number one in the world and the three difficulty modes in the single player exhibition and grand slam matches are perfect for those looking for a quick fix. If you have a PSP and a hidden Virtua Tennis addiction, get this game; you will not be disappointed!
Nine out of ten