September 10, 2000
When you ask people what was the first computer/video game was, the typical response is Pong. It was basically a very primative version of tennis without the net. Although Pong was a great success there are, to this day, very few good tennis games available with Namco's Smash Court Tennis on the Playstation the most notable exception. Many of the good tennis games in the past rarely push their consoles power. But Sega look set to change that with the awesome looking Virtua Tennis.
Released to the arcades in early 2000 Virtua Tennis runs on the Naomi chipset which will make the Dreamcast port a breeze for the games developers, AM3. The arcade game is one of the most frequented at my local arcade centre with fast gameplay and awesome graphics which are easily the best seen in a tennis game. Fortunately Sega also grabbed the rights to use real players names and likeness in the game and include such greats as Haas, Courier, Pioline, Moya and Henman among others. Sega has included some other great graphical touches including realtime lighting, including shadows from clouds, and a steady 60fps update.
Of course, no tennis game would be complete without different surfaces including grass, clay, carpet(!) and hardcourt. Naturally the ball reacts differently to each surface. On hardcourt the ball looses very little speed when it hits the surface while on clay the ball slows down considerably when it hits the ground. The action is controlled through 2 buttons, one for a passing shot, the other for a lob shot. With practice it is possible to put backspin or topspin on the ball.
But the arcade game wasn't without it's faults. The biggest complaint from gamers was a lack of 2 player action. Fortunately Sega has listened to arcade players and is implementing a 2 player option for the home version as well as mini-games and an "RPG" styled World Circuit mode. This is very similar to a career mode found in many other sports games where you select a player and follow his progress through the years. As you win more money it is possible to enter a shop and purchase extra features. There has been rumour of online gameplay which is doubtful, while an online ranking system is possible.
Virtua Tennis is one of the hottest looking games headed to the Dreamcast this year. While it will have more of an arcade feel to it then other sports games such as NBA2K, NFL2K and NHL2K, it is no less impressive then the other titles. This will be a great game on the Dreamcast when it is released worldwide in July/August.