Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition Reviewed
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita console.
If you’re looking to take advantage of your new Vita but are not sure what to get, SEGA has released Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition to help scratch any sports itch you might have. At its surface, this game seems like a console port from the PS3/360 release in early 2011, but the fine folks at SEGA did not want this opportunity to impress go to waste. But does it lob out of bounds or score love?
Virtua Tennis 4 is gorgeous. Your Vita’s OLED screen will be getting taken full advantage of with the game’s sharp and crisp textures. The players are accurate to their real-life counterparts, and the tennis courts are beautiful with their various surfaces and the sunlight beaming down on your match. I didn’t perceive any slowdown with the actual gameplay, which is fantastic considering how fast and intense the sport can get. One of the first things I took notice of was the game’s slick and smooth menu system. With as much content as there is in Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition, it’s easy and appealing on the eyes to navigate through the game.
What makes Virtua Tennis 4 such a great game for the Vita is its simple controls. Not to take anything away from the sport, but tennis isn’t very complicated; as a result, the simple goal of volleying back and forth until you score isn’t difficult to do on the Vita. This makes for some great pick-up-and-go gameplay wherever you are. SEGA takes it a step further by making VT4 an arcade-style game. Nothing is overwhelming with the controls as you may see in other tennis games on the market, such as preloading your shots; it’s a matter of timing your swings right and being in the correct position. With the Vita, you are given the option of using the touchscreen instead of the face buttons. While I appreciated the addition of playing VT4 a different way, it felt tacked on, and within minutes I went back to using the buttons again, which felt more natural.
Never before had I felt overwhelmed with the number of game modes until I got my hands on Virtua Tennis 4. You have all of the same modes from the console version such as Arcade Mode with Singles and Doubles, and the extremely entertaining mini-games. Each mini-game doubles as a training method within itself. With the Egg Collector mini-game, you run around the court collecting scattered eggs. Upon touching the egg, chicks will hatch and you need to run to return them to their mother. While this sounds completely bizarre (and it is), you’ll be improving your defensive skills with foot movement.
A personal favorite is the Bomb Match mini-game – a take on hot potato but with a timed bomb – which forces you to play your cards right to make sure it explodes on your opponent. Another, Ace Striker, is a cross between soccer and tennis. Your job is to serve balls past a moving goalkeeper to score points, and this gradually gets more difficult as you progress. There are mini-games that include rotating walls and giant air fans to challenge even veterans of the series. Each of these are offered in five difficulty levels that earn you stars with each increase, which allow you to progress in your career and unlock gear to better improve your stats.
The meat of Virtua Tennis 4 is the World Tour itself. You can pick one of the top athletes of the world to become number one, or create your own. You can even take a photo of your face and throw it on a lifeless tennis player to give it some fresh, real-life looks! I tried the custom photo method and was really pleased with the quality of the photo and how it grabbed every ugly part of my face to put in the game. You also have the option of taking your World Tour online; if you let your career be voiced out on PSN, other players can join in for a challenge. Doing so is a good idea if you are interested in collecting cash and stars quicker.
Consisting of a five-year career, you travel the world to make a name for yourself. It’s laid out like a board game: you are given passes of one to four moves, which are handed out to you on results from events or by visiting the Management Office and purchasing passes. When using these passes, you have to time them accordingly so you land on a resort spot to rest your athlete, land on fan events to become more popular, and, of course, land on the training spots and local tournaments. This adds a dimension to a career mode I have not yet run into. While it can be extremely rewarding, at times I was cursing at my Vita because the game wouldn’t grant me the opportunity to take part in a tournament or much-needed training because I couldn’t get that specific move pass.
The level of hit-or-miss with these moves in the World Tour can become too much, deterring players from investing too much time into it for fear of wasting it from landing on too many of the same events. More often than not, if I didn’t have a Shuffle ticket (which mixes up the move passes), my options would land on injuring my player in a freak accident or onto a blank position – which offers nothing in return. I understand the challenge involved, but this could work much better if there were more passes to hold or better balancing in Career Mode.
In addition to the Arcade Mode and mini-games, the Vita version also features some Vita-exclusive games that take advantage of the system’s capabilities. While using the touchscreen in normal gameplay doesn’t work out quite like it could have, these Virtua Tennis Vita games are worth your time and quick fingers. Touch Vs. is a really interesting game where two people can play against one another using the same Vita screen. It’s played in a top-down view, but none of the actual buttons are used. You tap on the touchscreen to start your serve and volley back and forth by touching the court. If you’re a fan of Pong, you will feel right at home playing against your friends. Another mini-game makes use of the motion sensor as you take control of a boat that sways back and forth while you try to hit the targets with each serve.
My favorite out of the Vita-exclusive games is the VR Match. If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be a tennis player in front of hundreds, this is the closest you can be to the real thing. You are thrown into a first-person view and play just like you normally would in Arcade Mode. It’s really awesome seeing yourself charge the net to then slam the ball into your opponent’s face! Once you win the match, the screen bobs back and forth in a walking motion as you head toward the net for a handshake.
The last is the VT cam, which offers a simple and effective use of the rear camera to put any tennis player into your reality. It was rather amusing placing Andy Roddick’s self on my dog and then making a small Venus Williams to put on my kitchen counter like a scene out of The Indian in the Cupboard. While some of these additions may not have lasting appeal, they are sure to bring laughs and bursts of entertainment when shared with others.
I was able to easily jump online and get some matches in during the day and night with no connection issues or game freezing. While I got my butt handed to me over and over, I had a lot of fun with the online functionality. There are ranked and player matches to test your skills, with a level bar that increases with each win or loss.
One downfall, while isn’t too surprising, is the lack of a soundtrack or commentary. The franchise has never had commentary from my memory, but SEGA has had Virtua Tennis for a while now and it feels lazy that the game is essentially mute while in matches. The only sounds are the bounce of the ball, clapping of the crowd, and awkward grunting from the players. The menu music is bland, something similar to what you would hear while in an elevator. With 2K Sports and EA Sports at the tennis roundtable, you would think adding some variations of music would be on the to-do list to get some additional presentation points.
Despite its minor flaws and annoyances, if you’re looking for a simple half-baked console port with the typical console launch issues – you won’t find it here! Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition for the PlayStation Vita is a must-have for fans of the sport who want to take their addition on-the-go. You will sink hours into the game without ever taking notice of the clock, and I hope SEGA can improve even more on their next installment of Virtua Tennis.
Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition gets a 4.25/5.0
***Editor’s Note*** – A correction to the article’s title was made to correctly reflect the name of the game as Virtua Tennis, not Virtual Tennis as it was previously posted.
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