I APPEAR TO BE THE ONLY PERSON WHO BELIEVES THAT VIRTUA TENNIS 1 IS BETTER THAN VIRTUA TENNIS 2.THE GRAPHICS OF VIRTUA TENNIS 1 ARE FAR BETTER.IN VIRTUA TENNIS 2 THE LINES ON THE COURT LOOK TERRIBLE,AND THE GAME JUST LOOKS AND FEELS UGLY,COMPARED TO VIRTUA TENNIS 1 WITH ITS FAST ENTERTAINING GAMEPLAY AND SMOOTHER GRAPHICS.THE PLAYERS IN VIRTUA TENNIS 2 LOOK SLIGHTLY BETTER BUT APART FROM THAT VIRTUA TENNIS 1 IS GRAPHICALLY FAR BETTER.I AM VERY SURPRISED THAT I AM THE ONLY PERSON WHO HAS PICKED UP ON THIS.THERE HAS BEEN A FEW CHANGES TO THE VT GAMEPLAY IN THE SECOND INSTALLMENT WHICH I BELIEVE HAVE JUST SLOWED THE GAME DOWN AND MADE IT LESS ENKOYABLE.ONE THING I WILL SAY IS THAT THE ADDED FEMALE PLAYERS IN VT2 IS A BONUS.BUT I STILL CANNOT BEAR TO PLAY VT2 AS IT LOOKS SO HORRIBLE,COMPARED TO THE FANTASTIC LOOKING VT1.
Imagine that you're a developer grunt working for Hitmaker in Japan. You work hundreds of hours making some of the most remarkable games like Crazy Taxi, Confidential Mission, and Virtual On Oratorio Tangram. So one day, you have a design meeting on the newest project and the head of development says to the entire team: "Let's make a tennis game!" Now, I can't claim everyone out there feels the same way, but if I were that design pee-on, my first thought would be, "huh?". Tennis isn't exactly a sport that's really popular and for a long time, it was thought of as a sport for yuppies wearing pastel colored sweaters. It's also arguable that tennis isn't as flashy or as exciting as sports like football, gridiron, or basketball. And now, it's up to you to take the sport of tennis and not only make it pleasing to the eye, but a game that everyone - tennis fan or not - can enjoy. Not an easy task at all but they're called Hitmaker for a reason. Arcade vendors who saw this game thought there's no chance this game would do well in the arcades but thanks to excellent visuals, addicting gameplay, and simple mechanics, Virtua Tennis caught on faster than a Sampras serve. When it came to the Dreamcast, Hitmaker, known for their zany extra modes when porting arcade games to the Dreamcast, delivered all the quality and more quantity to the Dreamcast version of Virtua Tennis. Pretty impressive for a video game some folks call a "glorified version of Pong." Of course, Dreamcast fans know better. With the success of Virtua Tennis, there's a lot of anticipation for Sega Sports Tennis 2K2. There's all the hype of the Williams sisters being on the cover for the game and of course, the additional line-up of players certainly sound great. But given the awesome gameplay and visual style of the original, how much can Hitmaker improve on the tennis concept? Well, after playing against nu
merous challenging opponents, smack talking with others in the heat of volley battles, and creating my own Anna K. female tennis player, there's no doubt in my mind that Tennis 2K2 is not only a game anyone can fall in love with but among the best titles I've played on the Dreamcast. Now I know there's still a small percentage reading this that have yet to play Virtua Tennis and you're probably giggling that I dig Tennis 2K2. For those that believe tennis is a simple sport where all you do is send the ball back over the net, I'll be the first to defend how tough it is to play tennis at a professional level. More so than many sports out there, tennis involves a lot of tactical thinking because there are so many variables that affect the outcome of one single point. You can play the big serving game and blast 130-plus mph serves but you risk double faulting and fatiguing yourself out too quickly. You can play the serve and volley game, attacking the net on every opportunity though you risk facing groundstrokes that cruise in the mid-90 mph coming straight at you or the dangerous topspin lob that will have you desperately running back to the baseline. And there's always the safe game of being a baseline slugger where you stay back and try to position a winning shot though you gain no advantage from playing it safe. These are just some basic tactics and within these strategies are numerous techniques to think about: should I hit this ball with topspin or underspin, should I go for a dropshot, should I try to make a passing shot or a lob, etc. And within all of these techniques come the mechanics you have to worry about: holding the proper grip for the shot, getting in position to hit the shot with more power, timing the contact of the hit so it gets the right touch, etc. So it's remarkable that Tennis 2K2 remains faithful to all the techniques, strategies, and variables that makes tennis such a deep and complex game, but delivers it
to video gamers with simple play mechanics enabling any level of gamer to enjoy. Those that have played Virtua Tennis will easily jump into Tennis 2K2 as the controls remain somewhat the same. One of the biggest changes in gameplay is the ability to hit two different types of shots: topspin and underspin (slice). Non-tennis fans might not know how this impacts the game, but it gives Tennis 2k2 players more finesse shots. While a topspin shot is great for rallying and passing shots, the ability to slice allows players more control on shots and gives the ball a lower bounce. This is a great tool for setting up an approach to the net (the slower pace and low bounce gives you more time to get to the net), changing the pace of the ball during a rally, or laying a drop shot that barely clears the net and lands very short. The underspin shot also affects a service, as slicing a serve will send the ball curving away from the returner. You're still able to lob shots by pressing the lob button (default at the X button) and for those that want to see the action a little closer, the Y button changes to a behind-the-back camera angle. Although it's a bit harder to play with the camera zoomed up right behind a player, I often use this mode when receiving a serve as it allows me to gauge the speed and placement of a serve better (only in single player games though). Once again, challenge players around the world to become the top tennis player and let me tell you , it won't be easy. With all the new weapons Tennis 2K2 features, you better make use of them because the computer knows what you're thinking. Sixteen internationally ranked players - eight male, eight female - are featured in Tennis 2K2, each with their own distinctive play style that's a pretty good extension of their real-life counterparts. No, Anna Kournikova's not in the game, but you've got some pretty good looking lady tennis players that can easily take your head off w
ith a solid forehand shot. For that matter, the computer AI is challenging, but not overly difficult. Obviously, when you play the first couple of tournaments, the game will ease you into the control and pace so that the first two opponents aren't hard at all. However, get into a semifinal or final match-up and the computer will use every technique in its arsenal that'll have you running back and forth, and side to side. At times, it's pretty cheap in the higher levels as it seems like the computer "knows" exactly where you're shot is going before you hit it. I hate, for example, the fact that no matter how hard you hit a ball against a high level CPU opponent at the net, he'll find some way to volley the shot off. Thus, you'll have to use an assortment of techniques and tactics and that's what makes Tennis 2K2 so great; you'll actually know and feel your improving as you begin to use advanced techniques. For example, once you've mastered how to use the dropshot as a weapon, there's almost nothing more satisfying than executing a perfect dropshot, having your opponent run to the net to barely pop it over the net, and unloading a vicious forehand passing shot to win the point. It's not an easy thing to do during a heated match because, just like tennis in the real world, correct timing and early preparation will ultimately determine whether you hit a solid shot or if you'll pop up a weak hit. Also, you have to think about what surface you're playing on as certain court types will give specific players an advantage or disadvantage; the high speed, low bounce nature of grass make perfect serve and volley conditions, while the high bouncing, sliding surface of clay makes baseline hitting the best choice of play. It sounds like a lot to learn but you'll really appreciate the game of tennis more as you learn the advanced tactics. You'll even feel like a pro once you've beaten Tournament mode... of c
ourse, that doesn't mean you're cut out to be a pro until you make your own tennis player. The biggest gameplay feature in Tennis 2K2 is obviously the World Tour mode. Similar to the World Circuit mode from Virtua Tennis, this time around you get to create a male and female tennis players from scratch. You have a number of features to customize their hairstyles, facial features, height, weight, and what hand they play in (left or right hand). These are cosmetic changes as what sets your customized player apart from the sixteen default players is how you train your players. There are several different training mini-games that not only are a blast to play, but upon successful completion, you will increase your player's stats. These mini-games will increase several sets of abilities and depending upon what type of player you want, you can train him in the exercise over and over again. Of course, the point to training a player is to make him number one in the world, so you'll have to take part in tournaments scheduled on specific calendar days. On top of that, you have to worry about how fatigued your tennis player gets as your player's stamina will decrease every time you train. It's best described as a tennis RPG, as you level up your players stats, rest your player before a tournament, and grab new equipment through the earnings you receive from your wins. As you gain a higher rank, you'll be able to participate in tougher tournaments for bigger pots o' money. I have spent numerous hours constantly training my customized tennis players, not only to get a better ranking, but to play the highly entertaining mini-games. Whether it's service drill using bowling pins, a Space Invader-like volley drill, or mowing down tanks using your ground strokes, they're all challenging a lot of fun. Although there's a lot of longevity added with the World Tour mode, nothing is more fun than playing with buddies via multi-pl
ayer. Again, get three other friends for some intense doubles action and if you have a couple of female friends who want to play some virtual doubles, Tennis 2K2 allows mixed double match-ups as well. No, you can't play a cross gender singles match yet, though I think that would be as much as fun seeing the L.A. Sparks going head-to-head against the L.A. Lakers. Of course, many Dreamcast owners are hoping that Tennis 2K2 will have online play and if that happened, this might've been the Dreamcast game of the year. Unfortunately, none are found in Tennis 2K2 though that hardly affects the love I have for this game. Speaking of love, it's hard not to fall in it with this game once you see the solid visuals. Nothing super flashy, but any game that runs at a super smooth frame rate with some awesome player models that animate superbly should win pretty much everyone over. More so than last year, the player models are incredibly detailed and match their real-life counterparts. There's also a lot of new details like scuff marks on hard courst, worn out grass marks, and foot trail marks on clay courts. It's not a drastic overhaul in visuals, but everything looks a bit cleaner and animations look much smoother. Additionally, there are some really cool venues to play in, none more interesting than the Tokyo tennis court on the top of a skyscraper with checkered carpet design. As you can tell, I'm in love with this game, but it's far from being perfect. Though you can edit the features so a set can go up to six games (default is two), you can't have more than one set for each match. When playing doubles with the computer as a teammate, the AI doesn't follow some fundamental doubles rules (i.e. guarding a shot between players on its forehand side). Then I have a gripe about the World Tour mode; since you create two players from the start, you don't have the option of training them in the same week. In other words, if yo
u train your male player for one week, you move on to the next week without training your female player. It's slightly annoying that your male and female players can't train separately in the same week. But these gripes are so small considering how awesome this game is, it's easily forgiven and forgotten, especially when it's Tennis 2K2, a game with awesome features, great depth in play mechanics, sharp visuals, and addictive gameplay. Love might mean zero in tennis, but Tennis 2K2 is the winning ace that any Dreamcast fan will fan in love with.
Tennis is a game which seems difficult to recreate in pixelated form, there haven't been many great tennis games in the past. This is strange as the first ever computer game was a tennis simulation if that isn't too grand a term. Of course I am talking about PONG! Sega's new game oozes quality from the moment you first clap eyes on it. The initial menu is nothing special with simply "Tournament", "Exhibition" and "World Tour" options but the intro music is nice, sort of a rip-off of "Push the Tempo" by Fatboy Slim. I will be concentrating on the World Tour option which I have been playing hard for the past 10 days or so, it really is addictive. Choosing this option brings you into a screen where you need to create your players. You need to have both a male and female player to take on the world stage. As you would expect you can name your players but a nice touch is the option to design what they look like. You choose their facial appearance, hair colour and style and even what they wear. Finally you need to pick their height and body weight. A tip here is not to make them too small or they will be lobbed easily and not be able to reach very wide shots. The level of customisation is such that you can make your player look quite similar to yourself if you so wish. Then you have to decide where to place your home, on a world map which can rotate around to show all the worlds countries. The position of your home is really academic as it is only used to check the status of the player and equipment. The first job is to train your players so they improve their skills so they can compete in the tournaments. Around the globe are several "tests" which the player can try out and if completed skill levels improve. Each "test" takes up a week in game time to complete as do tournaments and rest periods. You will need to rest the players as the stamina
level goes down if you keep them slogging out in the training areas. The tests are split into four main areas, two in each area. For the service game there is "Pin Crasher", which is one of my favourites and also "Prize Sniper". On both these test you have to serve at targets and try to knock them down to score points. On "Pin Crasher" it is like ten-pin bowling, try to knock down all ten pins with one shot and beat the target score to move to the next level. Each time you succeed the next level will be more difficult with a higher target and the reward is a more accurate and powerful service game. The other tests relate to ground strokes and also volleys. The tests are a bit bizarre to say the least but entertaining. My other favourite is "Tank Attack" where there are two tanks firing balls at you and you have to return the balls to hit the tanks to wipe them out. Each level beaten results in more tanks to defeat next time around. At the start of the world tour the tests are at level one and they progress up to level 4 as they get harder. All the players statistics start at level one and go up to around level 20 when they achieve world class status but this takes years practise as there are about 16 different skills to brush up on. It is not really viable to excel in all areas so you need to concentrate on what you think are the important areas, will you decide to be a big server or more of a baseline player with good ground strokes? The early tournaments are quite easy (level 1) and this is my first complaint about the game. There are only about 16 opponents to play against (both male and female) and you meet the same players at level one as you will do at level 4, the grand slam events. So you might find you easily beat Tim Henman (no surprise there then) at level one but he stuffs you at Wimbledon. I would like to have seen more lesser known players rather than just the top
seeds. Your quest is to eventually try to become world number one and win all the tournaments in the world. This will take some time as I am now number 8 in the world in my 10th year of my career, with over $2M in the bank. Money is earned from progressing in tournaments and can be spent at the shops dotted around the world. New rackets are very important as they allow your player to hit the ball harder with more accuracy and also allow more control over the ball. Different rackets have different attributes, some are very powerful and others allow greater control. In these shops you can also buy clothing and shoes, some of which are just for show others allow the player better manoeuvrability. You can get special shoes for different surfaces, grass, clay, hard and carpeted depending on the location of tournament. Also you can sign a deal with another player to play in doubles contests. If you are wanting to play mixed doubles then you just play with both players you created at the start of the game. As you progress up from a lowly 300 ranking in the world new shops open with better equipment. You need higher rankings to enter the later tournaments which is just as well because at the start of the game your player is so poor he would be murdered at Wimbledon. The tournaments are a little disappointing in that they tend to only have at most three rounds and then only a maximum of six games. There are tiebreakers when needed but you are not going to have mammoth 5 set epic games on this which is maybe a good thing as life is too short! Graphically the game is stunning as you instantly recognise the players even when you are like me and not a big fan of the sport. The mannerisms are also caught well and even the sounds accurate. I could tell Monica Seles was playing just by her grunt when I was in the other room and the demo playing! All manner of shots can be recreated by simply using the three
buttons for lobs, ground strokes and drop shots and pressing the joystick in the required direction. The length of time the button is held down will decide how the hard the ball is struck. By positioning your player and timing the shot you can choose what kind of shot will occur. It is even possible to play the ball between your legs if you are a show off! The detail is superb as chalk dust flies up when the ball lands on the line, John McEnroe would be pleased with this feature. Also good shots are rewarded with action replays which focus on the relevant area. I found it quite satisfying after putting away a smash against Kafelnikov and Enqvist when Tim Henman came over and congratulated me. Sad aren't I! Play a bad shot or make a mistake and your player will shake his racket or mouth off some naughty words in disgust, win and they will raise arms in triumph. The level of realism is such that if you lose concentration on the harder levels you will be beaten, you really have to be focussed as things get faster later on. You have to anticipate what the opponents will do and the artificial intelligence is so good that they learn your style of play and react accordingly. It is quite a good tip to mix things up occasionally as this will sometimes wrong foot the opponents. You will learn that each player has their own little foibles and special shots which they like to employ. One gripe is that they almost never hit the net with a shot and it is almost impossible to serve an ace. My serves are up to 125 mph but I have yet to achieve this honour, I can win Wimbledon but not serve an ace! The Exhibition mode lets you play any player in the world on any court in the world while the Tournament mode simulates a six round contest with each stage getting harder. A really good option is four players can play doubles in teams of two, mixed doubles is quite amusing. You can even use your saved players on this version to
see who really has the best all round player, quite entertaining I imagine as I have yet to try it out. Overall this is a brilliant tennis game which combines the arcade playability with the realism of a simulation. They could make it even better if they took up some of my ideas but still it is well worth getting even if tennis isn't your favourite sport.