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Anyone For Virtua Tennis?
Virtua Tennis (DC)
Member Name: callancool
Virtua Tennis (DC)
Date: 30/11/05, updated on 30/11/05 (238 review reads)
Advantages: Superb Graphics, Great Gameplay!
Disadvantages: Can't save games in tournament mode.
To help me with this review, I've enlisted the aid of commentator Dan Maskull. (Not), with his dulcet tones to provide the match commentary.
'It's a glorious sunny afternoon, here at the Old England championships, and the players are just coming out on centre court. And here he is, stepping out to tumultuous applause, the crowds favourite and England's newest Tennis sensation, the top seed, World number 1 and reigning champion - Callan Cool!'
Sega's Virtua Tennis is probably well known to most of you. Who can claim not to have seen this in some seaside amusement arcade, or like me, motorway services? And who can't claim that the graphics are absolutely stunning? I've stood and watched several budding Henman's try and win at this game in service stations up and down the North West, and have been amazed by the skill these youngsters display. They zip around the court with more agility than Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly combined, and with seemingly more power than Arnie, Dolph, and Segal put together. This however, is the PC Version. How does it compare to the
Big cabinet version then? The conversion is by a company called 'Strangelite', but has it come across well?
'As the players are warming up I feel I must mention Callan's practise shots seem to show absolutely no nerves whatsoever, in fact he seems to revel in the big occasions such as these. It's amazing how much his game has improved in such a short space of time. Anyway, the players are ready.'
Round One: Australia.
'Game on, Cool to serve.'
Installation: The game auto plays easily, and installs without fuss. The only niggle here is that you twice have to set user language on installation, once for the auto play menu, and once for the install. You have a choice of options here, the usual Minimum, Typical, and Full. I always opt for the Minimum, because until recently my CD ROM was a 52 speed model, but I bought a second hand DVD drive for a bargain price and swapped it (well my cousin did it for me actually). It's slightly slower as its only 4 or 6 speed DVD but is fast enough.
'15 - Love!'
This is easy if you intend to use the keyboard, and you can change this, but joypad and Joystick users, be warned, it's a brute to configure. In fact many of you will be unable to. This is because you have to configure all four buttons. This sounds simple enough as windows recognised 4 buttons on my 6 button joypad, but not this game. Even my flight stick with more than four buttons on wasn't recognised. This was simply because Windows only saw 4 buttons. You may think that odd as the game only needs four buttons, butt many joypads are actually 6 button pads, four buttons and two quick fire tabs on the front, or just 6 buttons. Whilst Windows recognised the one of the top set of three on my joypad as a separate button, Virtua Tennis didn't. And though my flight stick was recognised as four button also, it wouldn't the game wouldn't allow it. Initial gameplay was limited to the keyboard which was a little limiting. Many users will not be able to get their gamed to work with the game.
Normal gameplay was resumed upon purchasing a usb gamed for £6.00 from my local computer fair with 8 buttons. Luckily, after installation of a human interface driver, Windows 98 detected all 8 buttons and I could use the gamed, after assigning the buttons in the configuration setup accessed from the programmes menu in Windows. This was a lot better. You can even navigate the menus with the gamed, which you can't do in a lot of games, thus saving endless switching with from mouse to pad.
The first screen you get is the title screen, which tells you to press the start button (what you assigned as start). Then it's onto the menus. The menus are easy to navigate, with Arcade, Exhibition, World Circuit, Options and Exit. Thankfully, this is one of the few games where you are not asked if you really want to quit after selecting this option. That always narks me. 'Do you really want to quit?' 'Yes!', 'Do you really really want to quit?' 'Yes!' 'Are you sure you really really want to quit?' 'Yes for crying out loud!', 'Are you absolutely sure you really want to quit?' 'Leave me alone!'. To the left of each option appears a description when you highlight it with the joypad. The options menu is simple enough, though some options require a different key to be pressed, such as when you select your player. You can choose set levels of details, and whether or not to have special effects (which I assume will be such things as the ball marks on the court and the animated crowd, though I don't need to turn these off. Although my desktop is sized to 1024 x 768 pixels, the menu doesn't look as sharp, and the description of each item on the left looks a little jagged. All in all, easy to navigate.
Round Two: Paris.
'Cool steps up to the baseline and serves an absolute rocket of a shot!'
There are five courts and tournaments to choose from, with some being indoors, some outdoors, and a recreation of good old Wimbers (though it's not called that). First up is Australia, followed by Paris, US Supertennis The Old England Championship (instead of 'All England' Wimbledon) and lastly 'Sega Grand Match' Sega's own virtual stadium where the finals are played. They all look reasonably impressive, though nothing spectacular, and some of the courts like the US one are floodlit. Unless you use the personal player view (more on that later) there isn't any feeling of grand scale to the courts, but you get a good feel for the game
'Quinze - Zero!' (Well I am playing in Paris!)
Initially, there are 6 to choose from with more available should you unlock them playing on the world circuit. They're all genuine players, and their likenesses in the game are really amazing. The first is American Jim Courier in his snazzy Tangerine shirt, followed by our own hero Tim Henman in white with blue stripes. There's the French all rounder Cedric Pioline, the German ace Tommy Haas, The Spaniard Carlos Moya, Swede Thomas Johansson, and lastly the Russian Yevgeny Kafelfnikov. All have their own characteristics, which are shown to help you decide which one to choose. As it's originally a Japanese production, and Sega's biggest market is the US, it's no surprise that Jim Courier's the best all round player of the original six. As for the other players, I've no Idea who they are yet, as I've not been able to unlock them.
'Game set de match Cool'
Round Three: US Supertennis.
'Cool steps up to the base line to open the serving in this needle match!'
The original arcade game had stunning graphics in a large screen cabinet. It was the sheer awesome graphics that made you stop and stare whenever someone played the game in an arcade, yet to be honest, though they look the same, for some reason, what was stunning graphics in the arcade, seem to be lacking on the P.C. I mean there seems no discernible difference, yet compared to other games requiring the same specs, Virtua Tennis is just average. Maybe it's because everything is bigger on the cabinets that it comes across as better. The players just don't seem as big on a 17 inch PC monitor, and although the detail level is the same this seems to make a big difference. However, the close up's of the players faces when they've hit a fantastic point winning shot (or fluffed one to loose a point) are just as stunning as they are on the arcade machine, Exactly the same. The court surfaces don't seem quite as good, though the Old England court is the closest you'll get to the arcade version. There's hardly any difference whatsoever at all. The courts themselves show no pixelation at 1024 x 768 pixels, except for some close ups, where the signs show a distinct jaggedness, and the crowd behind the player if seen in close up appear Jagged and slightly blurry. At normal view size, the crowd appear to be all right, but have a distinct 2D feel, and the animations seem almost robotic, and obviously computer controlled. There are some nice effects, such as the ball bouncing on court, but a distinct lack of chalk dust flying about, except from the British court. On the outdoor courts you can see the shadows of clouds quickly sweeping over the courts, though this is a little too quick from a realism point of view. Also, if you send the ball into the net, the ballboy rushes to collect it.
There's two viewpoints, firstly one where you see the whole court from an angle as if you're looking down on it. In this mode, the players don't look anywhere near as big as they do in the arcade. This is the easiest view to play in. The second is from a TV camera perspective, just behind the player. I've not seen this view used in an arcade, apart from replays, but the players look much bigger in this view. Replays are automatic, and thankfully, unlike some tennis games, don't cover the whole point, just the winning shot. These can be stopped mid flow with the simple press of a button. Overall, the graphics are much better in the arcade.
'0 - 15!'
'Cool needs to regain his composure after loosing that point, but he's one of the few players of the calibre that can actually do this.'
I used to look at those budding 'Tennis Aces' in the arcades and think 'I'll never be able too play that good!' But I'm happy to admit defeat on that score. The gameplay is so easy that you'll be pulling off match winning shots in no time, and the dexterity of your player will amaze you. Shots you thought impossible are relatively easy. There's two shot types, normal, and lob. You use a separate button for each shot. The normal shot also relies to an extent on how hard you press the button. It seems to automatically hit smashes when needed which is a plus. To serve, you press the button, then press it again to set power. You aim using the D - pad, but if you aim first you risk hitting the net, so press the power button and then quickly aim. If you aim to the extreme left or right, when the opponent returns your serve, if you quickly fire off the return to the extreme opposite, then you have a 70% chance of it being a winning shot.
However, there's a definite knack to getting shots right. Firstly, it must be noted that your player will move himself towards the ball without you moving the D-pad if you're close enough when you take a shot. If you're too far away your player will miss the shot. Similarly if you're moving and pressing the shot button at the same time, then he'll keep on moving. The best way is to keep edging the player in the direction of play and, ease off the D-pad just before you shoot. If you fire of a quick succession of volleys straight at your opponent and then suddenly shoot in the opposite direction, you can win the point, leaving your opponent leaping for the ball after you've won the point. Having your opponent dive for points already won, spoils the game a little, but not too much. In easy mode you might think it's too easy. It only took me an evening to master the game in easy mode, and the following night I was winning most matches 6-0.
'15 - all'
'Ooh I say, that was an unexpected Ace from Cool there, totally and utterly magnificent tennis from the champ!'
The Old England Championships:
'And the crowd are on tenterhooks after that last ace from Cool. What a match this is turning out to be.'
Modes of play:
There's two main tournament modes, and an exhibition mode which puts you in total control of the game. The first mode is Arcade mode. This I assume, is play just like it is with the arcade cabinets, quite easy I suspect as they want you to keep playing the game. You choose your player, and the computer chooses your opponent. At the options screen, you can set match length to anything up to one set with a tie break if desired. Deuces can be turned on or off here too. I chose the full set with tie break, and deuces on. Towards the end of my first night of play on my big computer (I'd tried it on my P333 but it was way too slow) I was able to go almost all the way and win a match. One memorable game started with me being 40 - love down (or was I serving?) in which I clawed it back to deuce. There followed a total of a further 12 advantages, with the early ones going the computers way, until thankfully I secured the winning point. The first match is in Australia, followed by (in order) Paris, US Supertennis, Old England and finally, Sega Grand match. The first four matches are relatively easy, and out of three championships playing as Courier I was able to win most matches 6 - 0 or 6 -1. The finals were a different kettle of fish though. The first against Pioline was a tough nail biter and I lost. In my second final, against the Swede Johansson I was 3 - 0 up, but lost 3 - 6. I noticed that if you play a player in any of the first four rounds he's a doddle to beat, but come up against him in he final, and he's not the pushover he normally is. Having said that, I finally won a championship at the third attempt, though all you ladies out there will be disappointed at me, because it was none other than our own Tim Henman I conquered. There is one drawback here though, you can't save games mid tournament, which is a shame.
'30 - 15!'
'And Cool's sending his opponents all over the court, and winning matches in record time.'
This is where you can choose your player, opponent and venue. It seems to play very much the same as arcade mode, fast and fun.
'40 - 15'
'This is beginnings to look like a walkover for Cool!'
This is much more difficult to play, and I've not been able to win a single game in this mode yet. When you select this mode, you're asked if you want to continue or start a new game, which leads me to assume that gameplay is automatically saved on exit as I've not been asked to save a game, nor is there a load option anywhere in the game. In order to get good rankings, not only do you have to win a short match to start with (best of 3), to get points and cash for your player, you have to perform certain shots such as volley, lob or smash in a game, the more you get the more points you win. You are given a set amount of cash at the start, and you can buy new clothes or equipment, or even tournaments I think. The first couple of matches are practice matches, but I've yet to win one of these. I've not got passed the first match which is the volley. There's also a training mode, beginnings with an exercise where you have a set time in which to return a constant stream of serves, and hit giant balls hard enough to hit them back over the baseline, but they're slowly moving towards you all the time. This is difficult, especially as you only have a measly 25 seconds to do it in. It reminds me of pool played with a normal sized cue ball and 5 foot high pool balls (assuming Courier is over 6 foot tall), and the graphics on the palm surrounded tennis club, have a Playstaion 1 feel and colour to them. I've only been able to get two balls over at most, and for each ball you hit over the baseline you earn 300 points and $300 as well. You have to complete this task to move onto the next lesson, and I'll update you as to each lesson when I do. I don't know whether or not matches are a full 5 sets or not, but again, when I find out, I'll let you know.
Other Modes: There's also a network mode, but I've not tried this mode as I don't know anyone else with a copy of the game I can play.
'Game Cool! Cool leads by five games to love.'
Sega Grand Match:
'And it's championship point here, can Cool hold his nerve to retain the title under such enormous pressure?'
There's no doubt about it, Virtua Tennis is a fantastic game for those who love tennis. It's wonderfully easy to pick up, and hard to stop playing. The sheer diversity of shot's you'll soon be pulling off will leave you breathless and flabbergasted. Serious tennis fans, however, will note the total lack of female players within the game, and the apparent single set limitations, and may want a more in depth game than this. But rather in much the same way that you'd pick up Fifa football for a quick single game fix, you'll find yourself doing just that with this game. Buy it, and enjoy!
'Oh my word! Absluely amazing! Another Ace!'
'Game, Set, Match and the Champioship, Callan Cool!'
Summary: Simply the best tennis game on the P.C.! Unbeatable! Sega serve an Ace!
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