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****What is it****
When I first heard the name of this game I thought 'Super stars' referred to the real life players that are currently doing the tennis tournament circuit, such as Nadal, the Venus sisters, Murray etc. and almost wrote it off as being another typical game of this genre alongside Top Spin and the like.
However, the characters in this game aren't based on household tennis stars at all. They include characters from famous and retro Sega games and this is the unique selling point of this game. Being a bit of a classic gamer, and loving the Sega line up (after all I grew up in the heyday of the Sega V Nintendo battle for gaming supremacy) so I just had to get hold of a copy of this game.
At the outset there are eight characters to choose from including;
i) Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog
ii) AiAi from Super Monkey Ball
iii) Ulala from Space Channel Five
iv) Beat from Jet Set Radio
v) Amigo from Samba de Amigo
vi) Tails from the Sonic genre
vii) Dr Eggman from the Sonic genre
There is the opportunity to unlock a further 8 additional characters, such as Alex The Kidd from the Alex The Kid series, as you progress through the game.
All characters are rated for speed, control, power and all round technical skills, as with all games in this genre. This makes some matches an absolute doodle to win and some a bit more difficult. Each character has a superstar ability that can be activated once the star below the character begins to flash, but these abilities aren't much help, nor do they add much to the game.
One thing that I think is quite good is that all the characters retain their original signature moves. For example Sonic will spin to get to hard-to-reach shots, Beat will skate around the court, and Nights hovers just above the court and glides around.
The computer controlled opponents are fairly easy to beat, even in the most difficult mode, so don't expect too much of a challenge.
All of the action is on the top screen of the DS and as such space is limited and the characters are very small. Despite their size it is easy to identify them and they do really resemble the characters from their respective retro games.
****Controls and playability****
This game can be played using either the directional pad and the A,B X and Y buttons or by scribbling on, and tapping the touch screen.
I have tried both, and whilst I like using the touch screen (after all that is what the DS is all about) I must admit that this game is best played using the buttons. It is very difficult to play this game using the touch screen since the movements are un-responsive, slow and cumbersome. This is a real shame since the DS easily has the capability of using the touch screen to a high and quick standard, as demonstrated in games like Smack Down V Raw 2008.
Other than the signature moves the character's movement is limited to running around the court and the there are only two different types of basic shot that can be played. This is quite a large negative as other tennis games allow a large range of shots (including basic forehand, backhand, smash and lob) by using different combinations of D Pad and action buttons. Surely this could have been incorporated in to this game.
All the action is played on the top screen, which is as expected as the game can be played using the touch screen and stylus, and the bottom screen is used to display the scores.
This mode is made up of 10 different areas, each of which is based on a well-known and classic Sega game, such as Super Monkey Ball, Puyo Pop Fever, Samba De Amigo, Sonic the Hedgehog, Nights, Space Channel Five and ChuChu Rocket amongst others.
In this mode it is simply a case of pick a character and beat all of the opponents in a game of tennis. That's all there is to it.
The graphics are acceptable. The characters aren't that detailed but they are easily recognisable and well animated. Like the characters, the courts are all based on retro Sega games and include backgrounds from all the classic games previously listed in the "Game mode" paragraph of this review.
As with the characters and the graphics the sound is inspired from the original games. During the first time I played this game the memories came flooding back and it was nice to hear some of the retro songs, but after a while they do get tiresome and I had to turn the volume off.
This game has taught me that retro sounds are not cool and they are best left in the past as a good memory.
The sound effects are limited, consisting of a few groans and the like, which is hardly inspiring, so these add nothing to the game overall.
Each background contains ten different mini games that mixes tennis and the game from which the background comes from. Some of the missions are quite good fun and some are pretty boring and appear to be just 'fillers'.
A big flaw with the mini games is that the player will often need to rely on previous knowledge of the original game since there are limited instructions on the mini games. For example in Virtua Cop missions you shoot (aim the ball at) the criminal targets that pop up and avoid hitting the honest civilians and in Puyo Pop Fever, you're essentially playing the actual puzzle game and clearing the Puyo with tennis balls. If you do not remember the original game then it is highly unlikely you're going to be able to complete the mini games. This element of this game is of no use to my co DS game reviewer, my six year old nephew.
You can play a Sonic versus Sonic match via game sharing, i.e. with only one copy of the game. But to play with any other characters, be able to choose any of the courts or to play doubles each player must have their own copy of the cartridge.
I have challenged friends on the multi player modes but it was not that much fun and we lasted a few games before getting very bored, which is a shame since there are some games where the multi player games keep us entertained (and arguing/bickering) for many hours.
****Price and availability****
At the time of writing Sonic Superstars Tennis can be bought for as little as £6.99 (excluding P&P) from Play.com and as much as £17.61 (excluding P&P) from ShopToNet. Therefore, if you are thinking of buying this game then I would recommend shopping around to get the best price.
Personally, I would rent a copy of this game before actually buying it because I question the longetivity of this game. Whilst it is nice to reminisce retro gaming does get tiresome and it is definitely a game that I would play for a few hours and then put down, probably never to be put in to my DS ever again. I am just glad that I rented a copy.
The graphics are good, there is a large range of characters (with the ability to unlock even more), the characters are small but easily identifiable, the colours are bright and vivid and the courts are all based on classic, and memorable (if you are of that era) games. The audio is good to begin with but I found it soon got tiresome and I had to turn the volume off.
This is an easy game that can be played by all gamers of all abilities and ages, however I wouldn't recommend it to seasoned gamers as it will be far too easy and will not provide a challenge.
If you are looking for a serious tennis game for the DS then I would advise against this as I don't think that it would be for you. In addition, there are much better tennis games out there and I would suggest one of these, however if you are a Sega fan, love the retro gaming scene and a re looking for a bit of light hearted entertainment then I would recommend you give this a try, I would suggest renting as opposed to buying it though. Just don't expect too much.
Designed and marketed as a game suitable for all ages, Sega Superstars tennis is an attempt to bring tennis to the DS with the fun and memorable characters from the Sega universe. Sega's previous titles on the DS, namely Sonic Rush, have been decent but the company has not given us anything extraordinary, and it doesn't seem that this is about to change.
There are a vast numberof courts and characters available for players to choose from. Even though the 3D engine works smoothly and is quick, there is nothing that will amaze you. The courts are nondescript and are vaguely related to Sega's games. The characters are easily recognised and are well-animated but lack fine detail. All the action takes place on the top screen while the touchscreen is for scoring.
The music is loosely taken from classic Sega games, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball. The tunes sound nice through the DS speakers and do not impede gameplay in any way. Each court has its own theme which does add musical variety to the game. I was rather disappointed that Sega did not include a better and wider musical selection from their games since they did feature very good music. The sound effects are crisp and generally quite good as well.
The game can be played through the stylus but I found this tricky and sometimes the stylus is unresponsive. It is far easier and simpler to use the mechanical buttons. This involves using the D-pad for movement, A for weak shot, B for a power shot and L or R for your character's super move. This sounds simple and it really is. There is nothing more to it. Each character has their own supermove which are related to your character in some way. There are 16 characters to choose from, half of which need to be unlocked by participating in singles or doubles matches. Each character has their unique style of playing tennis, for example Sonic spins to get to the ball. The game is quite fun to pick up and play and simplistic gameplay does mean that it will be suitable for all. However, the game is too simple in my opinion and just not challenging enough.
There is no wifi support so you can't take on people around the world. The game does support wireless multiplayer and DS Download Play so you can play it with your friends who own a DS. This game is something that you would play while on the go and when you don't want to concentrate. There really is little to keep you engaged.
In conclusion, I feel that Sega Superstars Tennis is a half-hearted effort from such a well-established games manufacturer. In fact, the whole idea behind the game is flawed and it could never really be engaging due to the overly simplistic gameplay, average graphics and sound and lack of wifi support. There is such an excellent range of games on the DS that it is beyond me why Sega bothered to make this game in the first place.
Take a trip to Planet Superstars and splay some crazy tennis! With Sega's greatest heroes, fantastical settings and a host of secrets to discover - Tennis meets mayhem with volley ball fun!