We'd only just got used to seeing Sega's big blue trainer-wearing hedgehog mascot doing the triple jump and hurdles up against arch enemy Mario. And now it looks like we'll have to get our heads around him donning a tennis racket, like a prickly Tim Henman.
That's because Sega Superstars Tennis is coming and it brings together 15 characters from the Sega universe past and present. The four that have so far been named are Sonic, AiAi (one of the Super Monkey Ball apes), Ulala of Space Channel 5 and Amigo from maracas rhythm action extravaganza Samba de Amigo.
As you'd expect, each character has a set unique skills to rely on when out on the court. We're not sure how maracas shaking and ball rolling will fit in with a game of tennis, but we're prepared to accept Sega probably knows what it's doing.
Especially since the game is in development by Sumo Digital. Since forming in 2003, the studio has been responsible for PSP games Virtua Tennis 3, Virtua Tennis World Tour, both part of a tennis series generally regarded as the best around (not to mention the excellent OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast and TOCA Race Driver 3 Challenge). With that sort of track record and some of the best Sega characters at its disposal, who'd bet against the developer producing something special?
The game modes so far revealed include Exhibition ï¿½ where you obviously pit any characters in a versus match on one of the many courts (including Sonic's home court, Green Hill Zone, and Amigo's Carnival Court) ï¿½ and Tournament. Tournament has you playing as one character throughout a series of matches competing for first place.
Doubles matches are of course included and apparently all encounters are cheered on by a crowd of Sega 'celebrity' spectators. Let's hope no one invites Shadow.
In addition, DS exclusive features are promised, although it hasn't been confirmed yet what these are.
"Sega Superstars Tennis has the potential to be one of the most fun and accessible sports games ever," said Gary Knight, European marketing director, while using his PDA as a racket with which to deftly hit crumpled up paper balls into a nearby bin. "The fantastic Sumo Digital team has had access to a wealth of Sega IP [intellectual property] and you'll be surprised at the gaming icons that will be making an appearance!"
Experience that surprise for yourself when the game comes out in early 2008. In the meantime, stay tuned for any further news as we get it.