Game Reviews

Virtua Tennis Challenge

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Virtua Tennis Challenge

Theron Tenneil is my Virtua Tennis Challenge rival, and I hate him. I hate him more than I hate stubbed toes, traffic jams, or Gary from Pokemon. I hate him in a way that's personal and probably a bit unhealthy.

I hate him because every time we meet in a tournament, he has me dashing around the court, struggling to defuse his atomic forehand strokes as I'm forced further and further out of position.

I hate him because he is slightly better at tennis than me, and more often than not he wins. Also, he has stupid hair.

You cannot be serious

But when I win, it's a glorious thing, and one that feels like the product of my own scrappy ingenuity rather than AI rubber-banding.

Virtua Tennis is a series that has always excelled at bringing out the passionate side of even the most indifferent racqueteers, my hatred of Tenneil is a hypertensive testament to that achievement.

Simplicity is the key. Fundamentally, Virtua Tennis is about little more than directing your shots and positioning your player wisely. Uncluttered controls complement this stripped down design, and arcade immediacy is always favoured over comprehensive simulation.

But no depth has been sacrificed for this accessibility, and close matches are often breathlessly exciting affairs, in which you're constantly pushing your opponent for a mistake you can capitalise on.

Pong 2012

The game's solid, chunky character models look the part, too, but it's the animations that really impress.

Players transition seamlessly into pre-canned animations for powerful cross-court strokes and last-ditch dives, providing a visual indication of your firm-footed dominance or scrabbling inferiority.

Frame-rate hiccups take some of the sheen from the package, and the absence of wacky fruit-based mini-games (a longstanding staple of the series on home consoles) will upset some, but Virtua Tennis Challenge distils a superb console experience into a superb smartphone application.

And the Xperia Play's physicals controls provide a perfect match for its arcade gameplay, offering accuracy and precision in a game that demands both.

Whether this sensation can be recreated on other handsets, using touchscreen gestures to control the action, remains to be seen. But on the Xperia Play Sega has served up an ace.

Virtua Tennis Challenge

A superb translation of its home console counterpart, Virtua Tennis Challenge offers the series' trademark blend of depth and immediacy
James Nouch
James Nouch's news editor 2012-2013