Virtua Tennis 4 Review

by

Date Released: May 10, 2011
Date Reviewed: June 26, 2011
Genre: Tennis Game with Party and Role Playing Elements
Players: 1-4 Players
Length: World Tour 8-10 Hours, Arcade 30+ Minutes
Replayability: Fantastic

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Introduction

Virtua Tennis 4 is the latest release in the heralded arcade tennis series. Lead by famed female game designer, Mie Kumagai it is the first release in the series (which is also known as SEGA Professional Tennis: Power Smash in Japan) to support motion control functions on all available platforms and the first to be made with no initial arcade release. Fan favorite features, such as the role playing World Tour mode and the numerous amount of arcade-like, yet very lighthearted minigames all return arguably stronger than ever before.

Concept

Normally an arcade game franchise, Virtua Tennis 4 is the first in the main series to be made without any arcade release at all, but it maintains everything established in the series that has made it receive much critical acclaim throughout it’s ten year history. Featuring many new creative gameplay modes and a World Tour mode that offers hundreds of unlockables through means of “Star points”, creative playing and smart scheduling, the amount of content and playability is far stronger than most people would expect.

AM3’s signature humor from titles such as Crazy Taxi is very apparent here to within not just the mini-games, but special dress up events in the World Tour that can see players take on everything from cowboy gangs to shogun warriors using frying pans as rackets and everything in between. Players themselves can also equip numerous types of clothes, SEGA related items and joke rackets (such as a loaf of bread or a frozen fish), but these do not affect gameplay in any way.

  [World Tour mode offers more and more to the player with each playthrough]

Controls

As expected with a tennis game, the majority of the title is played through hitting a ball with a racket to the other side of a net towards another player or AI, and then back again. Though there are various rules that make it far deeper than just that, Virtua Tennis 4 fails to inform players new to the sport any of these. While all of this is easy to learn, the game should not expect this from players, especially when large portions of the gameplay mechanics are designed for simple fun with friends in mind.

Players unfamiliar with the sport will not have to worry too long, however as the game is very supportive of any play style one could have. On easier settings, much of the game can be completed with the use of only one button and movement through the analog stick, digital pad or whatever the platform can allow. In harder difficulties this is largely impossible with just the use of one button and in the case of arcade mode, necessary to get enough points to face the special Duke and King characters in their gold palace.


[A stream of color will follow the ball to help players not lose sight of it]

Unlike a few other tennis games from this console generation, the character moves around realistically with momentum and weight, which can make the action very satisfying. In the main tennis portion, players simply move towards where the ball is heading and press a button when it is close enough, or aligned to where they already are, to initiate a charged shot. A new addition to the series is a power meter that allows a “Super shot” that is fairly rare in basic play. It does not effect the flow of the game too much and can be ignored if one prefers it this way, but cannot be overused to take advantage of another player likewise. Depending how you design your character or based on which real life tennis player you choose, these super shot gauges will change depending on what their style is, such as someone who prefers to hit close to the net or who can focus better on serves. More styles are unlockable, and in competitive modes this can all be turned off if the player wishes it.

Gameplay

The World Tour mode eases people new to the sport with any frustrations they may face. Certainly the most enjoyable single player portion of the title, it is a blend of a role playing game and board game set over tennis and the mini-games. During this mode, the player is told to make their own avatar with a respectable character creator and is given three randomly generated tickets that move the player as many spaces on the map as the number the ticket holds. After every turn, a day passes within your character’s schedule and they are given one more randomly generated ticket.

What really makes this mode truly unique is how the player must plan ahead by looking around the map. Landing on tennis matches will raise your star level if you win, charity and events created by your fans also do this but will cost you money, while mini-games levels up how exhausted your character gets after each event he or she partakes in but not their actual ability level – that is up to the player. Doing constant strenuous tasks can eventually injure the character, making them limp in their next game and letting this gauge drop completely will force him or her to go to the hospital and lose a few days of their schedule.

Once the player completes a season of World Tour, they are awarded special star points based on their skill with extra points being given out if they did specific special tasks. These can include choosing to rush through the season, donating more, doing a specific number of power shots and many other things that all go towards more unlockables. Because of this, and also because male and female player-made characters both have their own separate stores Virtua Tennis 4 offers numerous reasons to make multiple World Tour playthroughs, even if the player is not interested in the items and outfits they can receive, especially because of how addicting the mode can be.


[The classic ‘Pin Crusher’ minigame is exclusive to the PlayStation 3]

Mini-games have always been a large selling point for the Virtua Tennis series, and in here though the majority are new, they are as well designed and brilliantly planned as any other prior release. Each one is designed with a basic element of tennis, which secretly teaches the player how to preform better in the main game with options for almost all to be played with four people at the same time. In all, over nine are available to play, all with numerous unlockable difficulty levels and huge score attack possibilities that can keep the player coming back for a long time, even if they are not interested in scores.

Online play returns with more features and player statistics than most recent SEGA titles have. Any player can go online and create their own club and set up what kind of game type will be played or just join someone else in their own game. Depending on the player’s connection, the experience could be very smooth or cut out and bump you out to the main menu, which can be extremely frustrating as all of time you spent during that specific game would not have counted towards your unlockables or achievements/trophies. This can be remedied and is almost never an issue when playing with friends, but it should receive a patch.

Sound originalreviews

The music of the Virtua Tennis franchise is notable for each release having a unique style soundtrack in different genres, and with Virtua Tennis 4 this is no different. Featuring a great blend of rock and jazz with numerous electronic instruments the title has a hugely arcade game style with a great SEGA feeling to it all. The songs are action packed, encouraging, relaxed and even very silly whenever they need to be, giving Virtua Tennis 4 an absolutely brilliant and fresh soundtrack with the only peculiar addition being the title song “Breathe Victory”. If the player does not enjoy the music, it can also be turned off or use the option to replace any song with one found on their personal HDD instead if they are playing on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 (unknown if available in the Wii release).

The sound direction also is quite strong, with all of the professional players available lending their voices for grunts, but not for much else. Expected with a tennis game, there is also an announcer, but he or she (depending on which court) does not say much outside of the score and all are in English only, regardless of the country or island you are playing on. Sound effects are more detailed in that more objects and joke rackets come into play, even slight details like each character’s different shoe making different sounds depending on how they hit the ground.


[No one in the crowd is a flat sprite and everyone has movement]

Visuals

The art direction of the world is very clean and bright while still remaining very realistic. Of the 28 different courts and handful of other training sessions, most are real world locations with the rest being believable, outside of the unlockable giant golden palace. The menu design is also very professional, with clean layouts and easy to comprehend setups. A lot of thought went into the overall look and feel of the World Tour mode’s map, the detail is impressive, but never becomes cluttered.

Character models are extremely detailed and are the spitting images of their real life counterparts, but fall into “Uncanny valley” where their movements can become very robotic in the win or lose poses. These in particular pose a very strange problem, as these animations tend to repeat far too often and is even apparent with just a few minutes of play.

However, during actual gameplay the action could be confused for an actual tennis match that it is so realistic. Impressive shadow effects are very smooth and move exactly how they should, hair will react differently to their length and players have varying layers of sweat pour out of them depending on how hard they play. The PlayStation 3 version of the game even features support for 3D televisions.


[A close up of the impressive textures and lighting effects]

Motion Control Support

Each version of Virtua Tennis 4 available supports motion controls for their respective platform with Xbox 360 features Kinect, Wii has MotionPlus and PlayStation 3 has Move. Each of these work exclusively in “Exhibition” mode, with the exception of the PlayStation 3, which also has some special minigames around it.

The game runs very well on every platform with it and each respective motion controlled mode runs extremely well for the hardware, but that is all that is available. It should be considered impressive work even just one platform has support like this, but to close off what should be an optional main control system is disappointing. Potential players looking for a true motion controlled tennis experience will only find quick diversions here.

Conclusion

With a huge amount of replay value, simple yet deep gameplay, expansive online functions, an incredibly addictive World Tour mode and hundreds of unlockables, Virtua Tennis 4 is an extremely easy game to recommend anyone interested in the sport or fun videogames in general. Although it features limited use of motion controls, each version of the game available runs wonderfully making the experience hard to pass on regardless of one’s gaming preference. Virtua Tennis 4 is one of the best tennis games available this console generation and could be argued to be one of the better, if not best sports games of 2011.

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Formats: Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation Vita



List of playable professionals:

ATP Players

* Spain – Rafael Nadal
* Switzerland – Roger Federer
* Serbia – Novak Djokovic
* United Kingdom – Andy Murray
* Argentina – Juan Martín del Potro
* United States – Andy Roddick
* Chile – Fernando González
* Germany – Tommy Haas
* Germany – Philipp Kohlschreiber
* France – Gaël Monfils
* Italy – Andreas Seppi

WTA Players

* United States – Venus Williams
* Serbia – Ana Ivanović
* Denmark – Caroline Wozniacki
* Russia – Svetlana Kuznetsova
* Russia – Maria Sharapova
* Russia – Anna Chakvetadze
* United Kingdom – Laura Robson

Legends

* Germany Boris Becker [Exclusive to PlayStation 3]
* Sweden Stefan Edberg [Exclusive to PlayStation 3]
* Australia Patrick Rafter [Exclusive to PlayStation 3]
* United States Jim Courier

Bosses

* King
* Duke

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5 Responses to “Virtua Tennis 4 Review”

  1. Bruce Says:

    once you have finished a world tour, are you able to begin a new tour with the same character without losing your star rating?

    • Sega Uranus Says:

      No, you start off with a new star rating. You keep your stats, money and all of the minigames you leveled up stay that way too, so it becomes way easier to see and unlock a lot more with the second playthrough. Remember to buy managers to increase your star level during special events and it will be a breeze to reach 700+ stars.

  2. playstation4 Says:

    ps4…

    […]Virtua Tennis 4 Review « The SEGA Source[…]…

  3. Bob Says:

    how do you set up the country for the created player in world tour, mine was setup by default to be from albania and I dont know how to change it?

    • Sega Uranus Says:

      When creating your character the first screen that comes up has a section where you can select their home, Albania is on the top of that list. I searched around and it does not seem like you can change this or anything else outside of clothing or hair on your character, so all I can recommend is that you can create another player if it bugs you that much.

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