SEGA’s sublime blend of arcade-depth tennis with technical flares and most of the brilliance of its console-based cousin
Don’t Be Short-Sighted
The fact that you don’t get to enjoy the officially-licensed big names of tennis in Virtua Tennis Challenge is as much as a problem for the game as the same issue is for Pro Evolution Soccer. It may be off-putting for some, but the less short-sighted mobile gamers out there will see past this small flaw and give SEGA’s arcade-depth tennis game a go. It shares its general framework with the console version of Virtua Tennis, though has been chopped down a little for the mobile platform. There’s a world tour mode, as well as a control system for which the game rightfully receives most of the praise laid upon it. It shouldn’t be forgotten that this game’s graphics are also quite impressive.
Treading Water in a Sea of Realism
Virtua Tennis Challenge’s gameplay is, as SEGA’s Virtua game series has always been, a game geared towards offering a bit of depth in its chosen sport while remaining, while remaining close enough to the surface of the waters of realism as not to down its players. In layman’s terms, the game’s easy to pick up and its controls are easy to learn, but it’s still going to allow you to do a lot of lob shots, slices, and serves serious enough to take down Andy Murray himself (even if you won’t find his name on any roster in the game).
The game’s control system will depend on what device you own. If you’ve got a Sony Xperia Play, you can use the physical D-Pad to control the movement of your player. If you’ve got a standard iPhone or Android device, however, it’s touch-screen controls all the way. Touchscreen users will use the on-screen D-Pad to control the movement of their chosen tennis player, and depending on what control setup you use – there are four choices in total – you’ll have a number of buttons to control up to four types of shots. These include lob shots, slices, and straight power-shots, so you do get to enjoy a bit of the technical side of tennis whilst still remaining firmly at arcade-game depth.
Tennis fans should flock to Virtua Tennis Challenge for the excellent choice of shots, as well as the nicely realistic sound of feet scuffing on the various playing surfaces underfoot. It’s unlikely that the game’s barebones content will persuade most to stay for the modes it has to offer, however. There’s not even a quality choice of tennis rackets, let alone officially-licensed players to look forward to.
The first port of call for game modes is SPT World Tour mode, which has you playing against various opponents across a nice selection of different stadiums around the world. The entertainment of this mode is dulled a little however, when you factor in the lack of licensing for the game. This means you won’t be going up against Djokovic or Nadal, nor will you be seeing any true-to-life replicas of licensed tennis stadiums from around the world such as Wimbledon.
There are also exhibition matches to be played, in which you’ll go up against some seriously tough opponents. If you’re playing on the highest difficulty, you’ll no doubt have a very hard time not getting frustrated at just how good your opponents are. The multiplayer is also a boon for players who enjoy that kind of thing, too. It’s pretty basic, but you can play locally over Bluetooth for on Wi-Fi to be pitted against strangers online.
Serving Up a Treat
In spite of its lack of diversity in gaming modes, Virtua Tennis Challenge does offer up a good range of options to tailor the experience to your liking. The four types of control settings most readily demonstrate this point. You’ve got swipe controls, where you control everything through swipe gestures; there’s virtual pad, where the D-Pad’s on the screen and you’ve several buttons to tap for your shots; arcade mode simplifies things to just the D-Pad and two shot buttons; finally, there’s game pad, which mimics the shape of a physical SEGA game pad. These control options permit shot types ranging from super-shots to lobs, through to top-spin shots, slices, and drop shots.
How does a match in its entirety play, however? Well, if you’re running an older device, then not very well at all. The game engine must be quite taxing on the processor, since older devices display a significant amount of stuttering, making movement feel choppy and putting a delay on many shots. This can be frustrating, but the latest devices will cope more readily with the demands of the game’s graphics, which brings me to one of my final points.
The graphics of Virtua Tennis Challenge are what take the game up a few levels. If it didn’t look as realistic and finely-textured as it did, one could imagine not being able to swallow the wafer-thin content the game and its lack of official licencing. However, SEGA has done a great job of bringing the magic of the Arcade Virtua Tennis to the mobile platform. If you can put up with some minor stuttering and low framerates, you’ll likely enjoy the game’s technical depth as well as its wide-ranging control systems. I’d like to see official world-class players and replicas of real-life tennis grounds/stadiums too, that is if a sequel were ever to pop up. Failing that however, Virtua Tennis Challenge is still in the upper echelons of mobile tennis gaming.