Virtua Tennis

Video games are amazing for making sports or chores that I normally don’t care about and turning them into something fun. Soccer, hockey, and tennis are sports I don’t care to play or watch but if I get a controller in my hand and see these sports on my consoles, there’s a good chance I have a blast. Developed and published by Sega, Virtua Tennis was released in 2000 for the Sega Dreamcast. This incredibly beautiful arcade and simulation tennis game would go on to critical and commercial success which speaks volumes for a tennis video game.

Story:
Virtua Tennis doesn’t offer a story but it does offer the game mode of “World Circuit” where you can play your way to the top of the world rankings in a career mode.

Gameplay:
Graphics aren’t everything, if a game is fun I’ll play it regardless of what it looks like but Virtua Tennis is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve laid my eyes on. I can’t imagine seeing this game back in 2000 because any other game was a mere peasant or serf compared to the beautiful visuals of Virtua Tennis. When a game looks this good it’s bound to attract players and it probably attracted people that normally wouldn’t play tennis games like me. The presentation to go along with the graphics is superb. Before a match, you’ll see the athletes walk onto the court and warm-up or stretch. They’ll rummage through their duffel bag, pull out a water bottle or tennis racket and sit down as they prepare for the match. It all sounds commonplace now in video games but these pre-match details are huge.

Let’s take a look at the tennis players you can choose from. I was surprised I didn’t recognize a single name but I suppose since I don’t follow tennis it’s not that surprising.

Jim Courier – USA. He was known for becoming the youngest tennis player in men’s history to reach the finals of all four grand slam tournaments.

Tommy Haas – Germany. Normally I’d pick the American to represent the good ole USA but Mr. Haas had such a dope look to him with his long hair locked behind a headband. He won the silver medal in the 2000 Olympics.

Tim Henman – United Kingdom. He peaked as the No. 4 ranked tennis player in the world in both 2002 and 2004.

Thomas Johansson – Sweden. He won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics and won the 2002 Australian Open.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov – Russia. He won two Grand Slam titles and was ranked No. 1 in the world at one point.

Carlos Moya – Spain. He is a former No. 1 ranked tennis player and was the French Open in 1998.

Mark Philippoussis – Australia. He reached the finals of the 1998 US Open and the 2003 Wimbledon tournaments. He later became a model and starred in the reality dating show “Age of Love”.

Cedric Pioline – France. He reached the finals in the 1993 US Open and the 1997 Wimbledon finals.

Each tennis player has different attributes and has a special feature like a strong backhand or hard serve. Once you pick who you want to play as there are a few different modes to play. The exhibition mode lets you customize your set. You’ll pick the difficulty, location, and whether you want to play singles or doubles. The arenas and stadiums look incredible and you’ll get all types of surfaces like grass, clay, and turf.

The two modes you’ll play the most or at least I did were Arcade and World Circuit. I won’t lie, I played on easy mode and after I did I think I probably should have picked normal mode for a better challenge. Easy mode is great if you want to learn how the game works and how to get the basics down. I picked up how the controls work after a few matches and felt very comfortable. With arcade mode, you’ll face off against five random opponents. Once you defeat them if you are deemed worthy you’ll be challenged by the “master” who is a hidden boss and secret character that you can unlock and play as.

World Circuit offers more of a career. You enter the circuit with the rank of the 300th player in the world with the goal of getting to the top spot. I didn’t know how the World Circuit would play being a tennis game but it’s deep with the options and training you can do. If you want to improve in Virtua Tennis this is the mode that I suggest you play. It has training sessions and while that seems boring it’s so much fun with the way they disguise it.

In Virtua Tennis, you control the direction of the ball with the joystick right before you smack it back at your opponent. It can take a little bit of practice to master where you want to place the ball so in the World Circuit mode, there are training sessions to help you out. There’s a bowling pin session where your coach has set up bowling pins that you must knockdown with the ball over six sets of bowling. Not only did it help me learn how to control the ball but it was so much fun and made me want to continue to train. Even better is that if you achieve the goal in training you’ll earn money. Another training session had your coach throwing balls at you and having you smack them at a target to train in precision. The smaller the target you hit the more points you’d get. With the money, you earn from training or from matches you can head to the tennis shop and buy various items. You can buy new players to team up with for doubles, new stages to play at, tennis clothes, and even new strings for your racket or a new sports drink.

Memories:
I didn’t play Virtua Tennis until I reviewed it but I remember there was hype around it when I was a kid which I thought was strange for a tennis video game.

Overall:
Virtua Tennis is a must-play for fans of sports video games. The graphics and presentation were unparalleled at the time of its release and the addicting arcade action and world circuit modes offer gamers of all styles tons of fun to play. It’s a crown jewel in the Dreamcast library and a game that will get your competitive juices flowing with your friends or family.

Virtua Tennis scores a 9.3 out of 10.

Do you remember when Virtua Tennis first came out? Did you marvel at the graphics? Who was your favorite player to play as? Did you love the training sessions or were you able to unlock the secret characters? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!

If you’d like to own a copy of Virtua Tennis, you can purchase a used copy of it for the Dreamcast from eBay for around $15.

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