The Wii was made for Tennis. It is a sport that comes as naturally to the Wii’s control system as it does a racket and ball, and for many avid Wii gamers it was the first game they ever experienced on the system. While Wii Sports was an eye-opener and revealed to the world the beauty of motion controls, its version of Tennis was simple and failed to offer much to anyone who knows their stuff. Upgrading to a more serious title seems inevitable for any hardened pro, but is Virtua Tennis 2009 the right title for them?
Virtua Tennis 2009 is one of the first games designed for use with the Wii MotionPlus, and clicking this add-on to your Wii remote really seperates the men from the ball boys. Using the Wii Motion Plus demands a greater sense of attention to where you’re throwing your racket and the accuracy of your shots, while using the virgin remote is a lot more forgiving. There is no requirement to use the add-on, it’s completely optional and the game plays perfectly well without it, but a hardcore player might want to use it to crank up the realism a little bit. Not to mention the difficulty.
Virtua Tennis 2009 for the Wii is a pretty game, full of the bright colours of summer, but the game engine requires some tweaking. It seems to strain under its own weight at times, the animation occassionally jumping or glitching and your avatar misfiring on his shots once in a while. This is irritating because of the laziness it seems to reveal. Does Tennis not require the degree of flawless attention to detail that soccer receives in its FIFA and PES games?
Like Wii Sports before it, Virtua Tennis is best served with a friend by your side, with both of you trying not to knock each others’ block off with your wild attempts at professional shots. Playing online is a decent enough distraction, but the glitching amplifies here when it attracts its loving mate, the Lag, and they team up to provide a whole new challenge. And not a good one, either. The online leaderboard is hard to get excited about, but hey, if you like comparing yourself to the rest of the world, it’s really, really cool.
Of course, some of us can’t afford internet connnections, and it’s not feasible to kidnap someone of equal gaming skill to you and tie them to your tumble dryer so you always have someone to play with, so pretty soon you’re going to have to go solo. You can spend hours pouring over your own character, tweaking their hair and eye shadow colours or whatever, but you’re going to spend even longer playing the Career Mode. It’s lengthy. War and Peace lengthy. It has a gradual sense of increasing difficulty so it will be a long time before any frustration sets in, and how much you will appreciate this will depend on how relaxed you want your gaming experience to be. An experienced player might grow tired of the hours of amateur opponents, while a casual player will probably find the pace and the quality of his opponents enjoyable. Whichever way, you get a lot of game for your money here, and there are tougher cookies later on in the game. Oh, by the way, you don’t have to make your own player if you’re not the creative type, there are plenty of Tennis legends like Boris Becker, Venus Williams and Andy Murray available.
Saving the best until last, we now look at the mini-games. And what crackers they are. Taking the physics and skills required in Tennis and sinking them head-first into a crazy world of arcade-style gaming is genius. Twelve games are available (well, unlockable, so you’ll have to put time in) and they’re all brimming with fun. You can play a wild over-sized pool game, or fight against pirate ships, or feed animals, all via the medium of Tennis. These are great games and are almost worth the asking price themselves.
So, whether you’re looking for an extended Career Mode or just a quick bit of fun with a pirate ship, Virtua Tennis 2009 caters to you. The only problem is that it does not stray very far from the template of Virtua Tennis 3 before it. It’s more of the same, basically, even though it is just that little bit better and packs a superior control system. Is this a bad thing? Depends if you bought Virtua Tennis 3 or not, or if you liked it enough to want a very faithful sequel. Nobody can make that decision for you. For new joiners to the series or those who go “There’s a new Virtua Tennis game out? Cool!”, this game is recommended if you’re after some competent, comprehensive and occassionally crazy Tennis fun. This game receives a score of 8 out of 10.
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