May 31, 2011

A Virtua Review

There are two kinds of sports games I enjoy: Tennis and Golf. Mario is responsible for both of those obsessions, so blame him. In any case, I watched this Giant Bomb quicklook of Virtua Tennis 4, and the main campaign mode seemed so crazy that I had to give it a rent and a try.

The main gameplay of Virtua Tennis 4 is unchanged from any number of Tennis games I’ve played. You have a few buttons for different types of shots, aiming the ball high or low or whatnot. You do have a power shot, which is strange in a game with real tennis players, but I can’t complain. Your tennis player has a “style” and by following that style, you build your meter which, when full, you can use to deliver one of these special shots. For example, your tennis player may have the style “Strong Forehand,” and when you make forehand hits, you charge the meter. These special shots are not like Mario Tennis ridiculous shots, but are instead a full-power slam, even if your player isn’t in a position to do one. They’re easily returned if someone is expecting them, but you can use them to vary your attacks and get a point in as long as you’re paying attention. All this is fun, if the same tennis game you’ve played over and over. I personally hadn’t played a tennis game since I got Sega Superstar Tennis for like 3 bucks, so I was happy to dive into that same fun gameplay again.

What really sets this game apart, though, is the World Tour mode. Now, I’ve seen a lot of reviewers being down on this mode, but fuck, I loved it. It was created pretty well especially for me, and I really enjoyed it. Basically, the entire mode is a series of board games. There are four boards, one for the road to each major tennis tournament. You move along the boards by playing “tickets,” which are basically cards with numbers on them. You have two hands of tickets: one is drawn at random, and always draws up to three tickets at the beginning of every turn you take. These just have numbers from 1 to 4 and let you move that many spaces. You then have another, supplemental hand of three tickets, which you can buy on “management office” spaces. These can be numbered tickets as well (it’s always good to buy a 1 space ticket, just in case) but also are things like the “Rest Ticket,” which lets you basically create a “rest” space to improve your player’s condition anywhere on the board.
On the board are a variety of spaces. Some are tennis matches and tournaments, of course, but some are training minigames that you use to improve the skills of your tennis player. Most of these minigames are actually pretty fun. For example, there’s a serving trainer where you’re serving tennis balls into a goal guarded by a goalie (which is weird, for a tennis game) and a defensive running trainer where you’re collecting coins left while trying to keep a volley going. In all, there are about 8 minigames, and they switch up enough that I never got bored of any of them. Different types of training helps different skills, so if you really want to specialize, you may have to force playing one over and over again, but I didn’t, and I did fine. There are also spaces where you do things like donate money to charity, or give a tennis lesson to some fans. These spaces, as well as winning tennis matches and tournaments, increase your number of stars. All tournaments have a minimum star rating to enter them, and you have to balance gaining enough stars for the next big tournament with training up your skills and keeping your tennis player well-rested. (If you let your condition get into the red, bad things happen during matches. I only had it happen once, but when I started the match, the game told me my ankle was bad, and occasionally my player would start limping. Not good when I’m trying to return a hard volley! I lost that match, and made sure that never happened again.)
I found balancing playing the board game well, broken up with fun tennis matches, really rewarding. The game constantly unlocks new gear for your tennis player to wear, as well, every time you accomplish something, so you get lots of rewards for doing even silly things, like doing 5 fan meetups and whatnot. Some of this gear is really, really silly, like a big tuna fish for a racket, a jester hat, or Red/Blue 3D glasses, so if you don’t want to take your tennis career seriously, there are plenty of options for making yourself look ridiculous, which I appreciate. There are even special charity matches called “Fancy Dress Party” where you get bonuses for dressing up as ridiculous as you can.

The one thing that just flat-out didn’t work was the game trying to have a story. You constantly get popups telling you what’s happening with your fan club, and conversations with rival tennis players. It was just kind of silly. I would love to play through a tennis story, but that’s not it. When the last person I faced in the last tournament was my original doubles partner I had kicked to the curb long ago (gasp!) I just kind of shook my head. Apparently it was really trying to make something of a story! Who knew?

I wouldn’t pay full price for Virtua Tennis 4 and it’s ridiculous, out of place opening cinematic, but if I had paid $20 bucks for it, I would be EXTREMELY satisfied. This game brings fun arcade actions with an interesting single player mode, and has all the online options one could want. It also has Kinect support, if you had one of those and wanted to fuck around with it. I don’t, and certainly didn’t want to, but that’s a nice bonus if you have one of those things. If you like tennis games at all, Virtua Tennis 4 is a fantastic rental or bargain bin purchase. I loved it.

[…] mean, I like me some Tennis Games, to be sure. When I played Virtua Tennis 4, I was blown away ( by how much fun I had. So I heard this was coming out with some sort of […]

Pingback by The Blogtastic Blogfest That Is! » Blog Archive » I Heard, Many Many Times, How Common Breaks Are In Women’s Matches. — May 16, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

Leave a comment