Apr 30, 2012
The Dreamcast (may it rest in peace) had some brilliant games, and the majority of the classics have found loving homes on modern consoles, from Power Stone on the PSP to Crazy Taxi on Xbox Live Arcade. Virtua Tennis has had more success than either of these though, and has kept tennis enthusiasts happy for years on PC, Xbox, Playstation, Wii, Gameboy, even the N-Gage and now: Android.
Better still, this version - Virtua Tennis Challenge – is optimized for Xperia Play, meaning that the gameplay that once cost $50 on console can now be bought for a fraction of the price, without needing to sacrifice ‘real’ controls in the process, to the distinctly mixed bag of touch screen tactility.
This means that the player is controlled with the d-pad, and different shots are performed with the face buttons, allowing players to lob, smash and backhand their way from game to game pretty seamlessly. The only slight letdown here is that SEGA have decided not to let players use the touchpad for movement, meaning that the tennis stars move in more stilted ways than a true analogue input should allow.
As with most Xperia Play games, the touch screen controls are still present, and pushing closed the control pad element instantly changes it to the vanilla Android version. The truth is though, for Xperia Play owners, there’s absolutely no reason to do this other than misplaced curiosity. While the swiping and dragging along the touchscreen can mostly be mastered with a little practice (and forgiving a few missteps when the game gets confused), it’s absolutely no
game, set and match for the d-pad and face buttons.
It’s this control system that makes this a true part of the Virtua Tennis series, a game that has been the go-to arcade tennis game for over a decade. It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best presented Android sports titles around. While the graphics are colorful, sharp and detailed, it’s the animation that’s the real winner here, with players celebrating winning moments, and tossing their racquet in frustration when things don’t go to plan.
Players of the Dreamcast original would have struggled to contain their excitement seeing such a polished version playing out on the small screen, without any sacrifices to the gameplay. It plays impressively well, with players having to judge the tempo of the match, and draw out their opponents on the harder levels by picking the correct shot.
The AI can be set to three difficulty levels, which can be worked through through either in straightforward exhibition matches or the simple but addictive career mode which sees players working their way up the world rankings by entering tournaments and earning sponsorship money. Once World Number One, or bored of the AI, there’s also bluetooth multiplayer with other local Android players, but sadly no online play as yet.
It’s not as fully featured as its big brother, Virtua Tennis 4 on console, but for a fraction of the price Challenge is a no-brainer for Xperia Play owning tennis fans. Regular Android players will have to consider how much they feel they’ll miss out by having to make do with the imperfect touch screen, but this is one of those games that can make Xperia Players happy they took the plunge on Sony’s hybrid handset.