I've been charged with the task of reviewing both this and EA's Grand Slam Tennis. The reasoning? I play a bit of tennis in my spare time and apparently that means I should review all tennis games...ever. What's tricky is that both games take a very different approach to delivering a tennis title but also to using MotionPlus. Virtua Tennis has always been a fast-paced, arcade-style title that tries its best to be like 'real' tennis...but with crazily irritating music constantly plinking along in the background. Perhaps appropriately the introduction of MotionPlus seeks to make this an even more accessible and speedy game. But there are some issues...
For a game that is one of the pioneers of MotionPlus it was perhaps always going to be tricky for the developers to get it just right. VT isn't a bad game, far from it, but it is a often a deeply frustrating experience. Using MotionPlus should mean that the game replicate exactly what you do in person, but it doesn't. VT second-guesses any movement that it doesn't instantly recognise as standard and turns it, invariably, into a flat shot with no spin. This makes no sense.
On top of that, a lot of the time it simply can't work out anything much outside slice and top-spin. You can do drop-shots and lobs, but the issue with these is they can't be achieved by doing what you'd actually do in real tennis. The result is a somewhat confusing and bizarre experience of you playing a whole new game that SEGA have invented where up is down and hot is cold. The range of motion simply isn't what this game makes it out to be.
That's not to say this game isn't fun, if you're happy for the game to sort of guess what you're trying to do as you stumble wildly around. The number of control options attempts to make this stumbling easier however. You can use the nunchuk to run around, or the d-pad, or (stupidly) you can let the computer do the moving for you. The latter is ill advised as the computer clearly lacks the intelligence to do anything other than run left and right and never quite where you want or where the ball is. It would be fine if I could get my head around using the d-pad at the same time, but it becomes a little counter-intuitive to run around using a small button on what is essentially meant to be a racquet. Using the nunchuk is similarly difficult, if not more tricky thanks to the presence of the wire between the two devices which prevents you from swinging properly. But enough moaning about controls.
Outside of a somewhat suspect implementation of MotionPlus, Virtua Tennis is as quirky and fun as ever. Career Mode allows you to become the greatest play in the whole universe with the help or your coach Tim Henman (yes, that's right, Tiger Tim) and adds so much needed depth to the game. You compete in all sorts of events, rising up the rankings and improving your player stats until you're able to take on the best in the world, from Nadal to Murrary and Sharapova to Williams. This is all well and good and adds to the somewhat limited fun to be had from playing random one-off exhibition matches.
Graphically the game looks nice enough, keeping the realistic look VT is known for. Whilst the presentation is a bit clumsy at times, there isn't much to be critical about in terms of the in-game appearance. Well, that's a bit of a lie actually. For some reason the score in the top left-hand corner is huge, meaning that if you're playing at the far end of the court and you run to the side with the score on, you can't see yourself. Glorious. Indeed, it is these sorts of clumsy and seemingly unnecessary oversights that plague this game. It just feels a bit sloppy.
And annoying. One final gripe is the sound, which is at the very least irksome and at the very most hideous. I can't even really describe it, and yes whilst it is 'retro' VT sort of stuff, it does lack of a bit of variety. If you play a long match when the song finishes it will invariably loop back and start again. Still, that's what 'Options' and 'Music Level - Off' are made for, right? On top of that, there's no commentary on games and whilst navigating around the game the very 1994 voice of VT still lingers and stalks you. Pity.