SEGA Superstars Tennis (Wii) Review

By Mike Mason 24.03.2008

It seems possible that SEGA have been influenced by Nintendo recently. They collaborate with them on their big holiday game, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, then they let Sonic wander into Nintendo’s own little version of Fight Club, and suddenly SEGA have a company-wide love-fest game of their own on their hands, throwing random bits from various franchises all together in one nice big pot not unlike Nintendo’s game. As you might have guessed from the title, this one isn’t quite as fight-based, though. Nintendo have Smash Brothers; SEGA now has Superstars Tennis.

SEGA Superstars Tennis was announced out of nowhere and has bundled into the shops pretty quickly thereafter, which might lead some to worry. Fear not - the very capable Sumo Digital, the developers behind the excellent home console conversion of Virtua Tennis 3, are at the helm of this one, and who better to handle a tennis title than those who have experience with one of the best tennis series about? Slather on top of that the facts that Sumo Digital houses massive fans of SEGA and there has been constant input from the original creators of the series represented in the game and we hope your worries are melting away. They should, because SEGA Superstars Tennis is just what SEGA fans have been waiting for.

Basically, this is Virtua Tennis with SEGA characters draped all over it and leaking out of every pore. Sonic takes the lion’s share of coverage with the most playable characters, but Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, NiGHTS, Super Monkey Ball and Samba de Amigo are also represented on that front - as well as a couple of surprising others, but we’re not going to spoil them for you; you can find out in about 3 seconds using Wikipedia if you really want to know the complete character list. Of course, there are courts dedicated to the aforementioned games as well, as well as for some series that do not get playable characters, such as House Of The Dead (named Curien Mansion in-game so that separate assets did not have to be created for the German release, as House of the Dead is banned over there)…and again, some secret ones that we don‘t want to spoil. So far, so good. You start out with around half of the content available, and steadily unlock more as you go through by playing tournaments, beating missions and mini-games.

Screenshot for SEGA Superstars Tennis on Wii

Tournaments are as you would expect: bat your way through a few matches to become the victor. In a rather strange decision you can see the complete line-up of characters taking part in a tournament, including secret characters that you are yet to unlock, which takes the shine off some of the stranger character surprises. Missions are based on the games of the characters, such as using tennis balls to paint tags for Jet Set Radio or putting Monkey Balls through gates against a time limit. Finally, the mini-games are a nice way for franchises not represented by court or character to get a look in. You can go through a stage of Virtua Cop using tennis balls as your ammo, play Chu Chu Rocket by changing the arrow directions with carefully smacked balls or battle back zombies in the House of the Dead court using…funnily enough, tennis balls. Mini-games and the mere mention of them are enough to make people go running nowadays since they have become so prevalent in modern gaming, but the opposite reaction is appropriate here - they’re all so full of SEGA love that you can’t help but embrace them.

Since it’s far away from reality, a Mario Tennis approach has wormed its way in with the addition of special moves. Play well and your power will build up until you can enter Superstar Mode, wherein you unleash crazy SEGA powers that make it difficult for your opponent. Once the star at your feet starts a-flashing, press the button/s and away you go for a small amount of time. Sonic gathers the Chaos Emeralds and transforms into Super Sonic, Ulala sends balls back with the flight path of a ‘5’ while Morolians chu-chu-chu all over the opponents’ side of the court (sadly, Space Michael does not make an appearance), Amigo chucks giant maracas in the way of the opposing player. While these can almost guarantee a win of a point for the user they are still avoidable with enough skill, and so they avoid being game-ruining as they could have been. It must be said, however, that most of them are really similar, with only the directions the ball travels differing in many cases. Disappointing, as we’re sure much more could have been done with them.

Screenshot for SEGA Superstars Tennis on Wii

Controls are of course a major point, especially when it comes to the Wii version, and generally they‘re pretty good. There are a few different set-ups: standard, which is the remote alone and plays like Wii Sports, with characters automatically running/flying/hopping about; nunchuk, which is the same except that characters are controlled manually with the analogue stick; and traditional, which is played with the remote in NES configuration using the buttons alone for shots (the Classic Controller is also usable and is essentially the same as the traditional setup, so it doesn’t even get a mention on the control scheme selection screen). Unfortunately the motion controls are not used as extensively as they could have been - two of the shot types, fast and slow, are dictated by how fast you swing the remote, but to lob or drop-shot the ball all you have to do is hold down A or B and swing as normal. We suppose it evens the playing field a little and makes things easier to do, but it’s a bit disconcerting to see a launch title still doing such obvious motion controls better than a game a year and a half down the line. Our preferred method of control is actually the Classic Controller/traditional setup and using the face buttons - the motion controls are not bad and are easy to get on with, but the game just felt more natural to us with button controls. On the note of buttons, Superstars Tennis works in the same way as the Virtua Tennis arcade games in that it only actually utilises two, hence the NES configuration working perfectly well. You have a button for a slow shot and a fast shot and then tap the two quickly in the two different orders to carry out lobs or drop-shots. It’s a bit odd that there’s no option to use all four buttons on the Classic Controller, but it’s no deal breaker.

Screenshot for SEGA Superstars Tennis on Wii

SEGA Superstars Tennis plays a great game of tennis and uses its licences well, but throughout play we can’t shake the feeling that it could have been much, much more. There are only sixteen playable characters out of SEGA’s entire back-catalogue, and when five or so of those are from one franchise you realise that the character selection could have been far more diverse. While some games have more than their fair share of representatives, there are some massive oversights of franchises. Where is Streets of Rage? Where is Burning Rangers? Where are Phantasy Star, Toe Jam & Earl, Virtua Fighters, Comix Zone? Where is Shenmue? Don’t get us wrong, it’s a great start, but we’d love to see the series continue so that it can improve and snowball into the kind of self-referencing nudge-filled monster that Smash Brothers has become. The gameplay is there, they have the right idea on the music front (60 - 80 tracks are in there somewhere) and the little touches of fan-service are there (Ulala wiggling in her pre-dancing way while waiting for the ball, random characters hanging around in the background); they just need to increase it all. That, and add an online mode, as there’s no real excuse for the Wii version not getting one when owners of the 360 and PS3 versions can play against others around the globe.

Screenshot for SEGA Superstars Tennis on Wii

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

If you’re looking for a good game of tennis as well as a great collection of SEGA-based goodness, look no further than SEGA Superstars Tennis. While it could do with being expanded in the future, what’s here is far from a bad starting point. If you consider yourself to be more than a casual fan of SEGA in anyway, you should be playing this, and will probably be playing it as we did: with a near constant grin.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   


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