Tennis games on the PlayStation 3 are hard to come by. As it is still only really early days for the PlayStation 3, tennis fans have had to be happy with Virtua Tennis 3 for about a year now. Here we are a year after Virtua Tennis 3 and another Sega tennis title arrives on the PlayStation 3, in the form of Sega Superstars Tennis, but is the title any good or just a quick cash in designed to appeal to those with mass Sega nostalgia?
Sega Superstars Tennis isn't just a tennis title featuring Sonic the Hedgehog, in fact there are several characters in the game from past and present Sega franchises. Yes, Sonic the Hedgehog is a playable character, but so is Ulala from Space Channel 5, as well as Beat from Jet Set Radio. Superstars Tennis isn't the first title to bring together classic Sega characters in a different setting, the original Eyetoy enabled Sega Superstars also reunited several Sega characters.
Sega Superstars Tennis is a title that contains a healthy amount of options. Sure, there are all the standard tennis options, such as playing a singles or doubles match or participating in a tournament, but the main single player mode is the superstars mode. The superstars mode contains 14 different worlds, with each world based on a recognisable Sega franchise. Franchises such as Super Monkey Ball, Sonic the Hedgehog, Puyo Pop Fever, Samba De Amigo, House of the Dead, Space Channel Five, Jet Set Radio and more are represented. Each different world in the superstars mode features different challenges. The challenges can be quite varied, Sonic the Hedgehog for example starts off with a single match, then a tournament but the third challenge is a ring collection mini game. There is a surprisingly large amount of challenges in the game, but while some of the mini games are solid, others are just tedious. Sega fans will probably get a decent amount of enjoyment out of "discovering" some of the challenges, the new worlds and the characters though. Those who just want to skip the tennis game all together can just select the games option from the main menu, but not every game is available from the beginning.
Those who were disappointed by the lack of online play in the PlayStation 3 version of Virtua Tennis 3 will be happy to know that online is included in Sega Superstars Tennis. From the online mode there are four options to players. Players can participate in a ranked match, a friendly match, view the online leaderboards or watch live coverage and highlights from Sega Superstars Tennis. We did have some problems viewing highlights (as in, it wouldn't work at all twice for us), and the online lobbies are surprisingly empty at the moment, which is a little bit disappointing. When players actually find someone to play online, the matches run smoothly and we didn't encounter much lag. It's just finding opponents that is the difficult part.
Despite the fact Sega Superstars Tennis looks and immediately feels similar to Virtua Tennis the titles are actually quite different. While Virtua Tennis is an arcade title, Sega Superstars Tennis is an even more casual affair. First up, only X and square are used to hit the ball. You can still lob and pull off drop shots and ground strokes, but you'll need to push either square, X or each one in a specific sequence to pull off a shot. Each character also has a superstar ability, which can be activated when once the star below a character flashes (for example Sonic can turn into Super Sonic). The superstar abilities aren't all that satisfying and end up feeling more like gimmicks. Points also have a tendency to go on forever, which means that half of the time during a match we would feel ourselves tuning out of a point, until eventually someone would accidentally miss the ball and a point would be awarded. It is actually both unfortunate and ironic that the tennis is easily the most disappointing aspect of Sega Superstars Tennis.
In terms of lifespan, Sega Superstars Tennis does feature a heck of a lot of things to do. Aside from the superstars mode (which is extremely lengthy) there is also the multiplayer aspect of the game. As a party game, we can see Sega Superstars Tennis getting some playtime, but a lot of the unlocking feels like Sega is artificially extending the length of the game. For example, most of the worlds in the superstars mode are locked at the beginning, only half of the characters can be selected and only four mini games are available at the beginning.
Sega Superstars Tennis isn't a game we can easily recommend to most people. The tennis itself is basic and mediocre and it is really the mini games and the Sega theme that redeems the title a little bit. However, as is the case with a lot of titles which feature mini games, the mini games do tend to get a little bit repetitive and while some of the mini games are quite enjoyable, some are just downright boring. Sega Superstars Tennis tries to mix both mini games and tennis, but unfortunately it doesn't excel at either.