The best part of this game is Superstars mode, which is a selection of minigames, challenges and tournaments based around old-school Sega hits such as Space Channel 5, Golden Axe, Virtua Cop, Monkey Ball, Out Run, After Burner and Alex Kidd. You’ll either play on courts designed to look like environments from the games or you’ll unlock one of the characters in a head-to-head contest.
Minigames include knocking down waves of zombies (House of the Dead), hitting coloured balls to paint pictures in the opposite court (Jet Set Radio) and collecting rings while robots shoot spiky missiles at you (Sonic the Hedgehog). There are loads of variations, and clearing some of the games earns you a new music track, court to play on or another character.
There’s also a Tournament mode, which cuts out the minigames and lets you play a succession of characters on their home courts in singles or doubles. You get a ranking after each match, and there’s an extra-tough bonus match waiting after the final if you played well enough. It’s built on the foundations of Virtua Tennis 3, Sega’s excellent arcade title, and boasts similar physics but an entirely different control method. Three entirely different control methods, in fact.
The default mode is the Wii Sports one, where the players run toward the ball automatically and you just swish the remote to make a shot - weak or strong, depending on timing. Holding A or B will turn it into a lob or drop shot, and if you press both buttons at the same time you’ll activate your character’s special power. Simple enough for anyone to play. More advanced players can go for a Nunchuk control scheme, which works in the same way except you get to use the analogue stick to move around and direct your shots. Finally, for masochists or people whose Nunchuks are kaput, there’s the option to turn the remote sideways and use the tiny, thumb-shredding D-pad to run around. The 1 and 2 buttons work in tandem to give you the same shot selection you’d get with the other two methods, and a more reliable way of guaranteeing a hard or soft hit.
The lack of a traditional control scheme using the Classic Controller or even the buttons on the Nunchuk hampers the game a bit, because swooshing the remote seems to be a complete gimmick. No matter what direction you swing, the result is exactly the same. After a while we opted simply to shake the remote very lightly, because it was less tiring than pretending the game knew the difference between a forehand, a backhand or being banged on the side of a table. You’re free to act like you’re actually playing tennis, of course, and it may well be more fun that way, but Sega Superstars Tennis converts any gesture you make into what should have been a single press of a button. As gamers, we find that quite annoying.