What about the actual tennis? Well, as you would expect, you can play doubles or singles matches, in tournaments or as one-offs. It%26rsquo;s a pretty standard sim - use the two buttons for different swings, and the analogue stick to guide the ball. If your opponent lobs it, an icon appears briefly on the court; hitting the ball at that time will let you whack it back with a power shot - something Virtua Tennis fans will be familiar with.
What VT players won%26rsquo;t be so familiar with are the special shots. Score enough points and the star beneath your character starts to glow. When it%26rsquo;s at its flashiest, you can activate Superstars mode. Each player has a different move during this time. Sonic turns into his golden-coated Super Sonic alter-ego and his shots become so strong they send his opponents hurtling backwards. Ulala from Space Channel 5, meanwhile, has shots that move through the air in the shape of a 5, confusing her opponents. And not only that, but she summons a gang of Morolian aliens that, if touched, make the other player dance uncontrollably. We are a bit concerned that some seem hideously overpowered, mind.
A big thing it has that Virtua Tennis doesn%26rsquo;t is online play. Once you%26rsquo;ve learned to cream the computer, the real challenge comes facing off against much more clever human opponents. It gets incredibly crazy during a four-player match when everyone has their star power charged at the same time - you can just imagine all the different effects exploding on the court.
So why doesn%26rsquo;t it score higher than Virtua Tennis? If you%26rsquo;re not that interested in the Sega stuff (say, you%26rsquo;re a confirmed miserabilist), SST plays a far more basic game, with simplified physics and reduced depth. If it didn%26rsquo;t have the thrill of unlocking new characters, stages and music your attention might wander. Still, it%26rsquo;s a vibrant, colourful triumph that smothers tennis in Sega%26rsquo;s undeniable magic. We only wish the controls were a little more in-depth, with more shot types and more complex ball physics. The mini-games alone are almost worth the asking price.
Mar 18, 2008