Hello once again, retrobates! It’s time for another Olly023 review of a sports title on the Sega Dreamcast. Don’t be hating’, coz it’s worth your time. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk about Virtua Tennis 2!
Now, whether you like the sport of tennis or not is irrelevant. A good game will remain a good game regardless. I can’t say I’m the biggest tennis fan ever, nor can I honestly admit to being a massive ‘footie’ nut. But I know a good game. I knew ISS was good on the N64, I knew Tennis on the GB was fun and so on. Thus here we are, folks.
Virtua Tennis 2 came home from the arcade and parked its disc firmly into the spinney drive of the Dreamcast here in Europe back in November of 2001. The Dreamcast’s days may have been numbered, but it didn’t stop Sega from releasing stellar conversions like this onto their swansong of a system.
Released as a sequel to the critically acclaimed, stupidly popular and downright awesome original Virtua Tennis, VT2 (known as Tennis 2K2 in the States and Power Smash 2 in Japan) had a lot to live up to. The original featured sharp response times, fantastic graphics and incredibly fun gameplay that’s many would likely argue hasn’t been matched since. I’m here to tell you it has. Virtua Tennis 2 is better. Like Khan.
Developed by the uber-talented lot at Hitmaker/AM3, the general presentation style is as you’d expect. With easy to navigate menus, broadcast-style look and feel as you play and essentially a format you can easily slot into. Who needs anything fancy? It’s an arcade sports title! Nothing out of place in general…But the graphics…
OH MAH GAWSH! To this day, you play this badboy through a good VGA connection and see the Dreamcast’s stellar 60Hz/480p native brilliance, it looks absolutely gorgeous and pretty much indistinguishable from the arcade version. This is what the Dreamcast was made for, this is what it does best. No fuzziness, no blockiness – the Dreamcast, considering its older hardware, still smashes the PS2 out of the…well, court. With no dropped frames, no out-of-place blurring – just glitch-free (as far as I can tell) progressive scanning brilliance. The players look like who they’re meant to look like, their animations natural and smooth, not to mention incredibly responsive to any slight button press or movement of the thumbstick. It’s exactly what you need when you wanna shove the Dreamcast into the face of those DVD watching pansies on the other side of the fence. Sega does it best, as always. Evidence, people. It’s the arcade in your home without the need to buy a Neo Geo. It is on some levels disgusting. Everything pops with the vibrant colours on the DC’s still impressive resolution output. It’s an absolute joy, people! WHY YOU NO LISTEN!?
There is a selection of game modes that you’d expect with a Virtua Tennis instalment. There’s a Tournament mode that is essentially what you’d get in an arcade form from the game. You play a series of matches against the digitised versions of real-life tennis stars, that if you do successfully will lead to a challenge from the dreaded King (the Dural of the sport of tennis, if you will)! Or Queen, we’re not sexist here. It does depend whether you’re rockin’ male or female players to determine which secret boss you face though. Doigh! Exhibition mode obviously returns, too – with all its standard customisations that let you play exactly how you want – just pick a player, an opponent and have at it in a game of singles. But the big addition this time out is the epic World Tour mode! Why? I’ll tell you…Unlike the first game, you can now full seasons where you, y’guessed; compete in tourneys, do some training and WIN WIN WIN!! Finally, you can control Tim Henman and actually follow through with winning something! Dope, right?
Being the arcade game it is, Hitmaker put fun first with Virtua Tennis 2. The training sections are never dull and always enjoyable. As the calendar year rolls on in-game, you’ll easily find yourself becoming more aggressive with a desire to be the almighty video game tennis deity. Or, that may just be me. But I know your game! You’ll be progressing male and female players at the same time, too – as who doesn’t love a good tournament of mixed doubles? To be fair, nothing I could write down in words here would ever shoot across correctly the pure fun and exhilaration you can get by blasting through matches on Virtua Tennis 2. Literally nothing. Starting out at a simultaneous 300th in the rankings, you know you’ve got a long road ahead to actually become the best. The bonus outfits to unlock via the training segments also add that extra layer of “darn it I need to beat dis” that y’all want from it all. You seriously have to play it to experience it. Just…Don’t get the PS2 version and think you’ve played it. Coz you haven’t. Psht, n00b.
As with much of the World Tour mode being exclusive to this franchise iteration, this time round VT2 showcases the ladies. The original didn’t have no ladies. So you know this is better! Many players return from the first game, with several new (all the WTA representatives and Queen notwithstanding) including Patrick Rafter and former World No. 2 Magnus Norman. The Dreamcast version also exclusively features Jelena Dokic, who was later replaced by Ai Sugiyama for the PS2. Each player features their own style, with Tommy Haas listed as Strong Forehand as a random example, or Serena Williams noted for her Powerful Strokes. Which sounds dirty. Obviously, there is a large number of courts available to play on, from all corners of the globe and with their own type. Hard, clay, grass and carpet are all represented. You can get your fix of advertising from the likes of Volvo, IBM, Bridgestone and co. Naturally. It’s sports. They like dem sponsors. But whatever you feel for product placement it gives a nice sense of realism which is typically welcomed by myself.
So you’re lobbying your way through this review thinking, what about the audio? You haven’t spoken about the sound!? Well, fool, calm yourself. To be simple and blunt, the games audio delivers exactly what you want it to. That’s response as good as the animation on screen and clear audible grunts and echoes prior to an eruption of crowd noise. It delivers all that, so you’re safe. It isn’t noticeably better or worse than any other genre title, but the little it does do it does very well and only helps the immersive broadcast-style presentation that was mentioned earlier.
Virtua Tennis 2 has easily stood the test of time, even if the featured players have come and gone since; its sheer playability that lends the lasting impression. Unlike an EA title that will happily be churned out each year with little to no deviation from the script, Virtua Tennis 2 excels in building upon the successes of its predecessor. Quite simply, it’s a brilliant game that is a true testament to the team behind it and the fantastic system of which it made its mark, no matter how late to the party. When I said in the Dreamcast’s introduction article that the system featured some of the very best sports titles and arcade conversions ever made? Well, here you go. Two birds with one tennis ball, RGG readers.
If you don’t have Virtua Tennis 2 in your collection, you’re sorely missing out. It’s an absolute essential. A once Dreamcast exclusive that commands respect and admiration. Well done, Sega!
Verdict:- Virtua Tennis 2 is one of my all-time favourites, especially in terms of arcade-based sports titles and the Dreamcast conversion (with its additions) it’s as close to perfection you are ever likely to get. Everything it does, it does in spades and to such a degree of excellence that makes it truly stand out to this day.
I have no bones about giving it such high marks, as its most definitely deserving of it.
Second Opinion:- This is how you make a sequel. The first game was without doubt a lovely looking game however it was devoid of deep options and real character.
Virtua Tennis 2 with all it's bells and whistles really kept you hooked to your Dreamcast for months, well this robot was anyway, Transbot awards this championship point....With Love!
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10