The Virtua Tennis series hasn’t changed much since its birth, really. Like many sports games, there’s a career mode, several training exercises and matches against both real-life and originally created tennis pros across the globe until you are crowned the greatest in the world – and then it’s as good as game over.
The core design of Virtua Tennis 2009 is very much the same – you create a player and train them while also heading onto the court in tournaments to raise your ranking until you’re one of the best. You can buy new equipment in addition to train and then take your created character online – a first for the Wii version.
Training exercises consist of everything from the simplistic to difficult mini-games that test every aspect of your tennis playing skill including your accuracy and power. Everything will feel very familiar – perhaps too familiar – to those who played the previous entry, Virtua Tennis 3.
However, Virtua Tennis 2009 does have some pleasing tricks up its sleeve – in the form of the new Wii MotionPlus control options. Without the MotionPlus aiming the ball is handled by an intrusive meter over your character’s head – with MotionPlus, everything becomes much easier and the meter disappears.
It’s difficult to come up with a word to describe the Wii MotionPlus controls in Virtua Tennis 2009, but perhaps the best word is natural. The game is harder and more fiddly to control than with the remote on its own, but gameplay is much more satisfying once you’ve learned the controls.
Expect some difficult, frustrating time getting to grips with the precise, sensitive accessory, but once you’re used to it you’ll find that shots can be played by feeling alone and often if you’ve had some experience playing or watching tennis the movement you naturally feel to be right will actually turn out to be correct.
Of the four types of shot in the game, three are based purely on how you swing the remote, meaning you don’t have to worry about pressing any buttons, merely how you swing. The option for the computer to control player moment ala Wii Sports is present, but the ability to control with use of a nunchuk is in place too for more advanced players.
To help with the steep learning curve SEGA have added a bunch of MotionPlus specific Coaching drills for players struggling to get a hang of it – but it may not be that players are struggling with anyway.
You’ll find yourself constantly struggling instead against the frequently stuttering framerate and find yourself struggling to follow the action on-screen thanks to muddy textures and jaggies galore. Virtua Tennis 2009 on Wii feels like a PS2 port – even though it’s not.
The bad framerate and difficult visuals serve to sometimes make the motion controls more difficult and frustrating to use – a great shame considering how robust they can appear in good conditions.
While much of the content on the disc is the same as Virtua Tennis titles of the past, the online mode and the fact that this is the first title in the series on the motion-sensing Wii redeems the title somewhat.
Because the core gameplay is the same it’s as fun as Virtua Tennis titles of old – that is to say it has some of the best and most fun and addicting tennis in video games. Add in the motion controls and it’s even more of a blast.
It’s a great shame that the game had to be dragged down by the visuals, frame rate and to an extent the feature set. In spite of all that Virtua Tennis 2009 is if nothing else a fantastic demonstration of what the MotionPlus can do – and well worth a look.
- 7 / 10
Version Tested: Wii