Few videogame companies are regarded with such fondness as SEGA. From the 8-bit era of the Master System to the forgotten gem that was the Dreamcast, SEGA games and consoles have become fan favourites worldwide.
If ever there were a treat for loyal SEGA fans, SEGA Superstars Tennis is it, as it's packed with classic characters and courts based on some of the best loved SEGA games of all time. Sonic the Hedgehog, Ulala from Space Channel 5, Aiai from Monkey Ball, Beat from Jet Set Radio - they're all here, and they all look better than ever in bright, colourful 720p High Definition.
The designers, Sumo Digital, were the team behind Virtua Tennis 3 and the controls follow the classic Virtua Tennis system - press the X button once to start a serve, hit it again at the top of the power meter to hit the ball. You can also hit forehand and backhand shots, as well as lob with a simple two-button sequence. Each character also has their own Superstar meter - a golden star underfoot that fills up as you play well. Once full, a press of the L1 or R1 button will change your character into their Superstar State and allow them to unleash some gloriously over the top trick shots.
Each of these Superstar States is a treat for the eyes and ears as well as offering a distinct tactical advantage. Ulala's Superstar State makes her ball trace a giant number five in the air while dancing aliens surround your opponent, Aiai's sees bananas rain from the sky as the ball swerves off in totally unpredictable directions and Gilius Thunderhead from Golden Axe recreates his special magic attack from the game with lightning bolts that crash down onto the court, paralysing your opponents if they're caught in the blast radius.
Game, Jet Set and match
Like Virtua Tennis, the main single player portion of the game is not just about tennis matches, but challenges as well. Set across courts based on classic SEGA games of yesteryear, you'll be undertaking challenges such as knocking down hordes of advancing zombies with tennis balls on the House of the Dead stage, collecting spray cans while avoiding riot police on the Jet Set Radio stage and knocking monkey balls through giant rings in the Monkey Ball stage.
Beneath the cuteness and fun however, lies a tennis game of real depth and substance. It's easy to pick up and play and, as you get further into the game, opponents start getting trickier and you'll need to angle your shots, cover the court and utilise forehand, backhand and lobs to their fullest to win matches.
The game has a great learning curve, that sees the challenge slowly increase, and manages to keep progression interesting and compelling. Despite tasking you with playing the same opponents more than once, you are constantly undertaking new challenges and being rewarded with secrets and new characters drawn from classic SEGA games that slowly go towards making you a more accomplished tennis player. As you get comfortable with the characters and find your tennis groove, you start to pull off more difficult shots, and really get a feel for the game. It's a wonderful learning experience that'll keep you coming back until you've unlocked everything there is to see. And that's not where the fun ends either. The multiplayer game is just as good as its single-player counterpart, and doubles play with four players at once is as fun a multiplayer gaming experience as you're likely to find.
SEGA fans will be in heaven with this nostalgic love letter to their favourite games, and even if you've never played Outrun, and can't tell your Sonic from your Knuckles there's a brilliantly fun, engaging and loveable tennis game here that everyone can enjoy.