After Sonic's recent lackluster performance in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, you'd be forgiven for having low expectations for Sega's next sports game to feature mascots: Sega Superstars Tennis. Although the characters aren't all A-listers and the actual tennis isn't particularly great, the game's actually pretty good thanks to interesting court design, loads of classic music, and the fun minigames found in superstars mode.
Sega Superstars Tennis features 16 characters from classic Sega games. Each player is rated for speed, control, power, spin, or all-around ability. The eight characters that are unlocked from the start include: Sonic, AiAi from Super Monkey Ball, Nights, Ulala from Space Channel Five, Beat from Jet Set Radio, Amigo from Samba de Amigo, Tails, and Dr. Eggman. The unlockable characters aren't quite as interesting and mostly consist of lesser characters from the same games, though Gillius from Golden Axe and Alex Kidd are worthy additions to the lineup. The courts on which you play and the music you hear while you play are inspired by the game's characters and are sure to please anyone who has enjoyed Sega's games over the years.
Admit it, you've always wondered who would win this epic showdown.
The characters, levels, music, and even some of the gameplay from these classic franchises are put to good use in superstars mode. This mode is made up of 14 different worlds, each of which is based on a well-known Sega game. The roster includes Super Monkey Ball, Puyo Pop Fever, Samba De Amigo, OutRun, Virtua Squad, Sonic the Hedgehog, Nights, Space Channel Five, ChuChu Rocket, Jet Set Radio, and more. Each is filled with challenges that range from winning single and doubles matches to minigames that mix tennis with gameplay from the franchise on which the area is based.
Many of these challenges are really fun, and some of them are especially creative. In the Virtua Squad minigames, you shoot (aim the ball at) the bad-guy targets that pop up while trying to avoid hitting the civilians, just as you would in Virtua Cop. In Puyo Pop Fever, you're essentially playing the actual puzzle game and clearing the Puyo with tennis balls. ChuChu Rocket is also a lot of fun. Just as you did in the Dreamcast game, you have to lead the mice to their rockets by changing the direction of the arrows on the level and avoiding cats--only this time you change the arrows by hitting them with tennis balls. It's amazing how well some of these games mesh with tennis, and the ones that are done well are really a lot of fun. The only knock against these stages is that the game doesn't do much in the way of explaining the gameplay, so if you've never played ChuChu Rocket before, you're going to be clueless as to how to proceed here.
All of the levels in superstars mode are not created equal. The Jet Set Radio stage has the look of the game, but the tagging minigames are frustrating and uninteresting. Running around the court while collecting rings in Sonic's stage isn't too exciting, either. The superstars mode feels unfinished in places because some of the levels have very little or nothing to do with the game on which they are based. OutRun's court has the look of OutRun, but there are no challenges based on the game. The same goes for Samba De Amigo and Space Channel Five, although some of the excellent music from those games is featured. Golden Axe is particularly noteworthy because, aside from not having any challenges based on the game, the level in which it takes place isn't even based on Golden Axe; it's Curien Mansion from House of the Dead, complete with zombies. But even with these issues, superstars mode is an entertaining and enjoyable way to play tennis.