|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SEGA||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 9, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Virtua Tennis 2009 (VT 2009) would have been more aptly named Virtua Tennis 3.5. That's because this latest version of the beloved tennis franchise is little more than a mildly tweaked edition rather than a full-fledged release. While this is often the criticism for many sports titles, it is exaggeratedly so with VT 2009. Gameplay is still compelling for fans of the sport, but anyone looking for a substantial offering over what they got in March of 2007 (or even what released for the Dreamcast in 2000 for that matter) will be, pardon the pun, poorly served.
The expanded features of Virtua Tennis 2009 include online ranking, more pros (including a few legends), three more courts, six new mini-games, and a virtual store that allows you to further customize your player character in World Tour mode. That's it. Everything else is exactly the same. I actually laughed out loud a few times in disbelief whilst playing through the game due to its unabashed aping of VT3's menus, format, and gameplay.
That being said, VT 2009 does still sport solid tennis gameplay. Serves, groundstrokes, adding spin, carving shots, volleys at the net, etc. are all extremely satisfying due to the rock solid controls - whether playing singles, doubles, or online, the tennis action is still quite compelling. However, all the conventions and tropes developed before the turn of the millennia are still in place - this game hasn't evolved one iota.
Outside of challenging friends to a local competitive match, the World Tour mode is the most compelling game mode in the title. Creating a player, managing their schedule, improving their skill set, and moving up the SEGA Pro Tour (SPT) leaderboards is a lot of fun. Not only are tournaments varied - featuring different court types and stadia - but winning them is quite rewarding. Moreover, dealing with fatigue and building up your player's skills through the Tennis Academy are realistic and satisfying, respectively. I also enjoyed the way the quirky mini-games are incorporated into the career mode. Rather than just working on standard technique drills through the Academy, players can take on these mini-game challenges in World Tour. This helps to keep gameplay fresh, as rising up in rank to number 1 in the world is an extremely slow process.
A few bits I found to be less than ideal in World Tour had to do with character customization and uniqueness. For starters, choosing the look of your player is very poorly implemented. The various customization options are so few and far between, not to mention artificial-looking, that your character will look strikingly similar to the hundreds of computer-generated players you'll face along the way. This really hampers believability, and it also makes slogging through early tournaments feel like cookie-cutter obstacles rather than interesting challenges. Moreover, the item store is simple not rich enough to actually provide you with any real reward (other than stat boosts) for your earnings. In the end, getting money for the best racquets is all you'll care about.