(Wii)

Game Review

Virtua Tennis 2009 Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

The new world number one

The first question you might ask when playing Virtua Tennis 2009 is “why has it taken so long to make a great tennis game on Wii?”. Ever since we saw the first videos all those years ago it seemed the console was destined to become better than the real thing when it comes to sports, yet it’s taken years for anyone to deliver the racquet experience the machine deserves.

The obvious answer is the release of MotionPlus, the tiny blocky gadget that elevates Virtua Tennis 2009 from an enjoyable arcade tennis game to an endlessly entertaining and physical experience. With M+ attached, you have such control over your serves, shots and slices that you’ll spend the first hour or two figuring out precisely how to angle your Wii Remote to play better. You’ll start off with stacks of double faults, wayward strikes and lobs you thought were slices – there’s a definite learning curve that’ll seem steep to those whose only sporting experience on Wii is the Tennis bundle with the console.

Delving into the game’s VT Coach mode helps to teach you the starting techniques, but as you progress it becomes less useful: new shot types are shown with three static screenshots, then it’s up to you to perform the chosen shot three times in a row, with a sizeable pause between attempts. It’s by no means a disaster, but lacks the fluidity that categorises the rest of the game, and you’re as well off learning the ropes through experimenting in one of the play modes until you’ve really got a good grasp of how to play.

The first lesson you’ll probably learn is the importance of setting up a shot properly. In Wii Sports Tennis, your character automatically decides whether you’ll play a forehand or backhand, whereas in VT2009 your player will sort of stumble around until you take a decisive stance. It’s frustrating to see your tennis pro jig around the ball like a hyperactive toddler, and although you can direct them yourself with the D-pad it’s much more important to adopt the correct stance. There’s something hugely satisfying to have the ball bounce just right in front of your player, then see them mimic your movement as you unleash a huge forehand swing and send the ball blasting past your opponent.

It’s worth pointing out that Virtua Tennis’s use of the Wii MotionPlus does not try to live up to the fabled “1:1” motion support the device is reportedly capable of. What it does instead is use the extra information and accuracy to create a much more fluid control system that grants you greater power over your racquet. You won’t see any fancy tricks like players spinning their racquets or mimicking your hand position exactly, but when it comes down to replicating the shots you play it gives the kind of unmatched accuracy you want. Once you’ve spent a few hours with MotionPlus, you’ll find playing VT2009 without it to be a much simpler and less enjoyable experience.

After you’ve mastered the controls you’ll probably want to start your path to tennis domination, and that’s where the game’s World Tour mode comes in. For once, Wii owners haven’t got a stripped-down version of other consoles’ career modes, with a world full of tournaments, minigames, training sessions and astonishingly expensive sports shops to visit. First of all you’ll have to choose either the male or female tours and then create your player – the starting options aren’t anything mindblowing, and on tour you’re likely to see countless variations of your player with different coloured hair, but once you’ve won a few tournaments you can begin to change clothes, racquets, hats and all sorts of other items to make your player stand out.

The World Tour mode plays out a week at a time, with different tournaments and practice matches available at different times. Entering a tournament or playing a minigame will take up one week of your schedule as well as reducing your stamina, resulting in injuries if you don’t rest often enough. The opening tournaments are as straightforward as you’d expect, with prize money and an increase in your world ranking if you manage to beat all your opponents. Once your world ranking is high enough you start to encounter the real professionals, and that’s where your choice of playstyles comes into… er… play.

At any time in World Tour mode you can head over to the Tennis Academy, where “legendary tennis pro” Tim Henman sets up challenges that, if conquered, will give you experience in one of three areas: groundstrokes; footwork; serve and volley. Once you’ve filled the bar in one area, you unlock a new playstyle, which increases your abilities in that area. For example, the first groundstrokes level-up grants you the “powerful forehand” ability, giving you an extra boost on your forehand strokes. Progressing in each area isn’t absolutely essential for beating the game, but it certainly helps tune your player to your individual playing style.

Another good way to cover your weaknesses is by recruiting a partner to play some doubles, and as you progress up the rankings you’ll start to gain better partners until you’re rubbing shoulders with the pros. Again, it’s not essential but if you’re a completist you’ll need to win all the doubles tournaments to fill up your “My VT” trophy room, which lists all your accomplishments in the game, from the number of tournaments won to how many ground shots and slices you’ve played and how far you’ve run. There’s certainly no shortage of offline single-player lastability in VT2009, and it’ll take dozens of hours of sweaty racqueteering to see everything.

Once you’ve had a decent blast at a solo career you’ll likely want to take your player online against others, and that’s where Virtua Tennis excels, with a fully featured online mode that frankly puts other games to shame. You can select a simple lobby-based system from the main menu, but it’s the Online HQ in World Tour mode that really shows what the service can do. Selecting from one of over twenty cups, each offering different court surfaces, length of tournaments and points on offer, you jump into play against strangers anywhere with – praise be! – no need for friend codes. If you’re victorious, you gain points which help boost your overall standing online, with a full tour mode to conquer over and above the offline career. The idea is to play both in tandem, as although you can use any player you like in the WFC mode accessed from the main menu, the Online HQ mode requires you to use your custom character, so building up your skills offline will help you beat the tough players that will no doubt crop up in the weeks following launch.

Although by the time this review went up the game wasn’t officially available in Europe, there was still at least one person online, so we engaged in a battle of tennis wits over two matches: the first without M+, and the second with the attachment. In the first match, the opponent seemed to have the advantage with shot placement and power, whereas our player floundered under pressure, repeatedly hitting the ball out of bounds and crashing to a disappointing straight-sets defeat. In the MotionPlus-enabled rematch, however, the playing field was much more even with the game responding better to shot placement and timing, resulting in NintendoLife cruising to a fantastic victory, with only one point lost in all three sets. The moral of this story is this: if you want to play to a good standard online, you will need MotionPlus, as without it you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.

When it comes down to graphics, VT2009 holds its ground but doesn’t necessarily excel. The player models are well animated, with pumping fists of victory and kicking the floor when a point slips by, and the different courts look good from the game’s standard camera angle, which remains locked throughout. Once you get into close-ups of the players and crowd you realise it’s lacking the detail of its next-gen cousins, with shading replacing fabric textures and a disappointingly wooden crowd. It’s not a terrible looking game by any means, it’s just lacking some of the finesse the series has featured on other formats. One thing that is worth pointing out is the very heavy slowdown when playing in doubles matches, which makes playing with a partner extremely laborious - stick to single player domination as much as you can.

Conclusion

You’d be extremely hard-pressed to find a more complete tennis package on Wii – Virtua Tennis 2009’s offline and online career modes offer the most engaging representations of the sport on any console, and for those who want a pick-up-and-play there’s always the unmatched array of minigames that are more fun than most dedicated compilations.

Without the MotionPlus, VT2009 is an enjoyable and easy to play arcade tennis game, but with the attachment it becomes an exercise in how versatile, accurate and innovative the Wii Remote can be. After all the Wii’s early promise of a realistic sports experience, it’s Nintendo’s old rivals Sega who show everyone how to make a racquet into an ace smash hit.

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User Comments (42)

James

#5

James said:

That's it, right there. That's the review - the end.

I think Chris is working on it and hopefully should be up by the start of next week!

warioswoods

#6

warioswoods said:

"In Wii Sports Tennis, your character automatically decides whether you’ll play a forehand or backhand..."

That's not really correct; you certainly control whether to use a forehand or backhand in Wii Sports (unless you just flail wildly, which will produce unpredictable results). Actually, Wii Sports tennis always seems to be misunderstood -- you have excellent control over strength, forehand or backhand, spin, lobs, and, if you combine all of these with careful timing, you can have very precise shot placement.

This is why I'm always reluctant to try out the retail tennis games -- they take what depended on the subtlest of wrist movements in Wii Sports and add unnecessary complication. With enough finesse, timing, and restraint, you can do a whole lot in Wii Sports tennis (except move your player, of course), and the test for any other tennis game is to make all of this possible without requiring you to make any unnaturally exaggerated movements with the remote or hold a button to produce a lob, etc.

I'd love more details about exactly how all the different shot types are differentiated in this game; that's really the only area that matters to me, far more so than all the modes, online play, etc.

James

#8

James said:

@warioswoods - between writing this monster review and playing the game for a good number of hours my arm's killing me, but I just wanted to say that I've played quite a bit of Wii Sports Tennis (think my skill level was over 2,000 at one point!) and I know you do have a great deal of control over your shots with backspins and lobs and so on.

The appeal with VT for me is having much more control with similar controls - of course they need to be a little more complex because it's trying to mimic real tennis a little more closely than the little Miis do.

It'll be interesting to see how Wii Sports Tennis plays if I decide to go back to it this weekend.

AlexSays

#9

AlexSays said:

And another site says to buy GST over Virtua.

Why can't you all agree and make things easy?

KnucklesSonic8

#10

KnucklesSonic8 said:

Great, just when I finally decided I'm going to get GS Tennis, this review comes along and makes things even more difficult than they already were. Thanks a lot. :P

Great review, by the way!

PopeReal

#11

PopeReal said:

I'm getting this one. The online sounds great plus its only 40 bucks (and I already have WM+)....

pixelman

#12

pixelman said:

The review certainly makes the game look appealing. I'll have to pick it up when the price drops.

I love Grand Slam Tennis, but it has it's setbacks. I'll write up a mini-review some time today.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#13

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

I've read 4 or 5 reviews on both games now mostly from reputeable reviewers. I'm happy with the more accessible EA Grand Slam Tennis which I own. Also "09" means your game is "out of date" after a year or less. Not taking anything away from this game which sounds superb. Also, I've had enough of this particular game's engine as I've played previous virtua tennis games as well as sega superstar tennis. I appreciate its entirely different with WiiMotionPlus, but still.

Also, different reviewers say different things about which one is better with and without the wiimotionplus. ONM for eg say the controls on both are a bit "iffy" but still "very good". As a reuslt they gave it around 80%/ They gave EA GrandSlamTennis 90%.

Kokstra

#14

Kokstra said:

"You’d be extremely hard-pressed to find a more complete tennis package on Wii"

After playing both tennis games I'd say it's not that hard.

Incognito_D

#15

Incognito_D said:

yeah I hate buying games with dates in the title (e.g. 2009 etc...) for the same reason, but at the same time I'd tend to go for a Sega game over EA.
Good thing I don't care for tennis too much and won't be getting either. Wii Sports is all I need if I get the tennis itch.

Edwin

#17

Edwin said:

Someone please tell me that the blue bar over your player can be turned off. It looks really annoying and disruptive. Do you get used to it?

Watchful_Eye

#18

Watchful_Eye said:

The blue bar is always off when you use the Wii Motion Plus and you can deactivate it when you are playing without it (as far as I know, but Im quite sure).

Machu

#19

Machu said:

Great, now I'm confused. I was all over GST but this review has made me go 'hmm', and now I don't know which one to get.

@Prosody Off-topic soz, but have you beaten the World-Pro in LKS. I can't do it! :(

SeniorDingDong

#20

SeniorDingDong said:

Strange that so many reviews read like "GST > VT09" or vice versa like in this example.

I decided for GST after comparing game play videos because of the spot on crowd reactions and smoother animations.

pixelman

#22

pixelman said:

It's too bad. GST will suffer critically because of the difficult-to-learn controls, but it's really a great game.

Watchful_Eye

#23

Watchful_Eye said:

It obviously a thing of taste. Ill get VT tomorrow :) , since I like the graphics and the more action-focused gameplay. But I also like some aspects of GST, it is really a tough choice.

vherub

#24

vherub said:

if there was only 1 motion+ tennis game, I would get that, but now I am paralyzed by choice and will probably wait

Bahamut_ZERO

#25

Bahamut_ZERO said:

Gah, a 9! I wonder if this or PGA 10 will be the first WMP game I'll buy. Speaking of which, when is the TW PGA Tour 10 review coming out?

Junkface

#26

Junkface said:

Hmmm Decisions decisions where will i swing my racket? Has anyone played both and can enlighten us?

James

#27

James said:

Junkface - the chap who's hopefully doing our GST review has played both, so that should help out I hope.

I understand it's a tough decision, and let's be honest, we're spoilt to be in a position to have two MotionPlus-enabled tennis games so close to each other. I like VT but others prefer GST - there's room for both!

@Machu - remind me which one World Pro is again! If you mean the table tennis, no I haven't. Just fall short every time!

Machu

#28

Machu said:

@Prosody. Roger that! Been 'tidying up' and some of the items are really cool and will help at the end, guess I'll have to give up on that 1 tho' as I'm going to snap my wii-mote if I have to try it again.

Back on topic, couldn't agree more, thankfully neither of them suck.

astarisborn94

#29

astarisborn94 said:

I know for sure that I'm not getting Grand Slam Tennis. Congratulation Sega, you might be looking at an buyer of this game. Looks like an awesome game, I knew Sega would come through. Maybe they'll add voice chat next year?

EDIT: That reminds me. The Wii version of Virtual Tennis 2009 scored higher then it's next-gen counterpartner. Could this mean that the dumb-down games days are coming to an end?

Terra

#30

Terra said:

"Could this mean that the dumb-down games days are coming to an end?"
For Sega, there's hope judging by this. For others like Capcom and various other companies, I generally doubt it

bobbsystem

#33

bobbsystem said:

The online experience sounds amazing, can't wait to check it out.

I played it for two hours last night having bought it and I have to say that after an hour I was a little disappointed and couldn't quite get to grips with the wii motion plus method. I came back for another go later on and suddenly I was thinking 'wow', and it all started to fall into place.

On first playing, I am nicely impressed and can't wait to really get into it and work out the more advanced strokes etc.

James

#34

James said:

That's exactly how I felt, bobbsystem! I wasn't all that amazed at first, but once I realised you have to hold your backhand or forehand stroke before the ball arrives I understood how to play better, and that was the start of my meteoric rise to world #93!

Played a bit of GST yesterday as well - the delay is a bit off-putting, and I dislike the graphics, but the technology behind it is undoubtedly good, and the addition of split-screen for two-player is a godsend. The presentation of GST is good too, with commentary and replays and stuff, which is all icing that VT2009 lacks.

bobbsystem

#35

bobbsystem said:

Played it a few more times and I'm still really enjoying it, my wife liked it and she doesn't usually play on the wii. It's incredibly satisfying when you specifically aim for a corner of the court and leave the computer floundering on the opposite side.

I am still to really master those unstoppable shots when the opponent gives you a weak return and I am only really putting them away when the computer is right over one side of the court.

Is there a way of coming into the net? and also, is there a definite way of performing drop shots? The other thing I was wondering is that when you are playing a human opponent and you're at the top of the court, do you perform a backhand if it is on your characters backhand? and forehand if it's on your character forehand?

Watchful_Eye

#37

Watchful_Eye said:

Just to warn you: I was someone who had high expectations of this game and really wanted to like it. I even posted in this board how I cant wait to play and stuff like that. But my level of disappointment raises the more I play it, really.

The value of options are great and all, but the controls are awful when you want to play this game on a "deeper" level. Its just a trial and error-thing if advanced shots like Drop Shots, Lobs or even Slices work, and I am telling you this after spending lots of hours in training mode. At the beginning I thought its more a thing of learning the controls, since it is pretty easy to make precise standard topspin shots, but for now Im quite sure it isnt. I know its arcade tennis, but still I dont want to have to make the same poo (erm.. I mean shot) over and over again.

The funny thing is that I dont seem to be the only one with these problems when I play against others. I win around 70% of my matches online and have pretty good stats - by almost only doing standard-topspin-swings (these work very fine and are even easy to place correctly). Actually I didnt play anyone online who made advanced shots with Motion+ and gave me the impression he knew what he was doing.

I cant tell that I didnt have any fun at all though, Id rate it with 5 or 6 points in the moment - but for now I am really sure that GST is the better choice, Im gonna buy it soon probably.

bobbsystem

#39

bobbsystem said:

Is the 'wifi' option on the main menu screen only for 'friend code' match-ups?

The only way I could find people from around the world was to go through the world tour mode which is a bit annoying!

michael646260

#40

michael646260 said:

I agree with this review all the way. I have been absolutely apalled at other sites reviews of this game, as many of them didn't even realize that you have to select the wii motion+ accessory before every match. Then actually went on to comment on the play while using the WM+ and how it affected the gameplay. LMFAO

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