Amidst (valid) complaints of poor framerates and sub-par resolutions, one title stands strong at the Vita’s launch. SEGA’s Virtua Tennis 4 sports sixty frames per second and runs at the Vita’s native resolution, a combination that, combined with some truly current-gen visuals means that there’s a clear leader in, if there were such an award, best looking title. Simply put, Virtua Tennis 4 on Vita is utterly gorgeous, with slick animation, a wide contrast range and some great looking tennis players.
Naturally, too, it plays exactly like the console version, with nothing missing from last year’s rather sublime iteration. The Virtua Tennis games have always catered for rather more ‘arcade’ sensibilities, the game compensating for early shots and generally keeping things to a streamlined, more approachable set of mechanics than other tennis simulations; this suits some just fine, and I’m personally a massive fan of the games, the coin-op and Dreamcast originals still hold a firm place in my heart, despite their age.[videoyoutube]It’s refreshing indeed, then, to see a portable version that’s every bit the counterpart of the console games. With the same core intact – the evergreen Arcade mode providing quick thrills and the still slightly odd World Tour acting as the career mode – jumping into this Vita version is as painless as possible. The buttons are the same, with the portable a perfect match in terms of face buttons for a Dual Shock 3, and now that the framerate’s up there, there’s no shift in play style or timings required either.
It’s clear, though, that mirroring the PS3 version wasn’t the only focus for the developers. In amongst all the minigames we’ve grown to love from the series are a smattering of new, bespoke and Vita-only game modes, including a smart first person view (which uses the gyro to turn the player’s head), a top down two player touch-screen only game and one that uses the Vita’s tilt controls to move a ship back and forth. There’s even a ‘get Murray in your living room’ mode with the aid of the Vita’s AR camera.
These diversions won’t hold your attention for long, though, despite all being clever in their own way. Instead, players will look to the multiplayer (VT4 supports both ad-hoc and online) and the single player modes which – once Arcade is done and dusted and the trophies are bagged – will be the World Tour. Much has been said in the past about SEGA’s handling of the campaign mode and the same issues remain here, most noticeably the random nature of the board game principles, but it’s still an enjoyable attempt at offering up the ability to take your custom created player (even one with a photo taken from the camera) through its paces.
Starting from scratch and at the bottom of the ranks, you must move your player around the world, represented by a series of placemarkers along pre-set routes. You can only move as many spaces as you have a card with that number, meaning that you’ll find yourself having to skip events or miss out on training simply because you needed a ‘2’ but only had a ‘3’. It brings an air of unpredictability that would otherwise be missed, but SEGA have stuck to their grounds and nothing has changed since the PS3 version. Whether this is an issue or not will be up to the individual.
Regardless, Virtua Tennis 4 on Vita is a shining example of what makes a good port to the system. It’s stunning to look at, plays absolutely brilliantly and sounds great too; with super fast loading, some nice touch screen controls and the new Vita-only modes, this is definitely the best version of the game out there, and is a must have for tennis fans. Anyone used to other tennis titles with deeper control sets and a smarter career mode might find VT4 a little simplistic and basic, but for me it’s fine, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
- Incredible graphics
- Decent single player modes
- Lots of cute minigames
- Online play
- World Tour is still a little messy
Anyone on the fence about which sports game to buy at launch (between this and FIFA) might find themselves with a difficult choice. FIFA’s a solid, rounded title with lots of depth but Virtua Tennis 4 absolutely nails the arcade experience and kicks up some amazing graphics. As a showcase of the Vita’s tech there’s nothing out there more immediate, and fans of the series will love this to bits. Everyone else might be left scratching their heads and wondering what all the fuss is about.