SEGA Superstars Tennis

Much love.

Sumo Digital has made quite a lot of games since its formation in 2003, but our favourites are the two OutRun games and Virtua Tennis 3; love letters for SEGA fans, penned on SEGA's behalf. Superstars Tennis, by contrast, is dinner, dancing, cocktails and fellatio. It's absolutely stuffed with SEGA characters lovingly recreated in 720p high-definition, full of tennis courts built in honour of games like Super Monkey Ball, House of the Dead, Golden Axe and Space Channel 5, with unlockable Achievements for 360 inspired by their names. SEGA Rally is a 40-shot rally, After Burner is a 100mph serve, OutRun is covering 6 miles on foot.

Mechanically it feels like a simplified take on Virtua Tennis, with a familiar service bar that takes one tap to initiate and a second well-timed tap to play the ball, and a pair of shot buttons and a lob available when you tap two buttons in sequence. Not unlike Mario Tennis - dead now, perhaps, thanks to Wii Sports' success - successful shots allow you to unleash character-specific special moves. A golden star outline fills up as you play, and once full you tug a trigger button, watch a cute animation, and take advantage of the result.

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The Samba court is probably the best, although the NiGHTS one with the liquid surface is quite special.

Everything is gloriously indulgent: AiAi's special shots bend like a boomerang as bananas tumble around the court; Beat from Jet Set Radio sends the ball cross court via two sharp turns accompanied by spray-can sound effects as Rokkaku police shoulder-charge the opposition; and Tails sends the ball over the net in a whirlwind that leaves his adversaries seeing stars. Balls on the Samba de Amigo court leave the racket to the sound of maracas, Flagman is the umpire on the OutRun level, break-dancing when he gets bored, and every court has several unlockable tunes bequeathed by the host product, selectable before each match. Smashing a glowing ball back and forth in-between dancing sombrero-wearing cacti is all the better for Samba de Janeiro belting away in the background.

Like Virtua Tennis, the main "Superstars" game mode is not just about tennis matches and tournaments but mini-games as well. Sonic the Hedgehog tasks involve collecting rings, Monkey Ball tasks you with smashing monkey balls through giant rings, and House of the Dead - named Curien Mansion here for reasons beyond our understanding or limited tolerance for research - has you bashing zombies. We won't identify all the games, though, because SEGA fans - for whom this game is solely intended - will delight in discovering them for themselves. Needless to say, UK:R, the sky's as blue as can be. The novelty never really wears off, and a steady stream of unlockable courts, music and characters - often glimpsed on the other side of early tournament line-ups - ensures that there's always more to see.

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