Since our very first taste with Wii Sports, it would appear that tennis is a sport that's a perfect match for Nintendo's quirky console. Now with the release of Wii MotionPlus, the promise of a more realistic tennis experience should be fulfilled, right? And it's not like Virtua Tennis doesn't have the pedigree to meet our expectations. So, my question is, what the hell happened here?
- Solid career mode
- Online play
- Looks nice
- Controls are merely adequate
- Poor Wii MotionPlus support
Since Wii Sports gave us our first taste, it would appear that tennis is a sport that’s a perfect match for Nintendo’s quirky console. Now with the release of Wii MotionPlus, the promise of a more realistic tennis experience should be fulfilled, right? And it’s not like Virtua Tennis doesn’t have the pedigree to meet our expectations. So, my question is, what the hell happened with Virtua Tennis 2009 for the Wii?
First, let’s get the basics out of the way. If you’ve played any of the recent Virtua Tennis titles, you’ll know what to expect feature-wise in this Wii version. And truth be told, there’s a lot of nice content here with the focus placed squarely on the Career Mode.
This is where you create your very own tennis pro and try to take him or her to the top of the rankings. There’s a fair amount of visual customization to be had, although I had to settle for a much more athletic-looking version of my normally sedentary self. Turns out I look pretty good in tennis whites.
Once in the Career Mode proper, you can take part in any number of events with each event taking up a week’s time. Throughout the calendar year, tournaments (Singles and Doubles) are scheduled, as are practice matches, training, and participation in silly little mini-games. Doing any of these will wear down your stamina, so you’ll have to remember to rest up from time to time; or down a couple of pricey sports drinks.
Singles. Doubles. I’m the guy with the racket.
Virtua Tennis 2009 supports full online play complete with friends roster, match creation and joining options, and official online rankings. Straight-up single and multiplayer features are what you might expect. You can do singles and doubles matches or tournaments with any configuration of real or AI players. Game and Set numbers are adjustable as well as court locations. All of this is the roundabout way of saying that what we have here is a full-featured tennis game.
Special mention must be given to the 12 arcade-style court games which you can play both in career or from the main menu. These are silly little diversions and vary in quality, but are certainly worth a look. They’re clearly designed to help you improve your speed, accuracy, and power. Some, like Pirate Battle, in which you try to sink ships while avoiding cannon balls, or Alien Attack, in which you knock down extraterrestrial invaders, are pretty fun. Some, like the curling and pool games are entertaining because they’re so weird. Others, like shopping dash, which is designed to help you with your footwork, are pretty dull.
There are lots of different control options in Virtua Tennis 2009. The best of them are merely adequate. The game works well enough when played with the standard Wii Remote and Nunchuk, but it offers no real surprises. The controller tracks your forehand and backhand swings as well as the general angle of your shot. Adjusting your angle and swing can also produce slices and drops. Lobs are performed by holding down the A button with your swing. The nunchuk is used to move your player around the court.
Forgo the nunchuk and the game will attempt to move your player into the right position for you. Unfortunately, playing without the nunchuck makes the game far too confusing, as it’s nearly impossible to tell whether you’re being set up for a forehand or backhand swing. And as you frantically try to adjust your swing, the game attempts to compensate further by repositioning the player to where it thinks you want it to be. Of course, it doesn’t always work, which makes your Remote motions and the onscreen action come out as two very different things.
Enter Wii MotionPlus, a device designed to give the player greater, more nuanced control over the action. It’s pretty clear from the outset that MotionPlus control was an afterthought in Virtua Tennis 2009. Aside from a flimsy paragraph in the manual, there’s very little in the way of direction on how you’re supposed to play the game using the MotionPlus.
The in-game training tool is next to useless here. Basic swings are pretty much as you’d expect, but once to attempt to do anything more complex, the controller simply isn’t up to the task. Instructions on how to tilt the remote and how to swing to do a slice, drop, or even a lob are vague at best. During training, there is no on-screen indicator to tell you you’re using the controls correctly.
In fact, it’s hard to tell if the MotionPlus controller is doing much of anything at all, as there is no visual feedback in the game. All of the swings are canned animations that sometimes begin well after you have made your gesture. Compared to EA’s Grand Slam Tennis, which offers a more accurate one-to-one experience, the MotionPlus controls for Virtua Tennis 2009 are a complete trainwreck. It’s no wonder the game didn’t ship with a MotionPlus controller. The game is actually a better experience with the plain old Wii Remote.
As a title launching at the same time as Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus, Virtua Tennis 2009 is a disappointment. If you pretend that MotionPlus doesn’t exist, you’ll get some enjoyment out of Virtua Tennis 2009. It’s solid enough, but hardly groundbreaking.