Have you ever picked up Mario Tennis and wondered what it would be like with Sega characters in place of Mario & Co? Wonder no more, because Sega Superstars Tennis brings everyone’s favourite hedgehog - along with almost every other Sega mascot from the past two generations - to the tennis court.
The characters include AiAi (Super Monkey Ball), Nights (Nights into Dreams) and, of course, their main mascot Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog). Sega has a good track record with Tennis games with their quality Virtua Tennis series, so it’s no surprise that they would try their luck with a tennis title featuring their biggest mascots. Although Sega Superstars Tennis looks like a shameless Mario Tennis clone on the outside, it does everything that game does, only better.
Sega Superstars Tennis features a variety of matches, ranging from the zombie killing in House of The Dead’s Curien Mansion to the ring collecting in the Sonic level, where you avoid bombs while collecting rings. And, of course, it includes the doubles and singles standard tennis games - and I use the term “standard” loosely because when Sega is involved, things are rarely standard.
Each character has their unique ‘special move’ that can be performed by pulling both triggers at once. Sonic turns into Super Sonic, while Amigo has a bunch of shakers appear on the court to deflect the ball. Performing these gives the player a big advantage for a while but they wear off quickly and are best put to use as a counter when the opponent performs their special.
Characters can be broken down into five types: all round (Nights), speed (Sonic), power (Eggman), spin (AiAi), and control (Ulala), each having their own strengths and weaknesses. They are all fairly balanced, so picking one is best left to your play style.
There are five modes to play through, but the guts of the game is in Superstar mode. In this mode you can unlock new characters and play against your favourite mascots in courts based on their respective series. It starts you off with one match type, six areas, and eight players. As you play through the areas it grades you on your performance; ratings above A unlock more match types and more extras such as background tunes, characters and areas to play.
Each area features a different style of play and multiple levels ranging from singles to tournaments. There are also specialty matches such as ‘clear the monkey balls’, which has you knocking monkey balls through loops. The specialty matches mix up the gameplay nicely.
Other modes include a tournament, with five matches against the weaker players and a sixth match against Dr. Eggman, whose special move consists of throwing bombs as he hits the ball. The ‘games’ mode is essentially a quick play mode where you can play a variety of games based on each character’s location in single player mode or multiplayer with up to three friends.
If you are looking for a mascot-based tennis game that doesn’t have “Mario” in the title - and a better variety of characters - give Sega Superstars Tennis a swing.