Tennis is a weird sport. I’ve never met
anyone who watches tennis with the expressed purpose of watching tennis. It’s background
noise, the screeching of shoes and the grunts of people usually too attractive to grunt
like that. You don’t have a horse in this fight, but it’s a sport, so you watch it.
Every once in a while, you’ll pick up on a name, like Agassi or Nadal or the Williams
sisters, and you can feel like you know something about tennis. Oh, and there’s love involved.
Somehow. You can’t even sell jerseys or nothin’. Maybe shoes. That’s it. Then, all of a sudden, they jam a bunch of
Mario characters into a tennis game, and it’s a big thing. ‘Course it is. It’s Mario!
Mario Tennis! Who wouldn’t want to see a giant dragon thing serving to an ape wearing
a tie? But why does Nintendo get all the fun? What about a sassy hedgehog versus a futuristic
retro news reporter? (Don’t think on that too much.) Or how about… several really
creepy-looking monkeys? Or this guy? (I think it’s a guy. Don’t hold me to that.) Behold, Sega Superstars Tennis. When in doubt,
pound together characters from Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Channel 5, Super Monkey Ball, Samba
de Amigo, Jet Set Radio, Nights into Dreams, more Sonic the Hedgehog… heck, drag Alex
Kidd and the dude from Golden Axe out of mothballs. They need some air. Hand ‘em all tennis
rackets. Let ‘em go to town. Cart racers and fighting games have been done, man. Tennis
is the wave of the future. Your primary challenge in this competition is to stay awake during
a tennis match, which trust you me is no easy task. Fortunately, there’s a Space Channel
5 stage which offers a big, brassy rendition of that series’ theme, which just might
do the trick. From a functional standpoint, I can’t say
this is among the better tennis games I’ve played. Sure, the cast is interesting, but
they’re animated poorly, the controls and timing are almost inexplicable at times, and
the vocal samples are repetitive and annoying. (Not unlike real tennis.) Fortunately, the
somnolent nature of the game itself is subverted by the challenge of putting absurd and oftentimes
physically dubious spin on the ball, unleashing big, flashy power shots (which may confuse
or mildly inconvenience your opponent), and of course, giving the entire premise a miss
and crafting strange, inexplicably tennis-based mini-games like – and I can’t make this
up – THE TENNIS. OF. THE DEAD. This, to me, is one of the game’s prime
selling points. Ulala, beating back a shambling hoarde of monsters, with a tennis racket and
gargoyles that fire… tennis balls. Just sit back and drink that one in, folks. That’s
crazy at its best. Even worse? CIVILIANS RUNNING ACROSS THE COURT! Who do they think they are?
Ball boys? THERE ARE ZOMBIES AND DANCERS AND TENNIS HERE. GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
Man. No getting through to these people. Anyway, in addition to directly accessing the minigames
and basic matches, there’s a mission-centric Planet Superstars mode which takes you through
various Sega-flavored competitions and challenges. If you’re really looking for a tennis game
that doesn’t have any Mario characters on it… this is one of ‘em. And it can be
yours on PS2 or 3, 360, Wii, or DS! Get your tennis-and-gogo-dancing fix wherever you go.
What’s love got to do with it?