Sega Superstars Tennis
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this tennis-themed game is targeted squarely at people who are familiar with and enjoy games made by Sega. It acts as a promotion for Sega's many franchises and popular characters, some of which appear as tennis players in the game. There is a small amount of violence in the form of power-up attacks activated by various characters. Dr. Eggman, for example, makes mines float over the court that explode if the player's character draws near. There is also one mini-game in which zombies lumber across the court with an aim to bite you. Be aware that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions support online play. Common Sense Media does not recommend online play for kids under age 12.
What's it about?
Prolific game maker Sega, having watched Nintendo pay homage to itself with the Super Smash Bros. games, has hopped on the bandwagon with SEGA SUPERSTARS TENNIS, a sports game featuring more than a dozen playable characters from several Sega franchises. Sonic the Hedgehog, Jet Set Radio, NiGHTS, and Super Monkey Ball, are some of the more popular series that have been given a nod. The tennis action is made up of scores of fast-paced tournaments and plenty of mini-games based on classic Sega titles. It's easy to pick up and play, and there's enough unlockable content to keep Sega fans finding new stuff for weeks.
Is it any good?
While both Nintendo and Sega have broad and respected game libraries, Nintendo's advantage is a higher level of familiarity. Even people who don't normally play games recognize icons like Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, and perhaps even The Legend of Zelda's Link, which is part of the reason why Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. games are so popular. Sega's characters, on the other hand, aren't quite as well known. Certainly, everyone remembers the loveable blue speedball Sonic, but almost all of the other characters that appear in Sega Superstars Tennis are more aptly identified as cult video game figures rather than legitimate gaming icons. Outside of dedicated gamers of a certain age, how many people really remember the crazy Mexican monkey from Samba de Amigo? Or Ulala, the orange-clad space reporter from Space Channel 5? They're undoubtedly loved by a handful of older gamers, but unknown to almost everyone else.
Of course, if a game is lots of fun, then it matters little how recognizable its characters are. Unfortunately, Sega Superstars Tennis is a bit too simple and shallow to stand on its own. Matches and tournaments, though usually quite short, start to seem long and repetitive once you've mastered the few available shots. The special abilities given each of the game's characters (they can hit shots with wild trajectories and send troublesome obstacles like mines to the other side of the court) add a bit of excitement, but they take so long to charge that you'll rarely be able to use them more than once per match. Perhaps the greatest shame, though, is that while Sega Superstars Tennis feels like it could be just the right skill level for younger gamers, the inclusion of a few horror-themed elements based on the series House of the Dead -- including a mini-game in which zombies attack the tennis players -- keeps the game from being suitable for kids under age 10. Bottom line: It's good for stirring up memories of classic Sega games in the heads of the developer's longtime devotees, but younger players and those just looking for a good game of tennis can take a pass.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about whether Sega's arcade-ish take on tennis resembles the real thing. Outside of the zany power-ups, does it feel authentic? Which character is your favorite? Do you choose your characters because you have fond memories of other games they appeared in, or because of the special abilities they possess in this game?