|I like the gameplay of Tennis 2K2 (see entry 378), and Virtua Tennis: World Tour brings that fantastic, flowing game of tennis to the handheld, perfectly intact; in fact, you could say that it's better than ever with the analog nub support (you can use the D-pad for that old digital feel, though).|
You've still got a simple two-button layout, though now have a shortcut for the two-button "Lob" command on the Square button. The game is still all about timing and positioning; they haven't messed with a winning formula, and that's a good thing. The male and female rosters are updated with more current players, but really, that's the only thing they touched. Oh, and I like how you can put the announcer's voices (male for the men's matches, female for the women's) in different languages.
There are four minigames, involving you collecting things on the court while dodging balls, or hitting things with tennis balls. They're all pretty fun, but my favorite is the balloon-breaker one, where you're gunning for colored bubbles on the other side of the court; clear all the bubbles of one color for a time bonus, and get fruits (inside some bubbles) and bombs (break a bunch of bubbles) for points.
The other modes are quick match, exhibition game, tournament, and then the "World Tour" mode. Except for World Tour, the modes all play very quickly, with fast, satisfying action, great for on the go. The tournaments start relatively easy (there are five difficulty levels to choose from; I've been playing Normal so far), but get pretty challenging in the final rounds, with opponents beginning to catch on to your usual tricks, and to slap back some nasty winners.
World Tour, on the other hand, I'm not so fond of. I guess there was a World Tour mode in 2K2, but I must not have been too interested in it, because I don't remember it at all. Well, I tried World Tour here, and put a few hours into it, and all I got was a mediocre generic character with no money, who hadn't won any matches.
I suppose I suck or something. In World Tour, you play through a succession of weeks. There may or may not be a tournament to play on any given week. If there is a tournament, chances are relatively low that it is one of the correct type (singles/doubles), gender (you can have both male and female characters, but I only wanted to concentrate on one at a time), or ability level. So usually you have to go do one of the training minigames to pass the time.
These minigames are similar to the four minigames available from the main menu, but usually a bit shorter, and they reward stat bonuses to your character when you finish them. After you beat one of them enough times, it goes up in level (as you are hoping to do yourself), so now it's tougher to complete.
So I spent a good couple hours beefing my character up in these minigames, and they got pretty darn boring. But every time a match I could actually play in came along (which was about three times), I got beat in the first round by the same damn guy (forget who it was). My character just, I don't know, sucked or something--I don't suck that bad in normal Tournament mode, I swear. Anyway, this meant that I earned no money, so I couldn't buy any gimcracks or maybe powerups, I don't know, in the shop mode, and was left with nothing else to do besides going back and playing the minigames, which were getting both more tedious and more difficult, over and over.
Let me just say that this is lame. It feels like work rather than a game. There must be a better way to do this, and I wish they'd found one. As it is, I'm avoiding World Tour mode. The rest of the game is good.
Oooh except for load times. These just aren't all that great. I don't think they handled them very well, either, because they seem to load things halfway, then stick you into the next screen while other stuff is still loading from the disc, which leaves you in annoying stutter mode for several seconds while the loading completes. Heck, there's even annoying load lag while navigating the main menu, because the game loads up different background images on the fly. The character selection screen is slow to browse, because the game only loads up the character portraits as you highlight them, but the problem becomes really frustrating in World Tour mode, where it seems to have to load each location on the world map each week, as you highlight them. So navigating around the globe is an excercise in annoying load pauses. And then you do a minigame, which has a not insignificant load time, and that's over pretty quick, and you wait/load back to the world map, then stutter around the globe some more. Blah.
World Tour isn't for me, and the load times could be better, but I like the rest of the game a lot. It's pretty much a simple, attractive action game, but with great control and challenge curve.