Not only do the training games in the career mode improve your character’s attributes for the World Tour, but it also improves your general playing skills – something that’s invaluable if you want to walk away victorious from a tournament final.
But you don’t need to enter the World Tour in order to take a break from match action. There’s also a “Ball Games” section where you can throw your racquet at challenges like block smashing or balloon popping – this may not sound like much fun, but it really, really is. It’s like all those little sub-games that Nintendo always throws into its Mario and Zelda titles – they don’t really push the game or the story on, but they’re always horribly addictive. Once again though, playing these games will also help you hone your skills for the court.
I remember reading reviews of Virtua Tennis on the Dreamcast and the general opinion was that Sega had been pretty stingy with the licensing budget – there was a lack of top rank players on offer. The same criticism can’t be levelled at World Tour, where you’ve got just about every big name on display – Federer, Roddick, Hewitt, Sharapova, Venus Williams and Davenport to name but a few. Obviously Tiger Tim is thrown in to keep us Brits happy, but if his recent Wimbledon and US Open performances are anything to go by, you might be best off avoiding him.
If you do ever get bored of playing singles matches, you can try your hand at doubles. Doubles play adds a whole new dimension to the game and can also produce some ridiculously fast rallies. Of course you are somewhat dependant on how good your computer controlled partner is, but on the whole he covers his area and will leave you to cover yours.
But anyone who played the Dreamcast game will know that it was the multiplayer aspect that really made it special, and Sega has made sure that this shines through with World Tour as well. Not only can you hook up with a friend and play a head to head match, you can actually get together with three other players for some doubles action. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find three other PSP owners, all with Virtua Tennis to try this out, but I can only imagine that it would be a hysterical way to pass a few hours.