February 13, 2007 - SEGA's Virtua Tennis 3 could be the most accurate console-to-PSP port that we've seen so far. In fact, if you were to play it alongside the PS3 version (which we have in-house and previewed last week), it would be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Impossible as that may sound, it's because of the PlayStation Portable's small LCD screen -- it keeps the resolution and detail discrepancies from being immediately noticeable (they are there; they're just hard to spot.)
But when I say that Virtua Tennis 3 is an accurate port, it isn't in reference to the visuals. No, what it really means is that the game's PSP content is identical across the board. In fact, some could say that the handheld version is actually bigger than its PS3 counterpart because it allows people on four different machines to play each other (via ad hoc). Without an online feature, you can't do that on Sony's next-gen system.
Besides the ability to play human opponents, Virtua Tennis 3 also boasts every other feature that you've already heard of. All 12 mini-games (which are divided into "Training" and "Court" types) are included here with personal favorites like Alien Attack (pinpoint robot smashing), Avalanche (avoid giant tennis balls while collecting fruit) and several others stealing the show. Players can even create their own athlete and take them through the "World Tour" mode where they can earn better skills and stats, compete in tournaments and exhibition matches, and eventually become the undisputed world champion of net sports. It may sound traditional, but at least it's fun.
Now if you like a smidgen of realism in your arcade Tennis, don't worry -- you'll have around 20 different stars to choose from. Maria Sharipova, Andy Roddick, Gael Monfils, Roger Federer, and a bunch of other folks whose last names drive our spell-check programs crazy have made the cut. Each star has their own strengths and weaknesses too, so the person you choose will always affect your capabilities on the clay and on the grass at all times.
"Is there anything to worry about" you ask? Well, right now, I'd have to say not really. Though Virtua Tennis 3 doesn't blow us away with its features or add anything drastically new over its predecessors, it still does what it's always done, and that to play a monster game of tennis. Admittedly, the PSP analog nub is a little stiff, but it isn't anything we haven't run into before and it seems to work pretty well with the couple of guys we tried it with. The majority of this game is all about "pick up and Play" and being smart with your volleys / smashes / lobs anyway and blinding speed isn't really necessary.
Anyhow, we'll be back with more on the PSP version of Virtua Tennis 3 as we near its release in late March. Certainly, the good news for us all is that it's already fun to play and lends itself well to the portable market because of its coin-op nature and multitude of mini-games.