EA hit first with its MotionPlus enabled Grand Slam tennis, but SEGA hasn't been resting on its laurels. Hot on the heels of Grand Slam is Virtua Tennis 2009, released just in time for Wimbledon and also packing in full MotionPlus support for the early adopters of Nintendo's new tech. So, can SEGA's long-running series steal the strawberries and cream from under EA's nose?
The key detail here is how the MotionPlus support is implemented. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, we think EA's game offers a more tennis-like experience. While the addition of MotionPlus to Virtua Tennis 2009 makes it easier to play shots by feel, we didn't find it a huge improvement over plain Wii Remote use. Use it for some time and it'll be impossible to switch back, but if you want the sensation of real tennis EA's game edges it.
On the other side of the coin, without MotionPlus Virtua Tennis 2009 still plays a pretty good game, and here comes out on top of EA's game. The use of an on-screen timing meter helps you place shots with a pretty good degree of accuracy and the game feels considerably more arcade-like when played like this. Something to note is that the game fails to auto-detect what control set-up you're using, so get used to having to choose MotionPlus from the pre-game menu.
For those wondering what SEGA has been doing to the Virtua Tennis gameplay since it first hit the Arcades all those years ago, the list of changes isn't massive. Other than the feel of the game thanks to motion controls, it's essentially the game we've been playing for years. The only tangible change to the gameplay is the replacement of player dives with player stumbles, and the only meaningful new game feature is the implementation of proper online play - which is thankfully included and works well in the Wii version, shaming developers that cut such features from Wii ports.
Don't misunderstand. Every change and addition has benefited the series. And for some hardcore VT players, the gameplay tweaks will be the stuff of megatons. Without the annoying shot diving, rallies are longer. Lobs and drop shots are more useful (and can be performed here without pressing other buttons if you're using MotionPlus, unlike in Grand Slam Tennis). The game altogether plays more fluidly, with better, more realistic animations contributing to a slightly less bonkers game of tennis. It's still firmly set in its arcade roots, (the classic VT ball trail, enthusiastic umpire voice and ridiculously cheesy SEGA music just won't go away), it’s just a better game.