E3 2005: Virtua Tennis: World Tour Hands-On

We try out Sega's promising PSP installment of its most excellent tennis franchise.

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Of Sega's catalog of franchises Virtua Tennis is one that has been sorely missed by its fans. Despite a PlayStation 2 appearance in 2002, the series has been MIA for a while now. Thankfully, Sega is rectifying that with a pint-sized entry for Sony's PSP, Virtua Tennis: World Tour. While still early in development, the work-in-progress version of the game was available for us to try on the E3 show floor. It's looking mighty fine on Sony's sleek portable.

While the game is ultimately set to offer a full suite of modes that will be on par with its console cousins, the show floor demo offered a modest selection of match choices designed to give you a feel for what to expect. Although the version of the game we played wasn't final, its control was already feeling good and responsive. If you've played any of the previous Virtua Tennis games, then the PSP game's control should feel like putting on your most comfortable pair of jeans. The simple two-button scheme maps out nicely on the PSP, and the analog stick offers the responsiveness you'll want in order to keep up with the fast-paced matches.

The overall presentation in the work-in-progress version of the game is looking fantastic even now, and it's comparable to the PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast entries in the series. The stadiums feature crisp detail that shines on the PSP screen. The character models retain the high level of quality, which is one of the series' hallmarks, and complement the detailed polygons with fluid animation. Audio in the game is sounding like a winning mix of ambient sound and sharp collision effects that give the action a visceral charm. As always, the game features the now-classic array of bitchin' '80s-style rock tunes.

Our brief sampling of what Virtua Tennis: World Tour has to offer left us wanting more. We've admired the franchise's addictive gameplay and sharp presentation since it first appeared back in the day, and we are happy to see it back. The PSP appears to be a great home for the series and the new features are just what we'd hope to see in a version for the portable system. Virtua Tennis is currently slated to ship this fall for the PSP. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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