Sega serves up a solid tennis game with a couple of faults.
Virtua Tennis 2009 is the first Wii title in the series, and also one of the first Wii MotionPlus-enabled games for the console. The latest game in the series stays faithful to the series' roots while enhancing the experience with Nintendo's newest peripheral. The game provides one of the deepest tennis experiences found on the Wii.
The main mode in the game is Career mode. It starts with you creating a tennis player and advancing him or her through the ranks from 100th to 1st place in the world by competing in tournaments and doing various activities to build up stats and abilities. Career mode plays out on a week-by-week basis, with each activity requiring one week and consuming part of your stamina (which affects your performance in a match or activity). To restore some of your stamina, you simply take a week off and rest at home. Tracking activities on the calendar is crucial, since specific tournaments and special events are held on different weeks. Completing these activities are the key to advancing in the ranks and preparing your custom character for online play.
The game's other modes are typical for a sports game, such as Exhibition, Tournament, and Arcade. The one that stands out the most is Games Mode. Rather than being a standard tennis game with some mundane rule variations, the Games Mode is a series of mini-games that range from tennis versions of curling and billiards, to weird games such as feeding animals, collecting fruit, and avoiding an avalanche of gigantic tennis balls.
Like Grand Slam Tennis, one of Virtua Tennis's main selling points is its Wii MotionPlus controls. You hold the controller like a tennis racket and swing like you would in real life, performing forehands and backhands naturally. The controls are accurate and fluid, and swings are accurately represented in the game. Calibration of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral is done before every serve; you simply point to an icon with your player number until you see a checkmark.
It can take a couple of matches to get accustomed to the controls, but the learning curve isn't very steep. If you are having issues, or need help learning the basics of the game, VT Coach explains specific techniques and allows you to practice them. The game and manual thoroughly describe the controls and how to hold and swing the controller properly.
Without Wii MotionPlus, Virtua Tennis 2009 is an entirely different experience that is predominantly based on timing and a visual assist meter. When the tennis ball is near your character (whether serving or returning), a meter appears above. When you swing, your character performs a forehand or backhand swing, depending on where the indicator is on the meter. These controls feel clunky without Wii MotionPlus; it's highly recommended that you purchase the peripheral in order to get the most enjoyment out of the game.
Online mode is actually split into separate modes. If accessed through Career mode, your custom-made character participates in seasonal online tournaments or a ranked mode against other players. When accessed through the main menu, you can play with your friends, once you exchange Friend Codes. Playing online yields mixed results. In some games, there is a low amount of latency, but some matches suffer from a significant amount of latency that adversely affects gameplay. You won’t know when a player has served the ball or returned a rally until it's too late.
Local multiplayer does not feature a split-screen mode. Instead, you play from a static, full-court camera perspective. Unfortunately, this causes one player (or team) to manage with the backcourt camera. All players do not require Wii MotionPlus; however players without the peripheral will be at a severe disadvantage if they play against players who do have it.
Graphically, Virtua Tennis 2009 retains a realistic style like all the games in the Virtua Tennis series. The most noticeable visual issue is the frame rate. Occasionally, you will see a significant difference in the frame rate during various points of the game, whether the camera pans out to the audience before the tennis match or during a match. In singles matches, there are times at which the frame rate differences are distracting; however, in doubles matches, the frame rate drops are extremely noticeable and a lot worse.
Overall, Virtua Tennis 2009 is a really good tennis game, primarily due to its variety of satisfying game modes. Unfortunately, the game is weighed down by several glaring flaws. The accuracy of the Wii MotionPlus control might be a little disappointing, but on the other hand, it does provide a more fluid and accurate experience that is ultimately more enjoyable than the Wii Remote alone. Despite a great deal of potential, Virtua Tennis 2009 lacks the requisite polish to be considered the definitive Wii tennis title.