Hitting another winner?

Regular readers will not need reminding of our attachment to tennis games. Nor will they be surprised to learn that Virtua Tennis 4 on Vita is one of our most anticipated launch titles.

Those of you that played Virtua Tennis 4 on PS3 earlier in the year will be immediately familiar with its PlayStation Vita counterpart. The slick, minimalistic menus are back, and looking even more striking than ever on the Vita’s stunningly sharp OLED screen.

In-game the action is instantly recognisable. SEGA’s speedy arcade gameplay model presents itself perfectly on PlayStation Vita, with the device well equipped to recreate the swift action from the home console releases.

Being almost identical to the PS3 game, a number of Virtua Tennis 4's niggling gameplay issues persist: points are best kept short in order to avoid endless rallies, with net-play the game’s favoured play-style.

Don't rock the boat!

Using the PS Vita’s analogue stick and face buttons feels familiar and precise, but SEGA’s also decided to include some optional touch screen controls. Here you tap the screen to move your player, and swipe in the desired direction to play top spin returns. Slices can be played by stroking down, while lobs are performed by dragging your finger up and then quickly down. The functionality is fine, if a little slow, but it’s hard to imagine why anyone would opt to play with such a gimmicky system — especially when the traditional controls are so slick.

Other PS Vita exclusive gimmicks are much more successful. The first-person mode from the PlayStation Move-specific minigame is back, allowing you to use the PS Vita’s tilt sensors to look around the court in first-person.

Other modes let you play top-down local multiplayer on the PS Vita’s touch screen and participate in a clever minigame that sees you returning balls at a pirate ship, using the system’s tilt sensors to rock the boat and hit previously inaccessible targets.

As with many of the minigames in Virtua Tennis, these additional activities are unlikely to hold your attention for long. But they at least add value to the package, and distance it from its recent PlayStation 3 counterpart.

King returns

The game even uses the PS Vita’s augmented reality features, allowing you to snap a photo with any of the game’s roster of players. We met Ana Ivanovic and have the photos to prove it.

Visually the game’s a real treat, and a true competitor to its home console alternative. The bright, over-saturated environments that have defined the Virtua Tennis series over the years explode on the PS Vita’s screen, and the pre-rendered courts look more pronounced than ever when scaled down to the system’s native resolution.

Virtua Tennis has barely evolved since its previous two PlayStation launch appearances, but its core gameplay remains consistently compelling and there are enough bells and whistles to this PS Vita version to distance it from its recent home console outings.