Power Smash Tennis 2 (パワースマッシュテニス

Arriving towards the console's twilight years, Power Smash 2, aka - Virtua Tennis 2 (Europe), aka – Tennis 2k2 (North America) came to the Dreamcast in 2001, and at the time it was a fantastic looking title. Unfortunately, Dreamcasters, that was now 17 years ago, and while we all might try to block out the cesspit that is present-day gaming where we can,  visuals have surprisingly moved on somewhat in the past two decades. Obviously, the visuals are now somewhat basic with the tennis players rocking hilariously angled polygonal clothing, and featuring a kind of deadpan expression which gives certain scenes more of a horror game vibe than a tennis one. However, as we all know, playing Dreamcast isn’t about visuals, it’s about searching out the best, intuitive and most enjoyable arcade experiences on any console. Sprinkled with a little nostalgia.

The JP/EU release had a more arcade presentation than the Sega Sports US release

With its colourful graphics, and fast action Power Smash 2 is very much an arcade game, but there is an aspect of realism and professional which sets it apart from other Sega sports titles such as Virtua Striker and (Virtua) Athlete 2k. The presentation and menus are a big step up and you can pick from 16 real-life (none of that Ryan Greggs malarkey here) tennis superstars from the 2000s, although hilariously the Williams sisters are still kicking about, and each player is strong in one particular area, be it serving, running, backhands or forehands, making them more effective against some competitors than others. This game was also one of the first sports titles to fly the flag of political correctness by including a full line-up of female stars to bounce along with the menfolk. Overall a big step up from the first game.

Pat Rafter complete with hipster beard and man-bun back when it was the greasy chipmunk! 

The gameplay is also much improved and a lot faster than the original Power Smash game and players you control as well as the Ai are noticeably zippier in getting across the court. There is also less diving around that seemed to occur in the first game, and the serves seem that little bit subtler with the slightest touch on the directional pad having a big impact on the placement of a shot; it certainly feels much more polished.

Just like your wife might say to you if you ever actually had met a girl

In-fact, the Dreamcast's (admittedly cumbersome) controller really does a great job of handling the controls of the game. It's simple stuff, one button can perform a variety of different shots such as back spins, top spins and lobs, and using the analogue stick and the buttons you are able to perform a large variety of different shots and spins on the ball. This game adds a new finesse shot to the series, and you can even use the Y button to switch to a kind of first-person view, but for most the game your thumb will be hovering over the A button. The controls work great and it’s just one of those games that just ‘feels right’ and were the controls do strangely make feel akin to performing the real-life movements.

Bring your opponent close to the net, then get the chip

A good job it is too, as there’s a few modes to  get stuck into, such as the tournament mode (basically an arcade mode), exhibition mode, and even a World Tour mode. Here you create your own player, practise your ahem strokes, learn some new tennis skills, by playing some off-beat mini-games, and for the materialistic types, you can even buy new rackets, clothes and even your own court! 

Multiplayer is where the game excels and 4 people can jump in

One thing to point out is at later levels the AI can be quite challenging, and at worst damn annoying. It’s easy going through the first couple of tournaments, but once you are in the semi-final or final match-up the computer will suddenly develop telepathic ability to know exactly where you're shot is going before you even hit it, so you really need to dig deep to get those trophies. This is something though, modern games like Fifa still haven’t managed to overcome though so it’s not a game breaker, and you’ll just have to go out and invite some (pretend) friends over because that's were the real fun of a title like this is - local multiplayer.

This game has one missing ingredient - Anna Kournikova

It occurred to me when playing the game for this review that there is something so simple, about the game of tennis that lends itself to the video game genre. We all know with Pong this is the sport that basically kicked off the video game industry, and despite all the bells and whistles Power Smash 2 keeps that same simple format, and controls so well that even your missus can probably give it a bash and have a bit of fun -it definitely helps when the controls are as silky-smooth as they are here.

I think in all honesty, you’d be hard pressed in this enlightened modern age of 2018 to find an easier Dreamcast title to pick up and play than Power Smash 2. It’s easy to dip in and out, it plays great, you can fire it up and complete an exhibition match in less time than it will take a modern game to “synchronize settings”, and with 2 or 4 players is an ideal party game for sport and non-sporty friends alike. Another ace in the Dreamcast line-up!