Virtua Tennis was an almost flawless video recreation of tennis. The graphics were superb, the animation was impeccable and the controls were so simple to grasp that even if you'd never played a game before in your life, you could be winning championships within 20 minutes of play. There were certain aspects of Virtua Tennis that were lacking however. There weren't that many play modes and the computer controlled opponents didn't have that many AI routines - so after a certain amount of time spent with the game, you could almost second guess where they would play the ball to, depending on their position on the court. Enter Virtua Tennis 2 - possibly the greatest sequel Sega have managed to produce. Looking at the other Dreamcast specific sequels, you could argue that most of them are merely updates as opposed to full-blown sequels (Crazy Taxi 2, Daytona 2001, Virtua Fighter 3 etc), but Virtua Tennis 2 bucks this trend.
Almost everything in VT2 is fresh and new. Even the chunky character models from the original have been done away with in favour of more streamlined, realistic players. There are new courts alongside the old favourites, new moves and more flexibility on the court. The best new feature though, has got to be the career mode. In it, you create a male and female tennis player and must guide each through a series of training games and tournaments in an attempt to become world no.1. This is no mean feat though - as you start the game ranked 300th and with the lowest possible stats. Through completing the mentioned mini games, you can increase your stats. Certain competitions can only be entered by each character (gender specific), or with a doubles partner with whom a contract must first be made through a tennis shop. Of course, these contracts cost money and only last for set periods - usually a couple of months, so you must enter singles tournaments and win matches to keep the cash rolling in. Currency can also be spent on new courts and better equipment - all of which improve your character's overall ability. The training games are all typically Sega in design and mostly consist of fun tasks - for example improving your serve sees you trying to knock prizes off a revolving conveyor belt; while stroke practice involves returning tennis balls fired at you by a big luminous tank whilst trying to stay out of a 'danger' zone at the front of the court. The training modes are not in the slightest bit realistic - but don't let them fool you - when you get into a proper match you'll realise that Virtua Tennis 2 is serious stuff. There are no power shots or fireballs here - just pure, unadulterated tennis simulation.
Virtua Tennis 2 may have very colourful graphics, but if you think you're in for a Mario Tennis style knock around - think again. The roots here are firmly planted in the realm of realism. The physics of the ball are totally believable and the ability of the players mirrors the ability to flex like a real human body. If a player can't reach a shot - even at full stretch - they'll miss it. It doesn't rebound from a magic invisible extension of their racquet. If you miss time a shot or volley too early you will come a cropper. It's all about timing, positioning and the ability to out-think your opponent. However due to the intuitive controls, Virtua Tennis 2 is not so based in reality that it becomes boring - far from it. The matches are exciting and it's always possible to come back from a huge deficit to tie a match simply because it is a very fair game. There is no computer cheating here. If you lose, it's usually because you made a mistake in the first place and left yourself open - such as trying to draw your opponent to play near to the net with a series of drop shots, trying to lob them and then realising that they are not close enough to the net...it just leads to a smash that will result in a lost point. So you have to play defensively and intelligently and take chances when they open up. It's such a brilliant system and works superbly.
The praise doesn't end with the gameplay either. I probably sound like a broken record harping on about how great this game is, but there isn't really any area where Vitua Tennis falls down. Multiplayer is matched only be Quake 3 Arena and the visual and aural aspects are flawless, with excellent sound effects and super detailed (albeit sometimes plagued by slight slowdown in cutscenes) graphics. There are 16 real life tennis starts to play as (from Henman and Rafter to the Williams sisters and Sanchez-Vicario, but alas no Sampras) and the other single player modes will keep you entertained for a while too (tournament and exhibition matches).
I would go as far as saying that Virtua Tennis 2 is probably the best tennis sim ever. Nothing else is as deep or as challenging or fun to play. There may be some that would argue that Smash Court or Mario tennis is the best tennis game ever devised, but a quick session on Virtua Tennis 2 will quickly make them see the error of their ways.