You probably didn't even notice, but Virtua Tennis 3 is out now in arcades. It's okay, you weren't to know. Chances are the arcade nearest you is crammed full of one-armed bandits and blue-rinse bats, with only a cursory nod in gaming's general direction in the form of one of those Dance Dance Revolution clones tucked away in the back, complete with a pair of Kappa Slappers making complete fools of themselves.
If you are lucky enough to have an arcade which does get some of the latest releases in from time to time, get yourself down there and feed a couple of quid into the Virtua Tennis 3 cabinet for a preview of what you can expect to play on PS3 next Spring. And if you don't fancy inhaling a lungful of stale second-hand fag smoke, well, fair enough. We'll just tell you instead that none of the series' classic magic has been lost, and it looks stunning.
Virtua Tennis has never been about fingering fancy button combos to play like Roger Federer. There are a whole two buttons to master - slice and top spin, while pressing the two together makes your player perform a lob shot. That's it, nice and simple. Your powers of timing and anticipation are what decides whether you dominate the courts or not. Outwardly simplistic it may be, but that belies the incredible subtlety woven through the game.
The sheer grunt of PS3 will of course allow a huge graphical leap in the players' looks and the crowd animations. Gone are the post-car crash reconstructed mugs of old and in come sweaty, gurning faces not all that far removed from what you saw on telly at Wimbledon, and they play in front of boisterous fans which really lend the game an electric atmosphere. The term 'arcade-perfect' just doesn't cut it any more. Playing in high-definition on PS3, this game promises to look better than any arcade version possibly could.
Much like the Pro Evolution Soccer games, Virtua Tennis 3 is a prime example of how to carry a highly regarded series onwards without cocking it up. The PS3 version will be more of the same, but ultra-refined. Ultimately, it's a game that demands to be played. No amount of waffling in the world on our part will ever properly express how ace it is to play.