Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Super Volleyball

Video System / NEC

Super Volleyball had always seemed like a strange game to me. I mean, in screen caps it looked like a volleyball game that had all the players lined up on a single plane, with no lateral movement taking place whatsoever... but that'd be fucking ridiculous, I thought. There must be some trick at work, some mechanism that gives depth to the playfield, I figured. And I was interested in discovering just how the designers pulled this trick off, how this clever mechanism worked.

Well, there are no tricks or mechanisms here. This really is a single-plane 16-bit sports game. And why the hell any programmer ever thought that this would be a good idea for a volleyball sim is beyond me. The TurboGrafx-16 library is loaded with sports games that feature "innovative" concepts gone bad, but at least I could see how the folks who came up with those ideas thought they were on to something neat. Leading receivers with passes out in front is something every quarterback needs to do, so at least we can consider TV Sports Football's wonky directional passing system a representation of an admirable attempt at realism. Including set plays in TV Sports Basketball surely seemed like a way to get players to think strategically. Hit the Ice's hijinks were no doubt intended to provide wacky fun for all. But this straight-line crap in Super Volleyball makes no sense; in fact, it's the sort of cutting-corners move designers had to resort to when crafting sports titles for the 2600. I'd like to think my Turbo is capable of more than the 2600.

There's nothing catastrophically horrible about how Super Volleyball plays. It controls pretty well, actually. But its gameplay is ridiculously shallow thanks to the constrictive playfield, and since it has no personality, it gets boring extremely quickly.

No fancy extras here. Pre-game options are few; post-game statistical wrap-ups, uninteresting.

The versus screen is all dramatic. Just like Street Fighter II's.

You can do this high-flying stuff while serving, or you can just give the ball a little nudge over the net. It doesn't really matter against the computer, which allows very few aces.

Offense is all about timing your spikes so that the ball gets past the opposition's blockers. It's easy to do and not very exhilarating.

You can try these little "trick shots" when protocol calls for a set, but they don't often fool the computer.

Defense is all about positioning yourself for a bump while the other guys are setting up their attack. Determining the correct spot to occupy becomes a simple matter before long.

If you'd like to pretend there's more depth to the game than there really is, you can make mid-match substitutions. Of course, there isn't really any reason to take advantage of this "feature."

There isn't really any reason to play the game at all, actually. The ending certainly doesn't provide much incentive.

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