Tuesday 30 August 2016

Volleyball (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1, Pax Softnica
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1987

Volleyball is a Black Box sports game that was originally released on the Famicom Disk System in 1986.

It supports 1-2 players (competitively) and there's seven national teams to choose from. There's no difficulty levels as such, but teams do have strengths and weaknesses. The action is six-on-six and the first team to score 15 points wins the game in a best-of-five. On Offense you're allowed three hits to get the ball back over the net; after receiving the ball you can then set it high or low, before attempting to leap and spike it to your opponents' side. If you served as the rally started you earn a point; if not, no points are awarded but you gain serve advantage. Meanwhile, on Defense, you can jump to block shots from your opponent by leaping at the net. The controls are fiddly and unintuitive so for the first few games you'll likely be thinking more about which button to press rather than reacting. Spikes can be problematic to pull off as the ball's apex is much higher than the camera angle allows; as a result, you'll need to rely on some guesswork to time your jumps and spikes. When you do get the hang of things the game is mildly entertaining, especially as you learn to set up and spike with precision. It's satisfying when you do manage to whack the ball over the net while knocking an opponent down! The computer doesn't always select the best team-mate though, and there's times that you'll find yourself wrestling with the controls due to your intended player moving away from the ball. Sadly, you can't control the game length and only single matches are available (no tournament mode whatsoever). Two-player mode is fun though and it's amusing to line up for a spike only to cheekily attempt a Drop Shot!

Volleyball is a ho-hum sports title when played alone but it does shine brighter in competitive, multiplayer mode. It has a few niggly issues that will likely annoy you, but for such an early NES title it does have a decent shot selection and the developers clearly put some effort into making this more than just a generic sports game.
Random trivia: The game was re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014.

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