Review: Beach Spikers
Posted 19 Dec 2002 at 02:34 by Javid
Our good friends over at Sega deliver another exclusive title to the Cube on their behalf, and it looks mighty fine! Anyone who has played Virtua Tennis on the deceased Dreamcast will know that when Sega come forth with a virtua sports title, you'd better turn your head and get a piece of the action. All the quality seeming out from Virtua Tennis is converted to a Beach Volleyball extravaganza, so get your swim suits, and let's play ball!
Golden beaches, blazing sun and blinding glimmers and reflections glazing off the surrounding stadium are all present to feast your eyes on; very nice indeed. The sand itself has been constructed so its very formation is changed due to how much it has been trampled on, footprints and the like are embedded into it as a game progresses which makes everything that little more realistic, great attention to detail which is good to see.
Ok, it's been hard enough to write this much without mentioning those red hot tanned chicks so let's get to them! Stunning is the only word really, they look fantastic and their movement, running, jumping, smashing, diving etc is all very fluent which helps the game flow. All in all the game is a delight to watch, its colorful vibrant and very slick.
Very catchy background tunes keep the whole thing streaming through your mind even when you switch it off. Crowd interaction is encouraging as they cheer for your smashes and blocks, the commentary is also good for once as apposed to most commentary which leads you to want to tear your ears off and bury them under cushions. It can get slightly annoying after some repetition I have to say but its good non-the-less.
Extremely addictive and it takes fun to a whole new level! Fairly simple to get the hang of as you'd expect from the arcade-esque style of the game, nothing too complicated which makes for some exciting competitive rallies. If you're not familiar with the rules of volleyball it's simple; each side has a maximum of 3 touches between the 2 players and it usually results in the set up of a smash as the final touch. Working together is imperative to success as you chase and toss up the ball as best you can for your partner to deliver the scoring blow…or not.
It's been implemented well; no guessing where the ball is going to land as it indicates where its destined for so you can chase over and get as directly under it as possible, the better you do the better the toss up and also the more power your chum can unleash on it for the slam. Speaking of which, the toss up for the slam is where all the action comes about. There are many different variations you can do with the ball when set up close to the net, a small dink close to the net, a looping lob over an attempted block by the opposition or an old skool power smash, each of which can be aimed wherever you see fit. Now, in doing so you have to take into account where the opposing team are positioned and decide very quickly on the action in which you will take whilst keeping an eye and timing the power meter that charges up on the side of the screen mind. Time it badly and they will easily be able to build up a counter-attack which then puts you in the defending position; this is just as fun mind. Scampering about to position yourself for the block orto be in a position where their smash is reachable and keeping in mind where your partner is so you cover as much ground as possible is where you'll have to shine. You're helped by the fact that the general side they are targeting at is indicated else it would be almost impossible to salvage the point and you'll be relying on guessing but it isn't that much of a help it just gives you a slightly better chance of reaching the ball. The play continues back and forth and creates some incredible rallies; some lasting a tantalizingly long time which will certainly leave some sweat on your brow let me tell you! Its very intense and will leave you clinching the air in success of a win or screaming 'noo!' as you are unable to save a point; Great stuff and highly addictive.
The World Tour mode is where the main 1 player action takes place. A tour of 8 sponsored stages is where you and a new partner have to show your skills. You can edit how you and your partner look in terms of costume, sunglasses, skin color, body (hubbu hubba hehe) etc. From the off-set your partner will be an absolute travesty to the game, you'll have to build up her experience. At the end of each match, you earn so many points in which to offer her to improve her game over 7 key fields of play such as serve, power, response etc. It is vital to your success to make sure you keep her an all round good player. That's not all though, in order for her to be a good team mate you need to treat her right. At the interval of a match you can do one of three things with her, praise, encourage or reprimand. Depending on what you choose in light of how the game is going, the bond between you as a team will either grow or be slashed. Building up this percentage of team work is also very important to how well you will progress.
The points system that improves her game is great to play around with as it's entirely up to you what attributes you want her to be good at according to your style of play. If you like to do most of the attacking then you can make it so she is an excellent blocker, sharp as a knife in response and brilliant at tossing the ball to set you up. On the other hand you could go all out to make her a power smashing machine increasing her attack. It adds a whole new dimension to the game. You can't neglect the fields though, for example leave her response low and most often than not she will just stand there and let the ball hit her on the head, funny yes but not all that great in aiding you to success! The amount of points you can give her depends on how well your teamwork was in the previous game and if you win you obviously get awarded a few extra points.
Whilst this is great and innovative at first it's so annoying it's un-true in the early matches. It's almost impossible to win as your partner is just too damn rubbish!, she cant serve the ball in, she cant smash to save her life and nor can she even respond to where the ball is going let alone toss it up into a reasonable position. Likewise, towards the end of the World Tour it can be said to be all too easy as your partner becomes a beach volleyball machine and decreasing the amount of work you have to do thus lowering the fun factor. Its best half way through the tour where she still makes some mistakes and your contribution is more crucial, finally winning some matches is a great feeling after your dismal introduction to the tour!
Fairly fast paced, exciting action means Beach Spikers is a thrill to play; it's fluent and easy to get the hang of. It's also extremely addictive, game after game you'll want to face off again to prove your skills and to test out your improvements to your team mate. The Arcade mode offers a quick blast on your own where you can actually control both players. This puts a whole new angle on play, but it can be said to be more fun as you get to do everything yourself, though it is considerably tougher at first. Whilst a great game on your own in 1 player, this game really comes into its own when you call round a few mates. Four player is an absolute blast! ; Unmissable.
The functions of the buttons vary depending on the current stage in a point. It's split up into serving, receiving and attacking. Its nothing too tasking though so don't worry, it will soon be second nature and you won't even think about it after a few matches.
The World Tour is where you'll be spending most your time in 1 player. Its length will depend on how well you do in the tournaments, but it will only last you around 5 hours on average. That's not really the point though, the fact is this is a very addictive game and its gameplay is top class so you'll most likely want to play through it again, especially if you didn't manage to come first overall at the end, hehe. Challenging your chums to a match is where you'll enjoy the game most though as you'll get longer lasting rallies and more intense action. It's also a lot more personal where winning is the only option! That's all there is to it really, it's a sports game so there isn't a wealth of things to do, its how it does it. There is added incentive to play and win the arcade mode and the world tour as you'll be rewarded with special costumes and sunglasses for use in creating a new team; nothing that special, but it's something.
Virtua Tennis fans will feel right at home with Beach Spikers and new players will be blown way by its involving gameplay. The game is slightly lacking though on the 1 player side of things and has its down points in World Tour mode where it is just too frustrating to bear. Simple, effective and addictive gameplay make this a great title despite this though.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Slick and un-beatable gameplay as with Virtua Tennis, no-one could have done this better than Sega.
Annoying origins to World Tour
1 player is lacking somewhat