If only my players were that enthusiastic.
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: 03/29/87 – (JP), 08/87 – (US), 1987 – (EU)
Allow me to paint a simplistic picture, one that you’re probably all familiar with: volleyball, like tennis, is a sport that consists of hitting a ball over a net. With tennis, you have either one-on-one or two-versus-two, and you play with tennis balls and rackets. In volleyball (or at least in Great Volleyball), teams consist of six people bouncing a large-ish white ball back and forth with their hands or head. There are no plays like in football, no deep co-ordination between teammates like in basketball or soccer. Strategies, yes, but nothing too head-scratching. And no hating, volleyball lovers. I write all of this as a fan of both volleyball and tennis. But I need to point out the relative simplicity of volleyball compared to other sports in order to comment on the needless complexity of Sega’s Great Volleyball.
This match is for all the missiles.
Indeed if Sega’s tribute to this sandy sport has taught me anything, it’s that volleyball is more complicated than just some bronzed half-naked people punting a ball over a net. There is lingo you must learn before you play: sets, delayed attacks, dummy attacks, dinking. The game manual gives you the straight skinny. Study it, and you’ll at least have a grasp of what the game’s trying to get you to do. But even with the manual guiding you, pulling off a move like a dummy attack is incredibly difficult. Heck, trying to hit the volleyball back to the opposing side is incredibly difficult, because the controls aren’t intuitive in the slightest.
Forget about the advanced stuff, the dinking, the dummies, the delays. What if you just want to spike the ball? Ostensibly, you hit Button II, but only after another player hits the ball high into the air. You then position yourself directly under the ball’s shadow, then you hit Button II. I never got the hang of it and not for lack of trying. The best I could do was to hit the ball among my teammates with Button I, occasionally knocking it over the net. The players don’t naturally gravitate towards the ball, so you have to guide them manually – which is fine, except when you think the players are going to hit it and they don’t because they don’t align exactly underneath the ball’s shadow. In the matches I played, the computer-controlled teams knew exactly what they were doing, they saw our weak points and took advantage of them. Let’s just say… we got served.
And this match is for all the fireworks in Asia.
If you’re committed to the volleyball cause, there’s a lot to appreciate here. Eight teams, tournament matches, two-player competitive play, cute characters from a variety of diverse countries (hello, USSR!), and most of all, an incredible devotion to the purity of volleyball. Admit it, you’d never heard of dinking before this review! Unfortunately, Great Volleyball is a complex six-button volleyball sim shoved down into two buttons and a D-pad. As per usual, Sega’s ambition far exceeds their console’s limited abilities. I don’t mind learning more about the intricacies of volleyball, but it would be nice if Great Volleyball allowed for more flexible play. Basically, if your virtual volleyball game is harder to learn/play than real volleyball, perhaps it’s time to go back to the beach for additional inspiration.