PUBLISHER/DEVELOPER: Video System
RELEASE DATE: 02/01/1991 – (JP), 1991 – (US)
ALSO ON: Arcade (1989), PlayStation 2 (10/27/2005 – JP Only), TurboGrafx-16 (1990)
There is a place in this world for silly retro volleyball games. Kings of the Beach. Super Spike V-Ball. Maybe even Venice Beach Volleyball if you’re feeling nasty (and the aforementioned better NES games aren’t around). But serious indoor volleyball where the players wear real uniforms and they use terms like “dinking”? I’ll pass. Volleyball for the NES and Great Volleyball for the Master System proved to me that volleyball sims couldn’t be done on older consoles. Super Volleyball – the first and, if I’m not mistaken, only volleyball game for the Genesis – also opts for the serious route. The game is slightly more competent than its 8-bit brethren, but unless you love the sport, there’s little to dink home about here.
Pick from one of eight internationally flavored teams (go Holland!), rearrange your roster if you feel like, and get on the court. Play either a single game or take on the seven other teams, one after the other, in the appropriately named World League.
Each team supposedly consists of six players, with two additional players ready to rotate in when needed. One player in the middle, three in the front, and the server in the rear. If my addition skills haven’t failed me, that’s only five people on screen at one time. So where’s the sixth man? I’m not sure, and it didn’t matter. After you serve, your control is limited to the man in the middle and the three front court players. You’ll be able to spike or lob with your men on the frontlines, but only if the ball lands near them. I could never manually switch between players, and I’m not sure if the game allows you to. Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments.
Pulling off basic moves like serving and spiking are easy enough, and they’ll get you through a game against easier countries like China. Once you move on to other more volleyball-versed countries, you’ll want to bust out fake spikes, surprise spikes and other moves to take the other teams off guard. The controls aren’t particularly intuitive, but using this GameFAQs cheat sheet, I was able to hold my own.
Like so many Genesis games, Super Volleyball began its life in the arcade. Graphically, the Genesis port stands up next to the arcade version, but there are some additional technical flourishes in the arcade – more fluid animation, player responses to wins/losses – that the Genesis port lacks. I wasn’t able to get the arcade version up and running on MAME, but I’d be shocked if the two versions played differently.
Super Volleyball isn’t a poorly made game. In fact, it’s the most competent volleyball sim I’ve ever played for an older console. It’s just… boring. Sets are the same basic back-and-forth, hit, lob, serve, spike. Some teams (looking at you, China) fell for the same moves over and over. In the moment, I was grateful for their inability to know what I was going to do next. As the sets continued, however, I just stopped caring. If you enjoy retro volleyball of any kind, Super Volleyball might just dink you where it counts. For the rest of us, there’s always Beach Spikers.