Volleyball
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    FDS
    • JP 07/21/1986
    Arcade
    • US 1986
    NES
    • US March 1987
    • UK 11/15/1987
Score: 55%

This review was published on 11/29/2016.

Volleyball is a sports video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Famicom Disk System, and arcades. It was initially released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan on July 21, 1986. After that, the NES version was released in North America in March 1987 and Europe on November 15, 1987. As for the arcade version, it was called Vs. Volleyball and came out sometime in 1986. This is part of Nintendo's "Sports Series," which were a series of sports games created by Nintendo mostly for the NES in the late 1980s. Nintendo's Sports Series contains games for a wide range of sports, most of which were named after the sport itself, such as Golf, Tennis, Soccer, and Baseball. Arguably the best of these are Golf and Tennis, both of which likely served as the inspiration to Mario Golf and Mario Tennis many years later. Unfortunately, most of the other games within Nintendo's Sports Series aren't very good, and Volleyball is one of the lesser good ones.

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Before we talk about the actual game, I'll explain the basic rules of the sport it's based on. If you already are an expert on the topic of volleyball, then feel free to skip this paragraph. In the real life volleyball sport, two teams comprised of six people each hit a ball back and forth usually using their hands or arms, though other parts of the body will do, too. Similar to tennis, there is a net dividing both sides of the court and both teams. In order for a team to score a point, they must make the ball land on the ground on the opposing team's side of the court. A point is also awarded to the opposing team if the team that has the ball commits a fault, which is a blunder that includes stuff like the ball making contact with the net. Scoring differs between locations, but in this game, whoever reaches 15 points first and is at least leading by a two point margin wins the set, and the sets are best-of-five. There are more rules, but these are the essentials.

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Like tennis, one of the teams must first serve the ball in order to begin each game. Unlike tennis, the last winner generally serves the ball. This is done by pressing the A button once to toss the ball up into the air, and when it comes back down, you press the A button again to hit the ball forward into the opposing team's side of the court. During this, you can also hold a direction on the d-pad to change the direction of the serve, which also works when you're just hitting the ball around normally. Generally, the A button is used to serve, receive, and set the ball, whereas the B button is used for low receives, quick sets, and to block and spike the ball. When spiking the ball, you'll do different types of spikes depending on which direction is held on the d-pad, like a strong spike or a feint. Also, when the ball isn't near your side of the court, holding down the A button will bring the three front players together. If this sounds complicated, then brace yourself, because it only gets worse.

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This is where things get complicated. You control all six players on your team, but not at the same time. Which players you're currently controlling depends on various factors, like the location of the ball. Typically, you'll take control of the players nearest to the ball, though sometimes you'll control players based on how the ball is passed. It's hard to tell who you're actually controlling, as there's no visual indicator and your control is constantly shifting between players. While you'll sometimes control one player at a time, you'll often be controlling a few at once. This is rather disorienting, because they all move at the same time, and that doesn't allow for much precision. For the most part, you don't have control over who you're controlling. This is frustrating, because sometimes the ball will be hit towards a player that isn't in the right position, and by the time the game lets you control that player, it'll already be too late.

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Prior to starting a game, you can pick things like the teams and whether you'd like to play in the men's or women's leagues. Aside from the character sprites looking different, the ball travels faster in the men's league. As for the teams, each one is from a different country, such as the USA, Russia, China, Cuba, Japan, Brazil, Korea, and Tunisia. The character sprites for all teams are the same aside from their colors, though there's a difference in performance between teams when playing against the computer. Some teams are better than others, and according to the instruction manual, their performance is based on the real life results of the World Cup in 1981 and 1985. If you're so inclined, you could play this game with another human being taking control of the opposing team. You probably wouldn't want to do that, considering how shoddy the game is, but it's certainly more fun than playing against the computer.

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A training mode is available to help you get acquainted with the game. There are a couple differences between this and the regular mode. For starters, you can't pick the teams, you're always playing in the women's league, and the opposing team is always controlled by the computer. Secondly, the ball moves slower, giving you more time to react to each shot. Thirdly, the color of every player's uniform will change to reflect who's currently controllable. This helps out big time, as it erases some of the ambiguity when controlling players. It's a wonder why this helpful feature doesn't exist in the standard mode of play, considering this is one of the bigger problems the game has going for it. Other than those things, the training mode is more or less the same as the regular mode.

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The controls are simply too cumbersome for this game to be enjoyable. Even when you master them, the lack of precision is irritating. You'll also have to study the manual extensively, as the game is deceptively complex. It's just not worth the trouble. None of the games in the NES Sports Series are impressive by today's standards, but Volleyball is still one of the worst games in the series. Nintendo made plenty of classics in the 1980s, like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid, but this game isn't one among them. You can't win them all, I suppose. If you want a good volleyball game for the NES, then consider trying Super Spike V'Ball instead.

Word Count: 1,129

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