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A.P.I Review: V-BALL
Developer: American Technos OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Funsoft 1-2 Player
Game Type: Volley Ball Memory Card
Review Date: July 1998 Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

In the few short years since the Playstation was unleashed on an unsuspecting
public, a game has been released covering just about every conceivable sport, 
with the possible exception of fox hunting, croquet and Beach Volleyball. 

The list of three missing sports has just become two (and my guess is the 
other two aren't far behind) with the release of V-Ball, a beach volleyball 
game which allows you to replay that volleyball scene from Top Gun over and 
over and over again.

It is quite obvious that the developers of V-Ball had two clear choices.  
Make a game that was a serious simulation of beach volleyball with teams 
that reflected the best in the world, big name sponsors, and realistic 
physics in order to create the most accurate simulation known to man.  
Or forget all that rubbish and make a game fun by including weird teams, 
crazy power-ups, head splitting special moves, easy but fun gameplay and 
keep their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks at all times. 

I think, luckily for us, they chose the second one.


Well, it could be called a Sports Simulation but it seems to be only very 
loosely based on the game of beach volleyball, so lets just call it a sports 
game and leave it at that.


From the very beginning, this game oozes cheapness. I bet you didn't expect 
that, but it's true. The lack of any sort of intro and the very cheap picture 
of a bikini clad beach girl speak volumes about the lack of thought that has 
been put into the opening presentation of this game.  Even the menu system 
looks cheesy and reminds me very much of what you would expect from a Vic 20, 
not a Playstation game. 

Fortunately, if you stick around long enough to get to the actual game you 
will be treated some very fast 3D polygon-based action.  As you would expect, 
the majority of the game is spent on a beach volleyball court, with four 
players, a net and a ball. 

There are a wide variety of courts on which you can play with interesting and 
detailed backgrounds, ranging from a Japanese style garden, to the more 
traditional beach scene. The colorful and detailed players move realistically 
and very quickly.  When you think that the number of polygons being thrown 
around the screen at once probably equates to a 4 player game of Tekken 
(we wish!), the speed of the gameplay is quite impressive.

Finally, the ball.  Well, it's round, comes in a choice of six outrageous 
colors and it bounces.  So what did you expect?  A Polymorphic super being 
with a mind of its’ own that transforms into a gargantuan beast and devours 
all the players and assembled crowd?  Alas, not this time, I think they're 
saving that for the sequel, ‘V-Ball – Return of the Ball’

Sounds and Effects

First impressions really last when it comes to games, and my first impression 
of the in-game music for V-Ball is that some guy with a synthesizer in his 
garage got bored one night and decided to record some of his greatest 'hits'. 
 Again, this isn't really a bad thing.  It's a little cheesy but it suits the 
game and the pumping tunes always manage to keep up with the pace of the 
on-court action. 

The effects within the game comprise of the usual grunts and derogatory 
comments you would expect during a beach volleyball game.  The addition of an 
annoying (but again, appropriate) commentator helps the mood of the game with 
his ‘Start the game’, ‘Oh No’, ‘oooooh’ and ‘ouch’s' in appropriate places.


It would be a real shame if gamers are turned off by the poor opening screens 
and cheap sounds because playability is where V-Ball scores the big points.  
After all it takes so little effort and time to discover this fact.  

To begin with you have two options, you can play a tournament or free play 
style.  In a tournament game you get choose your team and proceed through 
a series of matches, accumulating money for stylish play and winning matches.  
In free play mode you simple pick a team and jump right in and play against 
a friend or a CPU controlled team.  

You get to choose from nine standard teams plus a mystery team that isn't 
selectable until you win a tournament or two.  Each of the teams have a 
distinctive appearance and playing style.  For instance ‘The Ninjas’ play 
volleyball oriental style with lots of backflipping and jumping around.  
‘The Soldiers’ play like any good mercenary would. Other teams are ‘The Tall’, 
‘The Actors’, ‘The Gals’, ‘The Soccers’, The Kung Foos’ and ‘The Sexies’, 
all looking and playing as their names would suggest. 

Each player in your team has a set of attributes that effect how they play 
with Hit Points and Specials being the most important.  Hit points determine 
how often your player can take a bad hit (from the ball) before becoming too 
exhausted to play on.  The oppositions skills and use of these special moves 
will effect how quickly your teams hit points are used up. 

Luckily, in each match you have a chance to take a limited number of ‘time 
outs’ which allows your players to recuperate and recover some much needed hit 
points.  In tournament mode money is awarded for excellent play (using special 
moves and being very lucky) and for winning matches.  As your money accumulates 
you get the chance to spend it on a variety of items that you can use to 
improve your overall performance in the matches that follow. 

The items you can collect range from simple energy drinks that give you quick 
hit point recovery to re-enforced underwear that makes you hit harder while 
magical rings can also be purchased which increase your power and jumping 

Each game and tournament can be customized from the options screen.  Sound 
and effect levels are adjustable while you can also vary the number of points 
and games required to win a match.  The scoring system can also be changed so 
that you can win directly from a serve.

Overall, V-Ball is great fun to play.  It is very lucky that the developers 
opted for a non-serious simulation style of gameplay, since I figure that a 
serious sim of beach volleyball could be a little... dare I say dull.   As it 
stands V-Ball is a cross between two genres.  It's not strictly a sports game 
because of the influences it obviously draws from fighting games with the hit 
points, special moves, the damage and eventual exhaustion of players.  In fact, 
take away the net and ball and you've got a pretty good Beat-em-up.

Value for Money

There are two basic modes of play in V-Ball, Tournament and Free play.  
A tournament allows you to enter a competition with an objective to beat 
all the other teams, earn lots of money to buy cool equipment and be named 
the team with the most underwear.  The free play mode allows you to simply 
pick a team and get straight into the game without the burden of having to 
battle your way through a structured ladder system. 

In a way these two modes resemble a fighting game in style and structure.  
With that in mind, the longevity of V-Ball is determined by its appeal as a 
sporting and fighting game rolled into one package.   If you're a beach 
volleyball fan then this game will probably not appeal since it is so far 
removed from reality that any lasting appeal will be lost. If you're a 
fighting game fan you're not likely to get into it either because you never 
actually get to hit anyone.  However, if you're happily sitting on the fence, 
a sports fan who likes a little violence, then V-Ball may be just the game 
for you.
GRAPHICS: 15/20 What’s an opinion worth?

Personally I enjoyed V-Ball. I like how it doesn't try and simulate volleyball too closely, I love the bright colors, the movement and the game characters. I also like fast cars (where did that come from?).

As with most games the mileage may vary but I encourage everybody to look beyond the cheap graphics, cheesy Vic20 menu screens and lame music and discover the game that is hiding below all these layers of rubbish.

V-Ball can be a lot of fun if you're willing to allow it the time to shine, and lets face it, there isn't really a lot of competition about in this genre.
SOUND: 4/10
VALUE: 16/20


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