Mario Sunshine isn’t the only game you can fun in the sun with. Chicks in bikinis, and you get to play with Ulala? Do I need to say more?
Ok, I’ll get this out of the way right away. I love women. I also love summer. One of the main reasons why I love summer? Women in the summer. I love video games. Put this all together, and Beach Spikers is a game that should be right up my alley right? Well at E3 I thought it was ok, but for some reason I couldn’t get the controls down, and my game time was diverted to other games in Sega’s booth. I’ve gotten some time to sit down with the final version of Beach Spikers and have to say I’m very happily surprised.
The controls are as easy as they come, but even better, there’s a tutorial to teach you all the moves. With a little guesswork, I came to the conclusion that these are the controls.
A - Overhand serve
B - Underhand serve
A+B – Powerful serve (if hit when power meter is full)
A – bump
B – dig
A+B – Powerful bump
A or B
A+B – Fake toss
A : Regular Spike
B : Lob Spike
A+B: Powerful Spike (if hit when power meter is full)
When you are serving or spiking there’s a power meter that is on the left side of the screen. The meter actually represents the player’s arm movement. Hit the buttons when the meter is full and you get a more powerful shot. For directional movement, you obviously don’t want it full all the time. When a ball is served to you, a red target appears. You want to move your player into as close to the center as possible. The closer you get to the circle, the more accurate your bump or set is. With a more accurate bump or set you get a larger power meter. It sounds difficult, but it really isn’t.
Your main gameplay options are Arcade mode (quick tournament), World Tour (longer tournament with different locations and sponsors), and vs. Mode (grab your buddies and play volleyball and all kinds of mini games), and Tutorial (training).
If you decide to play Arcade, the mode starts you at the quarterfinals of a tournament, and the default settings are starting the game at a 10-10 tie on arcade mode. If you’re a volleyball purist (and you know that you are), you’ll want to change the settings to something more realistic. You can pick your favorite country, or use your created team (more later on that). If you’ve got only a few minutes you can plow right through this quick tourney.
World Tour mode is very different than I expected it would be. You create a team, and train a partner and play through tournaments with them. You cannot actually play as them, but you play with them as your partner. The create-a-player option isn’t all that detailed, but you can choose different hair, and swimsuit combinations. When the tournament begins, your partner is absolutely stupid, and worthless. Winning games is extremely difficult. During matches there are times when you can scold or praise your partner. Somehow this makes them better players, but I’m not quite sure. I’m still trying to figure this out. Depending on how well you do in matches, you can build up your player’s attributes with experience-type points. It’s a weird pseudo-sports RPG-type thing that is growing on me.
Vs. Mode is made up of Beach Spikers, Beach Flags, Beach Countdown, and Beach P.K. Beach Spikers mode is the basic multiplayer mode that’s totally configurable. Beach Flags is an actual running race where you race against other players by button mashing A to be the first to the flag. Beach Countdown is volleyball with a ticking bomb. Beach P.K. is like the training mode, where you try to hit shots into a certain area of the court, and not get blocked by your opponent. I haven’t gotten a chance to play multiplayer yet, but with my homemade team these levels are good fun. Seeing the girls go flying after a bomb explodes is an absolute riot. I smell another party game.
There are also plenty of things to unlock in the game. You can get new hair styles, new suits, and secret Sega characters. How about playing in Virtua Cop swimsuits, or even playing as Ulala from Space Channel 5, Nei from Phantasy Star 2, or Honey from Fighting Vipers? With codes you can! It’s kind of crazy bouncing (pun intended) around with Ulala. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell you can only use these players as a made up team, which limits you to controlling only one player. I’m not sure if this works yet in multiplayer. Either way, it’s a cool addition to the game. Who knows what else Sega’s keeping secret in here. Could Sonic be in the game?
If you’ve played a 2-on-2 team sports game like Virtua Tennis, Mario Tennis, or something like that, Beach Spikers will remind you of those games. The main difference between Arcade and World Tour is how many players you can control. Personally I like having control over both players. I cannot wait to play this in multiplayer. I can just imagine the insanity. But even so, single-player wise, it’s a lot of fun.
Graphically I think the game is pretty solid for an arcade title. The women look good, but don’t vary too much outside of skin tone, hair and swimsuit color. No, they’re not as buxom as the ladies of Dead or Alive Volleyball, but they’re not bad to look at either. Due to the small size of the Volleyball arenas, the framerate is quick and constant. That’s not to say the arenas aren’t detailed. Sponsors logo’s and inflatable advertisements are scattered everywhere, and the crowd (because it’s smaller) actually looks good. When you start a game the sand is smooth, but through out the game footprints stay in the sand. I’ve seen some weird pixelization happening in spraying sand sometimes, but overall, Beach Spikers is a good looking game.
Sound-wise I think Beach Spikers is terrible. The music is great in the opening cinema, but it all goes downhill after that. Why Sega can’t borrow some of the people that did the music for Jet Set Radio Future is beyond me. Sure, licensing costs more, but it would sound a lot better than this outdated porn music. The main voice announcer is horrid. It’s like he just stepped out of the House of the Dead. The screams and yells from the players are great, but that’s really about it.
Beach Spikers doesn’t seem like much at first, but it’s highly addicting. It’s a very easy title to pick up and play, but it will take some time to really master. There’s not that much Japanese in the import version, but in World Tour mode, the menus for using experience points, and what you tell your character is in Japanese. With a quick look on the Internet for translations, it’s pretty easy to understand. But don’t worry, Beach Spikers is due to release in the states in just a few weeks. Keep an eye out for this one, because in my opinion, Beach Spikers is Sega’s next GameCube arcade hit.