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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: Sports
PLAYERS:   1-4
August 14, 2002
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on April 02, 2003

Full Review: The breast volleyball game around. I mean best. Yeah.

While all the attention has been focused on Tecmo's Xbox volleyball title, Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball (known in many circles as Nerdy Teenager Barbie Doll Wank-fest 2003), the company that pretty much defines underrated, Sega, along with developer Sega-AM2, quietly put out a beach volleyball game of their own for the Nintendo GameCube, titled Beach Spikers. Unlike Tecmo's volleyball game, which barely has any recognizable volleyball action (unless you count wildly jiggling mammaries as volleyball action), Beach Spikers carefully blends in similar (albeit slightly more realistic) female eye candy with a solid, addictive, and enjoyable volleyball engine that manages to be not only an awesome 4 player multiplayer game (something DOA XBV cannot boast), but an enjoyable single player title - as long as you don't mind doing some babysitting, anyway. Plus, given that the game has fallen to as low as $10 these days, Cube owners should leap all over one of Sega's better arcade-style sports games in a long while.

Before getting too far into this, note that Beach Spikers contains zero male players - the only contestants are of the female variety. Given that the target audience is men (as pigly as we just might be, oink oink), mixing in shaved chest male players wouldn't exactly appeal to that audience (however, mentioning it in wrestling games will, indeed, make Kurt Angle cry). But these aren't any ordinary girls, as they'd probably kick all of our asses.

For single players, Beach Spikers contains 3 modes of play - a standard Arcade mode, the World Tour, and a Training section. Training is what it says, it teaches you the basics of playing the game (not that it's hard to learn or anything). The Arcade mode is a simple tournament style ladder where you pick one of a handful of different countries, and play on to the championship. As you might expect, this mode is shallow and probably will only be played once or twice, given that it's the same old thing just with different teams.

Where it's at for a solo player though, is the World Tour. In this, you create 2 different players, customized to look however you like (yes, DOA XBV's Barbie elements are here), and then take them through full volleyball seasons. Thankfully, it does include multiple seasons, as it would be an utter waste of time otherwise. See, unlike Arcade mode, where you control both of your team players, you only get to control one team member, and the other is controlled by AI. And at first, the AI is, well, not so hot. Actually, it reminds me of one of those girls in gym class who wouldn't hit the ball hard because they were afraid they'd break a nail or something (oh no, my perfume rubbed off on the ball!). Because at first, your teammate is very low on skills and is pretty much dead weight. Thus, you'll be losing early and often at the beginning.

Thankfully, you can do something about it, depending on how you do. After each 10 points are scored (remember, you play to 15 in volleyball), you get a breather with your partner, and it's there when you can improve your teamwork rating. If your partner has been playing well, you can give them praise. If they're doing okay (or not as good), you can just encourage them. If she is playing like a 500 lb baboon with walleye vision, reprimanding her is in order. It depends though, as sometimes they can get irritated at you and your teamwork rating will go down instead of up (for instance, if they've been playing bad and you decide to praise, she'll blow you off and get upset. High maintenance, you know).

This, along with points awarded automatically after each match, are used to build up your teammate. After a while, your teammate will transform, seemingly overnight, into that tough volleyball player in high school who's more likely to kill you with the ball instead of run from it (and probably grew up into a fine dominatrix). Once that happens, you actually have a fighting chance, so perseverance gets you far in winning the tour championship. It's actually pretty fun to see your team go from the Devil Rays to the Diamondbacks as the team becomes a team and not a 2 on 1, with some baggage keeping things supposedly even.

Finally, the multiplayer modes are quite inventive and unique for a volleyball game. Besides a basic 2 on 2 volleyball match, Beach Spikers also has minigames such as a capture-the-flag mode (of sorts), a bomb rally mode (complete with a bomb), and a "Beach P.K." mode that is based around getting the ball to a goal. These play modes are almost on the level of the wacky Virtua Tennis, though not quite. With 4 players, it becomes a wild party game.

Like most of Sega's arcade sports titles, Beach Spikers has a huge emphasis on simple play mechanics. Since volleyball isn't exactly a complicated sport as it is, Beach Spikers is a perfect arcade-style game that is still deep and addictive to boot. Also, since it's only 2 players per team, there isn't a whole lot of management to be had, just ball hitting. Anyway, BS is just a 1 or 2 button game, with some small variations in the ball striking. There's 3 different kinds of serves - your basic overhand serve, your basic underhand serve, and the almost violent jumping overhand serve. Outside of that, the gameplay consists of keeping the ball in play, and setting it up for a point-earning spike - or blocking that spike and getting the point for yourself or the opponent. Some could discount this simple gameplay as shallow, but in actuality it's old-school arcade action at its best - this game could be on the NES and still play just as well, only minus the whole good graphics thing. Keeping it this simple, especially for a fast-paced game such as this, only adds to the wide appeal this game can reach.

Along with this simple, yet addictive gameplay engine, goes some rather challenging computer opponents in single player matches. The AI is tough - but not too cheap, just challenging. What's neat is not all the teams are really tough - some are easier than others, and not too aggressive. The higher level teams (they seem to be Brazil and Cuba...didn't know those were the volleyball capitals of the world) are much more aggressive and it takes quick reflexes and some fast-thinking strategy to beat them. Yes, there's definitely some twitch elements here, and this is always, always a good thing.

Admittedly, the replay of the game is somewhat artificially implemented, given the RPG style building of your teammate in World Tour. On the flipside, you can use your fully-tuned World Tour team in the arcade mode as well, along with multiplayer, so it's worth doing in that case. While the multiplayer is definitely the best in-terms of replay, the solo modes are at least decent for a couple weeks, and the pick up and play mechanics of the game means you can pick it up months from now and still be fresh in your mind.

Not surprisingly, Beach Spikers does the GameCube proud graphically, with well-detailed arenas and characters. Naturally, the girls of Beach Spikers are highly tuned, with realistic motions and actions (and none of the bouncing boobies syndrome, they're real and they're spectacular!), though their actions also tend to lead belief that they're a bit...umm...closer than teammates, if you will.

The arenas are not huge, but are added with effects depending on what court you're on. Each has their own real sponsor, like Pringles, Coca-Cola, Swatch, Nissan, and of course, Nintendo (complete with GameCube balloons that are just a smidge bigger than an Xbox unit) and Sega. Each takes place at different times of day, and the lighting cast on each one is unique and nicely done. Also a cool touch is the sand on the ground, which realistically goes out of place and flies around as you play a match. It's the little things, you know.

Beach Spikers is not really loaded on audio effects, but it does a good job for what its worth. There's traditional Sega music playing during the game (it's Sega's mark on the industry, I tells ya), so expect cheesy rock riffs with your volleyball. It does fit in with the theme of the game, so it's certainly tolerable.

The sound effects consist of just a few things. First off, the game has more grunts and groans than a Monica Seles tennis match, or even an episode of WWE Raw. The main announcer voice, in pure Sega Engrish style, is un-intentionally amusing and wincefully annoying at the same time. In World Tour, your teammates converse when you're doing the motivating thing, but even though they are speaking English, it sounds like babbling & relies more on body language. Finally, the added effects like the sounds of the volleyball being whacked around and a cheering crowd are nothing to write home about, but still does its job of rounding out a good, but not outstanding, audio experience.

Bottom Line
With an utter lack of sports games, even the more obscure ones like volleyball, on the GameCube is quite disappointing, but Beach Spikers fills the void with entertaining arcade action that's not only addictive, but well-designed and simple, making it a game for anyone who wants to play it. Like Virtua Tennis, Beach Spikers will not only appeal to volleyball fans, but also gamers who just want a fun game to play, either by themselves or with a group of friends. That, and the low price makes this one a keeper.

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