We try out the Japanese version of Sega-AM2's beach volleyball game.
We just received the Japanese version of Sega-AM2's first GameCube game, Beach Spikers, which originally appeared in the arcades as a Naomi 2 game. The game offers a basic assortment of modes, including an arcade mode in which you simply choose from one of the teams and play through a tournament. There's also a world tour mode that allows you to customize your team's appearance and distribute ability points into different categories. Additionally, Beach Spikers features a training mode if you want to familiarize yourself with the game before jumping into competition. But the versus mode is perhaps the most interesting and entertaining feature of the game, because it allows you to play three different minigames. The first is a race to capture flags placed on the opposite side of the court. Each of the four players begins with her head down in the sand, but when the green light is given, you have to tap the A button as quickly as possible to spring up to your feet, run down the court, and then lunge for the flag. The next minigame replaces the volleyball with a bomb. As each player hits the bomb, it takes seconds off the timer. If the bomb explodes on your side of the court, you lose.
In general, the gameplay in Beach Spikers is really straightforward and almost seems to mimic the gameplay of Virtua Tennis in some sense. When you're serving the ball, a meter will appear to the left of the screen indicating the amount of strength behind the serve. Moreover, there are three different types of serves you can use: a regular underhand serve, a moon shot, and a jump serve. It's also possible to maneuver your player around the baseline to serve the ball in a different direction. At this point, the most useful serve appears to be the jump serve, as it's much more difficult to return than the others.
When you're on defense, a circle will appear on the court, showing where the ball will land. You have to position your player directly in the center of the circle to make a perfect pass to your partner. If you're out of position and run toward the circle at the last minute, your player will either make a full dig or throw one arm up in desperation move. Your positioning also determines the amount of strength you can have on a spike, so if one of your players barely makes contact with the ball for the bump, the strength meter will only fill about a third of the way, but if your player is perfectly positioned for a bump, you can spike the ball with full strength. You can attempt to avoid all this trouble by blocking at the net, but your timing has to be pretty precise to knock it back into the opponent's side.
Graphically, Beach Spikers is quite impressive. All the character models are quite detailed and animate very well. Some of the texture detail in the stadiums is especially impressive. Beach Spikers also features a sand deformation effect similar to the one used in the castle and beach stages in Virtua Fighter 4, in which the ground changes depending on where the players are stepping. Additionally, the brisk frame rate never seems to slow down.
We'll have more on Beach Spikers in the coming weeks.
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