Sand In Your Shorts

Super Spike V'Ball

As we're about to leave the Famicom/NES era of the Kunio-kunStarting as a fighting game befoe spinning out in sports titles (and other adventures) of all shapes and sizes, the Kunio-kun series is one of the most diverse, and hilarious, to ever grace both sides of the Pacific. franchise behind entirely, we are left with but one more game we have to discuss, a tangential game to the show series that, we it not pointed out, you might not even shared a bit of DNA at all. The game, Super Spike V'Ball, was developed by Technos and (in the U.S. at least) published by Nintendo, and it shows all the usual charm Technos could put into their games. It's not a particularly deep game experience, but it did add yet another Technos sports game to the Nintendo library.

The game, based on the arcade title U.S. Championship V'Ball (also made by Technos), is a pretty standard two-on-two volleyball experience. The player gets to choose from four different teams (with one team consisting of Billy and Jimmy from Double Dragon) and take them on a tournament through various U.S. cities, playing volleyball. Get through the whole tournament and you're the winner! Then, I guess, you can go back and do it all again (if you really love volleyball).

The basics of the game are about what you'd expect from a volleyball game. Your two players are on one side of the court, the opponents on the other side, with a net in the middle. One team will serve, the ball going to the other side of the court, and then your guys can volley the ball up in the air before sending it shooting over to the other side. Players can touch the ball three times before it has to move to the other side (or it's a point for the other team), and the ball has to land within the court when it moves over (or that is also a point for the other team). First to fifteen points wins the match.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Technos game without at least a little flair added to the proceedings. While this game doesn't have Kunio and his pals playing, there is a little of that Kunio-kun flash in the form of the "super spikes". Volley the ball in the air a couple of times and then send it slamming towards the other side. Often it'll nail the opponent, sending them flying. But be careful as the ball can still bounce up off their body and be "in play" so the other team member could volley it back up to come back at you.

Super Spike V'Ball is both an easy game and one that is frustratingly difficult. On the one hand, if you know the basics of the controls and get a feel for the game, it's pretty easy to dominate the opponents. The game is all about timing, learning when shots can be hit, when you should go for them and how, and once you have that down you can easily get any shot sent to our side of the court, volleying it around for devastating spike attacks. It's not hard to setup matches where you easily out-score the other team by 10 points or more by the end.

That being said, getting to that point is awfully hard. You have to be pretty precise with your hits. While the game is forgiving early on, sending the ball at your players so you can volley it around, you're going to see that ball his sand (or court) very often; the game is that precise. I know playing this back in the day the shot controls felt so obtuse I could never even get one successful volley going. The game punishes you until you figure it out.

Once you get it down, though, it is pretty satisfying being able to get shots at your team back up in the air, sending them back and forth before you destroy the other side with an absolutely massive spike. once you get the game down you c an become a volleyball god (at least, within the game), easily racking up win after win in the tournament. You should be able to get to the point where you can do undefeated in the tournament mode showing this game who's boss.

Of course, once you do that, the only real challenge in the game is playing against other humans. You can do that, going head to head with up to four players for a frenetic match. Of course, you'll need all four players to know how to play this game to make it really interesting. Or you could just grab a friend and go into a doubles tournament against the CPU. That at least has some challenge because you have to communicate with your teammate (instead of dominating it all on your own), but that's only by degrees. The game lives and dies by its tournament mode and, at a certain point, it just stops being interesting.

I guess, though, that was an issue with all the Kunio-kun sports games of this era. Once you knew what you were doing it hardly ever proved difficult to completely destroy every CPU in every game. And then, once you've done that what was the point in playing these titles? The CPU was fair, which meant it became too easy to a skilled player, and if you liked this game enough to play it more than once you were going to get skilled quickly.

I like the feel of Super Spike V'Ball and I found the basic play (once I got it down) to be enjoyable. I played through a tournament, had some fun, and then set the game down. I doubt I'll ever go back, but I will credit technos for creating a solidly competent game all the same. There weren't a lot of volleyball sims on the NES (this and Volleyball and King of the Beach might have been about it), and this one provided the exact kind of game you wanted if a volleyball sim was your bag. As far as the library of the NES goes, that makes this the winner, I guess.