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Monday, May 5, 2014

NES Replay: Volleyball

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: March 1987
I love playing volleyball in certain environments. Basically, if no one's keeping score and all of my friends are just having a good, relaxed time, it's the best game in the world.

Something happens every single time I play volleyball: Someone starts keeping score. Then, that person starts trash talking, and then someone else does, then my old, familiar competitiveness kicks in, and then I have to quit because I get too angry. Even just thinking about it makes me mad.

Why do I get so frustrated? Because volleyball is meant to be fun. It's played in sunny places, on the beach, with people throwing frisbees nearby. It's not supposed to be a hyper-competitive trash-talking game. If you're playing volleyball and you don't have a Corona with a lime wedged into the rim of the bottle waiting for you on the sideline, you're playing it wrong.

Understanding this about volleyball is key to understanding why Volleyball is such a waste. Volleyball is supposed to be fun! Getting hit in the face with a volleyball while someone screams at you through a net isn't.

Volleyball forgets this. You get three game modes: Men's volleyball, women's volleyball and practice. Men's volleyball is much more difficult that women's, which is insulting and sexist in and of itself. The computer team will routinely spike balls right into your player's faces, giving you no opportunity to block them. Playing against the women's team is easier. Even still, whomever you play as, Volleyball is horribly difficult to control.

Playing the practice mode shows why the controls are so bad. Whenever your opponent hits the ball to you, some but not all of your players can go get the ball. In the practice mode, the players that are eligible to hit the ball light up so you can easily tell who's supposed to get it, and you'll see that the players you can control are, frankly, a little random. At least in this mode, though, you can make the right decision as to who you can move and when.

However, in the regular mode, the players don't light up to show that they're eligible. You might think that one player is eligible, but when you try and move them you find that it was the opposite player who was eligible, and now you've made a huge mistake. In a game where a split second makes a huge difference, it's a pretty big oversight.

The weirdest thing with Volleyball, though, is the title screen. In a first for a Nintendo game, a person named "T. Hashishita" is credited alongside Nintendo. That's really odd, isn't it? Not even Miyamoto gets that sort of credit. Who is "T. Hashishita"?

With a big hat tip to the forums at lostlevels.org, Tomoshige Hashishita was a programmer who also programmed Ice Hockey and worked on Time Twist, a game only released in Japan. How did he get on the title screen for a Nintendo release? It's really hard to say. Did he just insert his name in there? Did Nintendo agree to credit him? If so, why? Unfortunately, it's one of those weird quirks that have been lost to history.

However, with the way Volleyball turned out, if I were Mr. Hashishita I wouldn't really want to take credit for it. Even if someone would master the controls, I don't see how it could be fun for more than five minutes. It's not as laid-back as a volleyball game should be, and it's impossible to play on any higher difficulty levels without reenacting the pool scene from Meet The Parents over and over.

Final Rating: