Kings of the Beach

Foreword

Late 80s, beach volleyball has great success and lives a surge in popularity. It was just a matter of time before a videogame company tried to develop a game about this sport. Being the first title one for Atari 2600 at the beginning of the same decade.

Electronic Arts with great experience on sports videogames is the company to accept the challenge. They develop a title for this summer sport first for computers, and later porting it to the king of the consoles at the time, the Nintendo NES, which is the most known version of the videogame.

Datafile

Company: Electronic Arts (distribuido por Ultra Games)
Full Name: Kings of the Beach – Professional Beach Volleyball
Year: 1989
Platform: Nintendo NES
Controller: Mando default de consola

Game

Calculating to when to do the right serving.

The videogame has a great ambientation, because from the go you can feel being in the beach with vibrant colors everywhere in the scene. The first screen offers six sections: three are for training, one is a registration zone to change settings of the videogame. Other one is a training match where four human players can compete, and the final one is the tournament itself. Where the videoplayer can compete in an AVP tour in different beaches of the world, where duos of virtual athletes awaits you. The videoplayer can control two of the most outstanding beach volleyball players at the time: Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos, the “Kings of the Beach” (Hence the title)

The control schema is quite intuitive: with the pad the videogamer can move the virtual beach volleyball player, with a button receives the ball while the other is used to set the ball for a spike. So, the combo receive-set-spike is essential. The spike, and a block when defending, is done pressing both buttons at the same time. It’s possible to faint a spike moving the pad up, which is useful to score a point using a mortar-style devolution (believe me, you’ll use it often). Other options to score are doing a spike just after the reception (believe me, you’ll use if often), or returning the ball with only the reception moving the pad left or right (believe me, you’ll use it often).

Be careful when arguing with the referee

Keep in mind that even when facing the earliest (and easiest) rivals, the same strategy does not always work, so you must keep using different ones. Also consider that when the virtual athlete controlled by the videoplayer is in the right position to receive a ball, it can’t move. And when defending, if close enough to the ball, automatically dives for it.

By default, the virtual beach volleyball player controlled by the videoplayer is Sinjin Smith, who wears a pink t-shirt. Meanwhile the partner is Randy Stoklos (who wears only white shorts, even if they appear as a diaper) who is a beast at the net. It’s possible to change players at the registration tent.

Finally, in a funny feature, at least to me, is that you can argue with the referee, using the START button. Sometimes you can even change the veredict, but if you argue two times at a row, and lose, you get one point deducted from your score. The same applies to the Artificial Intelligence.

For serving the ball, use the two buttons for a really high serving. If using only a button, the ball goes up and then you can either execute a normal serve with other button or do a jumping serve, which is hard to perform at first, but the most effective to get ace points.

Rivals and Beaches

It’s not easy to block some spikes

In a funny and curious mix, the duo controlled by the videoplayer faces duos composed either by ficticious characters (ranging from other videogames like Skate Or Die! to actors parodies) or real-life beach volleyball players (like Mike Dodd and Tim Hovland). At the same time, as the tournament advances, it’s highly probable to face again a previous pathetic rival. Don’t get too over-confident, because just like other videogames, these formerly easy rivals become really PITAs.

The tournament goal is to beat 3 duos per beach, and there are 5 beaches in the videogames. Due to the fact that every match can become lengthly in time, a password is awarded to the videoplayer after beating a beach. So the next time the videogame starts, the torunament can begin from there. IMO, it’s a great feature, because the difficulty scalates gradually. For example, if this is the first time you play, and try to compete in the last beach, you’ll suffer a lot.

The beaches are San Diego ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ, Chicago ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ, Hawaii ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ, Rรญo de Janeiro ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท and Melbourne ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ. There are really not a lot of changes between them, sans the scenery in the background. Sometime the wind is factor (hint: watch over the flags).

Other Platforms

DOS Computers

As already mentioned, the videogame first appeared in computers. At the time, DOS compatible computers used a joystick with only one button, but there were already at the market joysticks with two buttons (not the most common, and not many games used that feature), and this particular videogame requires that joystick. The videoplayer also can use the keyboard, and personally, I always had a difficult time to play this kind of games which relies on quick reflexes with a keyboard.

Thanks to emulation, and the feature of mapping buttons (or even keystrokes of a keyboard) to a modern gamepad, it was quite easy to play, because all of the actions can be mapped to use 4 buttons in the gamepad. I perceived this game a bit slower than the NES one, and a bit harder.

The graphics are really quite good, and in a funny twist, when using a 4-color monitor, it looks pretty good with the blue-magenta-black-white palette, even when the sand looks gray instead of the classic golden tone. In this image you can appreciate how it sees in that kind of monitor.

Commodore 64

This port is probably the one with the “worst” graphics of the 3 mentioned, but not by far. The game still feels fluid and the difficulty adequate enough.

In this case, if the videoplayer wanted to use a control, it had to be a joystick with one-button, where any jumping action (serving, spike or blocking) it’s performed via pressing tapping twice the controller’s button. Some videoplayers considered it an easier alternative to pressing two buttons of a gamepad.

IMO, it was a bit hard to grasp the feeling of using only one button, but once accustomed, it was funny.

I did not found any negative impact when playing using this control schema. Also did not found any significant change in pace or difficulty.

Epilogue

Great videogame of beack volleyball, maybe the best for third-generation consoles (including computers) mainly because of the great atmosphere when playing the game, where you can feel being in the beach. Along with its extraordinary playability and more than adequate learning curve.

When playing between 4 videoplayers, it’s total and hilarious chaos. We recommend to start with the easiest level, also using Sinjin Smith at first, just like the default. Although learning to use Stocklos and it’s fearsome one-hand block at the net, it’s essential to get better results at the final stages.

References

Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.

Console Icons taken from Retroarch.

EstadioRetro

Informatic guy and fan of retro videogaming. Mexican and spanish. I like to drink good coffee. My favorite sport is baseball, but I like to watch others.

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