So you’re on the Price is Right and the item you are to bid on is a brand new PS2 sports game called Women’s Volleyball Championship. Your bid? Maybe the typical retail price of $49.99? $35? $29.99? The classic $1 bid just to anger all the other bidders? So what is this title’s retail price? $14.99. Seems to give a new meaning to “bargain games.” Oh, and poor bargain games. They have an incessantly bad rap among gamers, and though it’s usually for good reason, Women’s Volleyball Championship, despite some flaws, is a decent little package for the money you pay. Mind you, this game is probably one of the first sports games I’ve played in its entirety. I’m not entirely learned in the sports genre, but I like to think I can differentiate between good, bad and average games (WVC being in the latter).
WVC offers three modes of play, Exhibition, Season and Championship, with a choice of 13 teams comprised of 12 countries and 1 original, player-built team. The 12 countries—USA, China, Japan, Russia, Italy, Brazil, Taiwan, Korea, Poland, the Netherlands, Kenya and Cuba—have differing strengths and weaknesses, and while game still maintains some balance, if you pit China, the statistically best team, against Kenya, the weakest team, the difference is apparent, but not insurmountable. The controls are very frustrating at first, not because they’re too complex, but because they’re a little finicky and require some practice to do well. Even then, sometimes the ball will spiral almost randomly out of your control, leaving you no understanding of why or how to correct your playing. To be direct, a practice mode is a silly thing to omit, leaving the player unable to experiment in aiming spikes and serves, rather frantically wiggling the analog stick and hoping the ball lands in bounds. I had to take the game’s difficulty from Normal to Easy just to get a feel for things, and even noticed that I could aim my spikes with an on-screen volleyball cursor (which conveniently begins off-screen for some reason). The thing is, though, that the inclusion of a practice mode, or even effective tutorials, would have kept this from being an issue.
Something worth mentioning is that I really liked the Create-A-Player mode, even though it had a card system, which can often be tiresome and uninteresting. After playing games, you accrue “Volleyball Points.” (You get more points for winning, and usually about half the winning amount for losing games.) You can then trade your points for Player Cards, which are priced at 10 points (the typical award for playing a losing game) or 30 points (the typical award for a winning game) each. You then select six of the cards you’ve bought and use them to create a player whose designated position will match up best with the card’s attributes. You then go through seven turns, each turn with nine cycles of other randomly generated cards, and use the randomly generated cards in tandem with your cards to build up your player’s stats. However, the cards have three classifications: Basic, Silver, and Gold. The higher classifications, Silver and Gold, give greater statistical bonuses, but are uncommon, leaving the player with mostly basic cards. If used well, the basic cards will make a so-so athlete. But, if you have a team of players generated mostly from basic cards, they cannot hope to compete with the game’s best, or even better, teams. This forces the player to wait for the more valuable Gold cards if they want to make a good team. So if you want to build a competitive team, plan on clocking some major play time to generate enough points to buy them, but it can still be quite fun to mix-and-match new players. Note: there is a CPU vs. CPU option and having the computers play a game for you can win you points automatically. However, these matches only award 5 or 10 points at a time, and these are negligible amounts to the 30-40 points you receive for winning a match yourself.
The game’s menu opens with bumping techno background music, which is representative of the rest of the soundtrack. Although it sounded a tad generic, it’s enjoyable and blends well with the game’s colorful scheme. I kept swaying between liking and disliking the commentary. The repetitive comments before and after the volleyball games seem to alternate through a small selection of clips, but the player has the option to skip these intros and outros. The in-game commentary is sometimes similarly repetitive, but ultimately more satisfying because of how well it matches up with what’s happening in the game.
Overall, the game seems to exhibit a good simulation of a volleyball game, with an emphasis on many different statistics, and real-life strategies. This game would best be for a gamer with a genuine interest in the professional side of volleyball, not so much the glitz and glam of beach bikini-infested volleyball. I have to admit, this game had a lot of volleyball terminology that was lost on me, and while I found it enjoyable after I overcame the learning curve, it remains a title more for the enthusiast than the casual volleyball player. But you can’t argue with that price, either.