At various points through These Difficult Times, the Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club held a sort of retroactive mirror to the real sports world. On what would have been Masters weekend, it was a good opportunity to play NES Golf. When the NFL draft happened, it was time to play Tecmo Bowl.
Now, after writing a story about Brett Favre that touched on the building of the University of Southern Mississippi’s volleyball facility, we can unwind with the sport Favre’s daughter plays, firing up the 1988 game Kings Of The Beach.
It’s funny, looking back, that the game leads off, even before the title screen, with biographies of Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos.
Not to take anything away from Smith and Stoklos, both members of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, but for most people in the 21st century, if you think of beach volleyball, you’re going to think of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, the duo who won three Olympic gold medals together. Of course, Smith and Stoklos’ dominance in the 1980s, and popularity to the point of headlining a video game, is part of the reason beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in the first place. They were, indeed, kings of the beach.
This game, much like previous Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club entrant Ski Or Die!, opens by placing you in something like a carnival midway, although this time it’s not a series of mini-games, but a chance to practice the various skills of volleyball: bump, set, and spike.
It feels like it makes sense to start with REGISTRATION, and, hey, women are featured in this game after all!
Well, a woman, anyway.
It’s interesting that the default setting is to play as Smith, as opposed to the setup of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, where the champ is famously the game’s final boss.
Having never played this game before, I decide that it’s probably worth trying those practice sessions to get a feel for the various skills in the game. It’s me, as Smith wearing a pink tank top, paired with Stoklos against an empty other half of the court.
I swing and miss on like seven out of 10 tries to spike. This is going to be brutal.
And it is brutal. The match starts with me, as Smith, serving. I toss the ball up, hit A and B together to do the spike move to serve … and miss. Side out.
The opponents are Chaz and Miguel, who start off with a point as I miss a bump. They then proceed to mis-hit themselves to return serve to me, which means Stoklos serves … which gets returned … which I again whiff on.
I do start to get the timing down a little bit better, and learn that the easiest thing to do is mash that B button to set so Stoklos can spike. We actually do get a side out as a result of this, but I’m truly awful at this game and struggling to get any knack for the timing of it. An ace by Stoklos breaks up the shutout after nine straight points for Chaz and Miguel.
But there’s an adorable bonus: as I continue to botch shot after shot, my on-screen Smith throws temper tantrums. He jumps up and down, throws up his hands, and kicks at the dirt.
Both Smith and Stoklos show their frustration when the match ends 15-1. The final stats are hideous.
Despite the complete drubbing, this game was fun and it doesn’t feel like it would be impossible to get the timing down to actually be competitive. I’ll be coming back to this virtual beach long before I can return to the beach in real life.
Previous Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club Entries: