Sanrio World Smash Ball is a action sports game developed by Tomcat System and published by Character Soft for the Super Famicom exclusively in Japan in 1993. This game is the first game that I have reviewed that was released exclusively in Japan and in the past couple of years has been translated into English. In the past few years, there have been some fan of Japanese games who have been working on translating them from Japanese into English because the original developers did not work on releasing the games in the West. These translators know fluent Japanese and knows all of the Japanese alphabets because in Japanese there are multiple different alphabets. It takes a lot of time to translate these games and without the translators working hard, I would not have been able to write this review and also be able to experience other games like Star Fox 2 that were originally in Japanese.
Sanrio World Smash Ball is a sports game where the objective of the game is win 30 matches against ever increasing opponents in games of what feels like a hybrid of Pong and Table Tennis. The characters in this game are from the Sanrio World series of Japanese toys, which includes the main mascot of Sanrio World Hello Kitty. The other characters I believe are not known outside of Japan. The game has 30 levels and each level has a unique design because the game introduce different obstacles and moving objects that affect where the ball goes.
I think that the 30 levels of the game are great because there are no levels that feel at all recycled where the level looks similar to previous levels. The game obviously uses similar obstacles and moving objects throughout the levels, but they are introduced alongside other obstacles to add variety, Each level also has different shapes and this adds a feeling of freshness to each level because it means that the player will have to adapt to the shape of the level. Some of the shapes are very strange on first look, but it makes the level have unique elements to them and makes the ball behave differently. The odd shapes also mean that the player will need to be more accurate with their attacks because if the player mishits the ball, then it could hit one of the blocks protecting the goal. These blocks can take between 1 and 3 hits and the number is shown on the block by the amount of dots on the block, similar to dots on different sides of a dice.
The graphics of the game are really bright and colourful and each level has its own look to it, meaning that the levels will have a unique look to it. Each level has a look that resembles different locations with everything from outside in a field, to a casino with the walls being made of playing cards to a underwater level with different aquatic animals on the screen. This makes each level feel completely different and also creates the feeling that the player is playing in different places, even though later on in the game the backgrounds are recycled later on in the game, but with a different level layout. I do think that the background and sprite variety is about right and I like that the backgrounds are shuffled to make sure that for example, the grass background is not every 4 or 5 levels. My favourite background is the casino because the extra detail of the all the walls being made of playing card adds a really nice finish to the level.
There are a couple of powerups in the game which are such things like increasing the player strength or removing all the block protecting the opposing player’s goal line. There sadly I feel is a lack of powerups and the powerups don’t really specify what they do until the player has picked them up. Also, the powerups tend to be well hidden and out of the way of the main area of the playing field, meaning that if a player goes for a powerup, it might not be worth it to concede a goal. The powerups do not carry over from previous levels or previous goals scored and is single use. If there was more variety to the powerups, then it would have made the already good gameplay even better.
Finally, the controls of the game initially are quite annoying to get used to because the player has to time the shots or the attack on the ball will not go in the direction the player would want to, but once the player is used to the controls, there have a great feeling to them. There is a button assigned to attack using the left side of the player and one to the right side. I think this is a great touch because if it was just one attack for both sides, then it would affect the ability for players to launch accurate shots. The controls are really responsive and there were very few occasions where I felt that the controls affected my ability to be accurate.
The opponents throughout the game gradually get harder and I think that this difficulty curve is pretty spot on. However, beyond level 25 is where the game becomes extremely tough and will require the player to play the level multiple times to even proceed. The game gives the player a good chance to get used to the controls early on and this is a major plus because the game was likely aimed at a younger audience due to the Hello Kitty character being the mascot of the game.
There is no music in the game apart from the main menu and little jingles in between levels. This jingles are a nice way of indicating to the player that the next round of the match is about to start. It also means that the introduction to each level showing who the next opponent is not boring because without music it would have been just a static image.
Sanrio World Smash Ball is a really fun game because the variety of obstacles and moving objects in each level means that the gameplay of each level is completely different. The backgrounds have a good variety to them and these backgrounds are really well detailed. The only downsides for me is that there is not enough powerups to mix up the gameplay and the lack of soundtrack in the levels means that it is only the sound design that the player will hear. Even some ambience to the levels would have been a lot better than potentially silence for a couple of seconds. However, the controls of the game are great and I think that is definitely quite a fun game to play.
Copyright ©2017 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use