It’s a good and fun time, but only for a little while. It does the one thing very well, but there’s not much else after that. The online play could’ve extended my playtime, but I never found anyone to play with. Spending 30$ might be a tad bit too expensive for a game that’s essentially a Sci-Fi version of Wii Tennis that you can beat in an hour. It’s a good game and very fun to play, but just be aware of the amount of content you’re getting into. It’s recommended, but in small doses. Wait for a discount sale if you can.
I’ve been finding it increasingly funny how the best VR games I’ve played are usually old Dreamcast games. REZ Infinite is a shining example, while Space Channel 5 and the upcoming Samba de Amigo being other examples that spring to mind. Now we have another Dreamcast game in the form of C-Smash VRS, a reimagining of Cosmic Smash from 2001.
I had never played that game before, but I didn’t want to look up any gameplay footage beforehand. It’s very easy for people to get caught up in nostalgia and let that carry most of their opinions when reviewing a newer version of a classic. I for one didn’t even know the game existed until I found out about the VR version. I played the demo prior to the full release, but that’s about it in terms of context or previous knowledge. I’m going into this relatively blind, so I hope that brings along a fresh perspective for people that don’t know if they should buy this or not.
With that said, my overall opinion of C-Smash VRS is that it’s a very good game. It’s super simple and doesn’t offer a lot of content, but it succeeds in doing what it set out to accomplish, which is to adapt the classic Dreamcast game into VR. Playing it with PlayStation VR2 was also enjoyable, with controls that feel good accompanied by great audio visuals that carry a large part of the experience. The aesthetic is as Dreamcast as it can get, and I loved it.
However, that atmosphere slowly starts to fade as it gives way to some shortcomings that might stop you from investing the full 30$ asking price, such as a lack of content and an online experience that’s seemingly dead on arrival, locking you out of essentially half the content that this game had to offer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the positives.
C-Smash VRS looks and feels great. It has that unique and simple low-poly look that’s emblematic of the bygone Dreamcast era, where most games of the time had this simple, but colorful and expressive look to them. With our modern technology and achievements in video game graphics, I would love to see more games with this level of personality return some day, because it is sorely missed.
These visuals become more enjoyable as you go through the single-player campaign, where levels start to change color and form as you progress. There are windows that you can look out of showing astronauts cheering you on or playing around in different rooms. For such a minimalistic game, there’s a decent amount of personality infused into it.
Of course, this is a PlayStation VR2 game, so it’s worth mentioning things like the haptic feedback and headset vibration. It feels good to get that kind of feedback when rallying the ball, and the headset sometimes vibrates very subtly when changing levels. Another thing that contributes to how good it feels to play Sci Fi Wii Tennis is the sound. The audio is solid throughout. Hitting the ball gives this great, punchy sound that sounds much louder in the video footage than it actually does in your ears when playing. I don’t know why that is. The game also has a cool soundtrack that picks up the pace as you confront more challenging levels that feature obstacles, moving targets and power ups that change the flow of play.
All of these elements combine into a fun experience that I honestly found difficult to put down. I was consistently failing the initial levels of the game as I was slowly learning how to play, but you very quickly start to get a groove going where you’ll be rallying the ball back and forth for a long time and in a really satisfying way that includes using your power-ups more intelligently. There’s definitely a flow state to be found here that truly makes this game worth playing. If you want a workout, this’ll do it.
C-Smash offers a short, but replayable single-player campaign, where you can pick different paths that decide which levels to play through, with a challenging final boss at the end of it all. Even with all the time I had to retry certain levels, I beat the entire thing in a little over an hour, which might be disappointing for some. There are higher difficulty modes and alternate paths you can take, but it still won’t be too different from your first playthrough.
It’s at this point in playing where I started to see the pitfalls that this game falls into. I don’t like saying them because of how much fun I had at first, but these are important points that will heavily impact whether you want to purchase this game or not.
First off, if the only thing you’re interested in is single-player content, then you’re screwed, because there’s not much more to do beyond the short campaign with two difficulty modes that I mentioned.
The only way that you could expand to other game modes is through online play, which gave me no matches at all for any of the modes that I wanted to play. Because there was no one else online, I didn’t have access to any of these modes whatsoever, which I found ridiculous. At the very least, the game should allow you to play against bots of varying difficulties in order to account for a lack of players. It obviously doesn’t compare to playing against real people, but I at least get to experience what those other gameplay modes look like, instead of locking them away because the online experience was nonexistent. Ironically, I found people to play with during my time with the demo, and that was really fun. I just think it’s a shame that the full release didn’t have the same turnout, which was apparently zero.
If there are any other criticisms that I can levy at the game, it’s in regards to the movement. Moving your body left and right with the analog sticks might cause a bit of motion sickness. The vignette that’s used to protect you from this is set way too high as a default. You can adjust it in the options, but still, it might be annoying for some that might have trouble seeing because of it.
Speaking of the analog stick, The stick that I needed to use for moving was on my left hand, the same one that I use for swinging, because I’m left handed. It was really cumbersome to try and do both at once. The button for crouching was also on my left, so I’d find myself in intense situations where I’m really focused on hitting the ball that I accidentally crouch when I didn’t mean to, or move my body when I didn’t want to, or hit the goddamn Home button again by accident.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Swinging around the controller made me accidentally press the home button many times, interrupting my game, which was frustrating every single time. It’s like when you accidentally pause during a fighting game; it just makes you feel like an idiot. This is not necessarily the game’s fault, but it’s more of a realization that the build of the PlayStation VR2 controller is not that well suited for games like this, since you will definitely press buttons by mistake, with the home button being the easiest one to push down.
Everything else is a part of the game that could’ve been different though. I would’ve liked to have movement be tied to my non-dominant hand instead, since I’m not doing much with it other than pulling the ball toward me.
One last thing is that the walking speed is too slow to catch up with the ball when it goes fast, so you’ll end up in a situation where the ball’s too far away and you’ll just give up and lose the ball because you know there’s no point. Maybe that was intentional in order to avoid motion sickness, but I feel like a lot of those missed shots could’ve been saved if I just moved my own body instead of letting the analog sticks take me there.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with C-Smash VRS, but I also think that it could be so much more than what it currently is. As fun as it feels to hit the ball around, it also felt like an expanded version of a mini-game that could fit inside a much larger product, and then getting charged 30$ to play it.
Aside from some small bumps with the movement, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this game. It looks and feels great and it’s super satisfying to get good at it. However, there’s simply not enough of it for the price that it’s asking for, especially when there’s no one playing online right now. There absolutely needs to be some sort of update that allows you to play those multiplayer modes with bots, because it’s unacceptable that you simply can’t play those modes if there aren’t other people online or don’t have an internet connection.
So…yeah, I liked C-Smash VRS, but I highly recommend that you wait for a sale, and also play it in small doses, because it’s a very solid and enjoyable experience that will end about as quickly as it starts.
And now I’m going to sit and wait for the next Dreamcast game to be re-released in VR. My vote is on Shenmue VR. A man can dream…