Super Dodge Ball NES: The Ultimate Gamer Guide

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Quick Facts

Title: Super Dodge Ball

Release Dates: July 26, 1988 (Japan) /  June 1989 (North America)

Genre: Sports

Developer: Techmos Japan

Publisher: Techmos Japan (Japan) / CSG Imagesoft (North America)

Players: One or Two Players

Brief History

Originally released in 1987 in Japan as an arcade game entitled Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu, Super Dodge Ball is the second game in the Kunio-Kun video game series developed by Technos Japan.

Other games in the Kunio-Kun series which will be familiar to most North American retro gamers for their NES ports are Renegade (the first in the series), River City Ransom, and Nintendo World Cup.

Other games in the Kunio-Kun series which will be familiar to most North American retro gamers for their NES ports are Renegade (the first in the series), River City Ransom, and Nintendo World Cup.

As for the Nintendo Entertainment System port of Super Dodge Ball released in North America in June  1989, it’s a bit different than both the original arcade release and the Famicom release of the game from just under a year prior.

The North American NES port of Super Dodge Ball, for one, eliminates storyline references to Renegade which were included in the Famicom port of the title. The Famicom version of the game also has different playable teams, different cut scenes, and actually features the U.S. team as the opponent for your final World Cup match instead of the Soviet Union.

Also, the NES version provides a deeper gameplay experience than the original arcade game with the addition of special moves, two more teams, detailed stats for each player, and an added “Bean Ball” mode.

So, how does the North American port of Super Dodge Ball hold up nowadays? For the most part, pretty dang well!

Gameplay

The core gameplay of Super Dodge Ball is six-on-six dodge ball goodness. Each team has three players within their side of a rectangular dodge ball court. The other three players surround the opposing team’s side and can be used as invincible attackers who can attack from close-up when the ball’s passed to them.

The object of each match in Super Dodge Ball is to eliminate (well, kill) the other team’s three inner court players by striking them silly with the dodge ball. Each individual player has a life bar which is drained accordingly to how hard they’re struck by the ball.

Once a player’s life bar is fully drained, the player vanishes and an angel rises up and off the screen presumably taking their cartoony soul to a better place.

What really gives Super Dodge Ball its replay value is how well the controls are pulled off despite the simplicity of the NES controller’s two-button + directional pad setup.

When your team has control of the ball, one button passes and the other unleashes a shot directed at your opponents. You can increase the power of these shots with double taps of the left and right directional button.

Each of your players can also unleash two special power shots (one while running and one while performing a running jump) which goes much faster than a normal shot and does crazy damage on direct hits.

Jumping is pulled off by pressing both the B and A button, but it can be very tricky to control either when trying to pull off a shot or to evade an opposing shot.

When your team is on defense, one button is used to attempt to intercept an opposing throw while the other is used to duck.

Put all of this together and add all of the angles you can make throws from with the help of your three off-court players and you have an entertaining game which turns simple controls into seemingly endless possibilities.

There are three modes to choose from in Super Dodge Ball – a single-player World Cup mode, a traditional Versus mode for two players, and a Bean Ball mode for one or two players.

Those who aren’t interested in playing as the USA may not like being forced to use them in World Cup mode, but the fun of beating the eight other countries in brightly-colored locales more than makes up for it. There’s even some added pitfalls in Kenya (mud which slows you down) and Iceland (slippery ice, of course) to add to the variance and difficulty.

The two-player versus mode allows players to choose any of the nine countries from World Cup mode, including the option of playing as the same team.

While you can customize the formation of your players for an added strategy boost, it’s disappointing that there’s just one versus court to use and no way to unlock the courts you travel to in World Cup mode.

As for Bean Ball mode, it’s a free-for-all among the six members of the USA team. One or two players can choose their desired USA player and the other five or four are controlled by the computer. Players can freely roam in this mode and attack at will. The last player standing is declared the winner.

Although there’s just one schoolyard court, the time of day changes based on the difficulty level you choose for Bean Ball – Easy is set during the day, Normal occurs in the evening, and Difficult takes place in the dead of night. 

Bean Ball is an entertaining cherry on top of the awesome Super Dodge Ball sundae.

There are some gripes to be had, however...

Interesting Codes and Glitches

One of the complaints which gamers tend to have about Super Dodge Ball is that the game’s sprites flicker way too much.

However, a good deal of the glitchy flickering is actually there on purpose. The player who is flickering on the opposite side of the ball is the player who is currently being targeted by the attacking team.

Truthfully there’s also a fair amount of sprite slowdown and some flickering not associated with this, so it can be confusing and many don’t understand that it’s part of the game.

Because of the aforementioned flickering on top of flickering, some power shots will disappear from sight and reappear randomly on the other side of the court. It usually happens when multiple animations are occurring and the ball basically hiccups off and onto the screen.

As for codes in Super Dodge Ball, there’s only one to speak of.

If you want to play against a mirrored version of your team, you first need to beat the Russian team in World Cup mode without any of your players eliminated. As soon as you complete your victory, press A & B simultaneously.

If you time this right, you’ll immediately start a game against an exact mirror of your own team.

Reception and Legacy

While Nintendo World Cup tends to be the first of the Kunio-Kun North American ports on retro gamers’ lips, Super Dodge Ball is rarely far behind.

The game’s unique blend of exaggerated animation and singular gameplay struck a chord on both sides of the Atlantic, selling healthy numbers of cartridges and spawning multiple variations and sequels.

In addition to the aforementioned arcade original and NES/Famicom ports, there’s also a Japan-only version for the X68000 (1988) which is an arcade-perfect port that adds parallax scrolling and a stereo soundtrack.

The PC Engine also received a Japan-only port of the game in 1990 which is much more akin to the NES version and adds a single-player quest mode where you can replace players from your team with the captains of your rivals.

Sixteen years later, an emulation of the original arcade version of Super Dodge Ball was released in Japan by Hamster as a title in their Ore-tachi no Gēsen Zoku series.

As for the story of Super Dodge Ball sequels, well it’s an odd one.

Before Technos Japan went out of business, they released two Japan-only sequels – Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu: Kyōteki! Dodge Soldier no Maki (Game Boy, 1991) and Kunio-kun no Dodgeball da yo Zen'in Shūgō (Super Famicom, 1993).

Right before Technos Japan shuttered its doors in 1996, they released a true sequel for Neo Geo simply called Super Dodge Ball. However, no home console version was completed and only limited quantities of the arcade cabinet were released as the company folded during their initial distribution process.

This wasn’t the end for Super Dodge Ball, however.

Five years later in 2001, the folks over at Million (which employed former Technos employees) released Super Dodge Ball Advance for the Game Boy Advance. It’s not officially recognized as a true Kunio-kun title in Japan, however, despite similar gameplay mechanics and music.

A sequel to this sequel called Super Dodgeball Brawlers was released for the Nintendo DS in 2008 by Arc System Works and Aksys Games.

Making this even weirder and harder to follow, there is River City Dodgeball All-Stars!! which is an unofficial 2007 hobbyist title for the PC crafted by another group of former Technos employees who called themselves the Miracle Kidz.

The game was released for the Xbox 360 in 2009 as Downtown Smash Dodgeball, and 2011 version (dubbed Downtown Nekketsu Dodgeball) was released by Miracle Kidz as a WiiWare title.

Strangely enough, the Wii version is the only of the three Miracle Kidz Dodgeball games sanctioned by Million – a company which doesn’t even actually own the rights to the original Super Dodge Ball.

In short, Super Dodge Ball is so beloved that there’s a built-in market for unofficial sequels and offshoots as long as the core entertainment of the gameplay remains in place.

Our 60 Word Review

Getting past the flickering and periodic slowdown may not be possible for some, but it’s not distracting enough to write Super Dodge Ball off.

The action is fast, strategy is paramount, and there’s enough cheeky humor and gameplay depth to appeal to gamers of all kinds.

Super Dodge Ball is flawed, but not too flawed to be great.

Overall Score: 8 out of 10

Ross Uitts
 

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