Most people that have spent some quality time with an NES probably have some fond memories of Super Dodge Ball. For those of you that haven't, you are dead to me. It's a great game that is marred by some pretty horrendous sprite flicker, and sadly, most of it's ports sequels had issues with controls or general shittyness. Thankfully, just before going bankrupt in 1996, Technos, the company behind Super Dodge Ball, Double Dragon, River City Ransom, and a million other Kunio games, released their final game, Super Dodge Ball for the Neo Geo. This version happens to be my favorite version of the game, and the one of the most entertaining games that might be found in an arcade cabinet.
First off, the game is great looking. Like most Neo Geo games, the sprites are large, the things are well-animated, and the whole world is very colorful. Like most Technos games, the music is great, everything is very humorous, and and it is a lot of fun to play. Unlike many later Kunio games, the cute art style of the earlier titles made a smooth transition into a more detailed format. There is just a ton of character in the sprites.
The best part about the game is that it is kind of insane. Just look at that promotional art. There are a bunch of crazy looking ruffians, and the boss is some dude with horns dressed like a pirate. Also, his goal is to eliminate dodge ball from the world. Seriously. And that Yakuza with a gun, he doesn't have it just for show, he shoots the dodge balls at his opponents. Which brings me to one of the many improvements over the NES game that have been implemented. Instead of special throws being activated by getting a running head start, they are performed with motions like those of special moves in a fighting game. There were quite a few things that make the game more fighting game-like. There is a super bar, which means there is the ability to charge, steal it from the opponent via taunts, and of course super moves that involve the whole team.
This Super Dodge Ball even has more subtle enhancements, like the ability to back dash, a physics system that allows for multiple actions in the air, and a feint throw. It may not sound like it would be a very useful, but with my favorite addition to the game, the counter attack, it can be absolutely essential. These counter attacks are performed by doing a dragon punch motion and hitting grab, and basically they reflect any oncoming attacks. It keeps the pace of the battles fast and nothing feels better than getting he opponent to do their counter in response to a feint and then punish them during the recovery. This is one of the few games that gets me a competitive like a fighting game, and that is probably because it is so much like one.
There are a bunch of teams, most of which are led by characters from the Kunio games, such as Kunio and Riki, whom are like the Ryu and Ken of the game. Their counters are even shoryukens. Each team has a strong leader with a variety of special moves and two wimps, but what is interesting is that when an enemy team is defeated the player can take replace one of the wimps on the team with the enemy team's leader. My favorite character is the crazy hobo guy, Kenji, because he has very strong specials and his counter animation is long, which is convenient for sloppy timing, but is inconvenient because if its long recovery. There is something funny about getting a team full of angry hobos throwing fire at people.
Super Dodge Ball is just incredibly lovable. It is a blast to play, great to look at, and in many ways utterly insane. While it is kind of sad that this is the last game from Technos, especially since it is so good and shows how much potential the developers could tap into, I am glad they went out on such a high note. I mean, it would be far more depressing if their last game was one of those awkward Kunio games for the Super Famicom. It's kind of funny that there have been so many attempts at recreating the NES game over the years when Technos themselves made the best version of the game years ago and hardly anybody played it.