Oh, I was so totally pumped for the Gameboy Advance release. A total Nintendo fangirl at the time, I was drooling over the new handheld, as well as the impending Gamecube. When release came, I scooped up Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 and Super Mario Advance, but those weren’t the only games I was excited for. Another was Super Dodgeball Advance, a sequel to a game that I remembered playing way, way back in my early childhood with my father.
It’s a bit of a weird development. Although a sequel to a game that’s part of Japan’s Kunio-Kun/Nekketsu series, it drops that identity entirely and just lifts the gameplay. The reason is likely that the series itself was going through a hiatus following the demise of Technos, and wouldn’t be revived until 2008. I now find it strange to play the game without involving Kunio-Kun and his friends, but at the time that I first played it, I wasn’t savvy enough to notice the substitution.
The game itself, however, is total Super Dodgeball.
IF YOU CAN DODGE A GAME BOY, YOU CAN DODGE A BALL
Super Dodgeball was a fun game on the NES and Famicom, but it suffered from horrible technical problems. Flickering, poor framerate, choppy scrolling; it was enjoyable in spite of itself. The formula survived and was updated in a few sequels over time, but, in my experience, they’ve all had problems that hold them back.
Not so with Super Dodgeball Advance, which does a decent job in carrying the features over and updating them for the new handheld. The art style has changed, but the core gameplay is the same. This time, it’s four on four, with three members of each team surrounding the opposite side. You win by knocking out the four core players by hitting them in the face with a volleyball. Super throws are performed in the same way they were in the NES version: by either running a few steps before throwing or throwing at the apex of a jump. You can also pass a powered-up ball to another player to have them execute the throw. There’s also an added option to have another player run and jump into the other side of the court, allowing you to pass in midair, like an alley-oop.
Beyond that, nothing has changed. This can be viewed both as positive or negative, depending on what kind of mileage you got from the original.
WHAT KIND OF MILEAGE
Super Dodgeball Advance still boils down to whether or not you can consistently nail super throws. If you master them, the AI doesn’t stand a chance. All challenge is sucked out.
The overall makeup of the game has been changed, which is troubling as well. The first game had you progress through a series of teams until all have been vanquished, but this time around, you’re in a ladder and increase your ranks through beating the teams higher than you. Problem is, beating the team directly above you might be the easiest choice, but it does little to rank you up. If you want to beat the game without having to repeat matches, you go for the hardest team. That allows you to rise in the ranks a heck-of-a-lot faster.
Beating all the teams takes you to a match against a special team, but,
RIGHT IN THE FACE
It didn’t take me long to topple Super Dodgeball Advance this time around. I’ve essentially mastered these games, which sucks a lot of the fun out of it. Even if I wasn’t so well-practiced, I feel like the gameplay would just be me trying to execute power throws, rather than strategizing in any way.
The fun parts are all still here, though. The power throws are more creative, and the characters still show tortured expressions when you smack them with the ball. That physicality remains, and, as the original game’s greatest asset, it’s good to see it still intact. The best super throws from the original were carried over, while new and awesome ones have been added on top of that.
It’s hard not to view Super Dodgeball Advance as an improvement over the original, the blasphemous removal of the Kunio-Kun cast aside. It’s more technically capable, it’s flashier, and it maintains the things that made the original great. At the same time, it suffers from the same low skill ceiling and lack of longevity.
So take that as it is. If you liked Super Dodgeball, this is that, just more. If you already mastered that game, then this game is going to be a breeze. However, if you’re a newcomer, then this game will hold more for you. I certainly give it a recommendation if you haven’t dodged ball yet, but if you’ve already tired yourself out on the formula, this isn’t the overhaul that the series needs.
This review was conducted on a Game Boy Micro using a cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.