Super Dodge Ball
Year released: 1990
Let me ask everyone here - why do you play the NES? In fact, why does anyone play any video game console? Does it lower your cholesterol level? Probably not. Will it enhance your mastery of the English language? Doubtful.1 Can it increase your sex drive? Nope, sorry. So what exactly is our motivation for wasting our time on this grey box? The answer, of course, is to have fun. We give it our attention, and in return it gives us something enjoyable to do.
While Super Dodge Ball does have its flaws, it manages to do what many other games have tried and failed to accomplish. That is, it presents the player with a thoroughly unique task, one that has never been duplicated before or since, and brings with it an immense amount of atmosphere and whimsy. It's easily one of the most enjoyable games I've played, and a serious contender for the best game released on the NES.
As children, we're all probably quite familiar with the object of Dodge Ball. You simply take a ball and throw it at the kid on the other side that had the worst reflexes. Whoever could annihilate the other team first won. The challenge that the programmers had was first, incorporate as much of the semantics of Dodge Ball into the game as possible while not putting the player in charge of 16 dodgers on their court, and second, add as much flair to the proceedings as they could. And I must say, while SDB is ultimately exempt from a Plot rating since there is no storyline to drive the game, the truth of the matter is that it doesn't need one. In fact, one could supply his or her own storyline if so desired - putting myself in Sam or Steve's shoes to avenge my shortcomings in the real version2 is plenty plot for me.
If there's anything wrong with this game, it has to do with the technical aspects. For one thing, the game almost always has at least 4, and sometimes up to 6, people on the screen at one time. If any two people align horizontally, it causes some major graphical breakup. It's severe to the point of the bottom half of one or the other character vanishing until either one steps out of the way. Luckily, it never really gets in the way of the game - I've yet to lose a man on account of this problem - but it does cause a bit of a distraction. The music, however, is a real accomplishment. Technos is one of those companies where one can expect a great soundtrack to whatever game is being released, and Super Dodge Ball is not the exception. Some of the themes are very complex, especially the music to the (pen-)ultimate match against the Soviet Union. The Iceland and Mirror Match themes are also spectacular.
The game controls quite accurately. Running, jumping and throwing are all very intuitive: this is one of those games that you don't ever need to read the manual to, yet you'll instinctively know what buttons to press for the action you want to carry out. There seems to be a bit of inconsistency, however, with regards to when someone uncorks a super throw and when it's just a regular one. There are times when one of my men will run the entire length of my court, and yet fail to put that extra mustard on the ball, and other times when the same character runs only half as far but releases his super throw. It's a minor complaint, though, as players who are good at this game can work around it.
Before divulging my opinion on the game's challenge, I feel it necessary to explain my method of inspection. Most of the capsules you see on this page are mainly preliminary ratings, made by playing the game to a certain point and then making my judgement on the game going by how well the game played up to that point. When I first reviewed Super Dodge Ball3, I blew through every difficulty level quite handily. In revisiting this game for the full treatment, though, I lost in the finals after having whittled the Russians to one player with 5 Hit Points remaining. It isn't often that a game improves on its Challenge rating by having me lose, but this game pulls that off. The challenge is certainly there - and to a larger degree than I had given the game credit for when I first wrote my capsule. (Either that, or I'm starting to get rusty.)
And now, the grand finale. I dare every reader of this review to plug this game into their NES and play it, and try, just try, to stay stoic for the duration of the game. You can't do it. It's physically impossible. There's no way any person who calls him or herself an NES player can't have a total blast playing this game. This game possesses the essence of marvel in its purest form. It's just plain fun. And even though I don't play this game very often, when I do it's always for long spans of time.
To put it as simply as possible, Super Dodge Ball produces an almost euphoric sensation. The hangups I have with this game - and I did have a couple - are always overshadowed by the great time I have playing it. If you have this game in your collection, play it now. If you don't, get it as soon as you can.
1. If anything, it's probably a detriment to your language skills. After all, this is the console that brought us "Maybe we can find good weapon we can use", "Ones who does not have Triforce can't go in" and the ever-popular "I feel asleep!"
2. Actually, Dodge Ball was the one sport in elementary school PE that I was ever really good at. Rarely was I not among the last 3 players to bite the dust on my team. Of course, that's because I almost never made an attempt to catch the ball, but still...
3. Which was when I first got it, which has to be at least 2 years prior to this review.
|Play Control: ||
|Technical Score: 15
|Aesthetic Score: 17
|Overall Score: 89%|