Super Dodge Ball review by GregN.
Dodge Ball is a past time many of us remember from our grammar school days. Just a group of kids, a brick wall, and a rubber ball. Who would think it could ever be a deadly professional sport with explosions, flashes of light, gangsters, cross-dressing strongmen, and cars jumping 6 feet in the air?! Enter Super Dodge Ball, tournament-style, on the Neo Geo.
The rules of Super Dodge Ball are best described as a cross between boxing and volleyball, only the ball is the glove. In Neo Super Dodge Ball, 3 players on each team play in a volleyball court with no net between them. Each team takes turns throwing the ball at the opposing team in an attempt to knock the other players of the team out. If the ball is caught, the player takes no damage. When a player of the team is knocked out, he or she goes to the outside of the ring on the opposing team's side. Players on the inside and outside of the ring can pass the ball to each other at any time. Players who have been knocked out remain on the outside of the ring, cannot take any further damage, and are still able to attack opponents who are inside the ring. If a player on the inside steps out of the ring with the ball in their hand, they will be out of bounds and drop the ball. They can still retrieve it if they can pick it up before the other team goes for it. Time is always against you in Super Dodge Ball. Hanging on to the ball for more than a few seconds causes it to flash and gives it to the other team. Once the time limit of the match expires, the match ends, the victor determined by the team with the largest combined health meter.
The controls of Super Dodge Ball are very simple and user friendly, but take some practice to master. If the player has a ball in his/her hand and is on the offense, the A button is used to throw the ball at the other team, with the B button used for passing to teammates. The C button jumps, while the D is used to psyche the opponent out with a fake throw. In the one player game, the D button is practically worthless, as the Computer A.I. pretty much reads your moves. It does make for some interesting strategy in 2 player games, and is not to be overlooked. If your hands are empty and you find yourself on the defense, the A button catches, and the B button ducks/dodges. The C button serves the same jumping function, and the D button taunts/provokes.
What really reminds you that you are playing Dodge Ball on the Neo and no other system are Technos' fighting game dynamics. To perform the most powerful and hard-to-catch throws, some mastery of fighting game specials is required. Nothing to fear here for Capcom and SNK vets- quarter-circle forward and a press of the A button will do. And boy, do they pack as much visual punch as they do health-depleting hurt. The throws range from everything from a simple ball on fire, to a rotating wheel of multiple-hit magic that smacks everyone in its path. Unusual throws permeate the game as well, from a ball guided by the pistol shots of a Yakuza gun to the ball being ridden on River-City Ransom Style by a hot-rodder. Not enough for you? Can't catch the ball coming at you in time? How about Dragon-Punch counters that bounce the ball back at the thrower? Still not enough? Fake your opponent out with Dragon Punch + B that passes the ball to a teammate and sends it at lightning speed at the opponent. And we can't forget the end-all-be-all uber throw: charge your Max meter up KoF Extra style with A and B and let it rip with a dazzling super special where the whole team pitches in to take 75% health off of a single victim of your rival team!
Graphically, this game is above average. Bright, vibrant colors are the order of the day. Characters come alive with intro animation and various expressions when getting hit that give life to the game. When a player is knocked out of the game, explosions and flashes add some drama and a sense of kickin' ass that adds to the fun. Backgrounds are forgettable and don't really add much to the game. The only background that really stands out is the hot-rodder background. In a fashion seen only on the West Coast, cars jump around spastically with a hydraulic lift 6 feet in the air. This background fits with the zany nature of the game pretty good.
Like the graphics of Super Dodge Ball, the sound doesn't really stand out or make much of an overall contribution to the game. The music of most stages is forgettable at best, with the exception of the disco background, which has an excellent techno sound. Sound effects are pretty good, with thunks, yells, and screams as colorful as the flashes and explosions of graphic eye candy.
If you are a lonely Dodge Ball player (and if you play dodge ball, believe me, you will be), you may be a bit disappointed in the replay department. While 8 difficulty levels offer plenty of challenge and some lasting replay, they go only so far. With only 9 teams to fight before you finish the game, Super Dodge Ball on the Neo tends to be a short affair. The gameplay feature of adding the leaders of a beaten team to your side ramps up the replay a bit but doesn't save one player games from low replay value.
Fret not, however, for there is hope. Super Dodge Ball is one of the best 2 player games on the Neo, hands down. Anybody who has played the NES and GBA versions of this game knows that already. In two player games, the D button, rendered completely useless in 1 player mode by the computer's A.I., opens up new vistas of gameplay potential.
As good as Super Dodge Ball is on the Neo; it has its shortcomings. One major bone I have to pick with this game is that the computer has a tendency to get cheap hits on you. When you or the computer make a successful hit, the ball often bounces back to the thrower, which allows the thrower to get one free hit after another until they knock you out. This wouldn't be so bad if you wouldn't fall to the ground completely helpless and unable to get up, but the computer can just keep jumping and throwing the ball at you until you get knocked out. This can be very cheap. If you could hit the B button to switch teammates who could guard you, this wouldn't be so bad. Another gripe I have with this game are the MAX supers. If the computer decides they want to use one of these on you, you can kiss yourself goodbye, because they are virtually impossible to counter or catch. Another problem lies with the camera, especially when there are more than 3 people on one side of the ring. If you have knocked out a member of the opposing team, and they are attacking you from the sidelines, your character will not turn around to defend himself. The zooming of the camera makes it hard to see the action to catch the ball even if you did have the chance! Even though I have some gripes with this game, they are still pretty small and don't completely detract from gameplay.
Dodge Ball Comparisons: NES & GBA Vs Neo Geo
NES & GBA: Super Throws executed by running and hitting the button at the exact moment or at the height of a jump.
Neo Geo: Super Throws executed by fireball and dragon punch motions.
NES & GBA: 6 members per team, inside members are knocked out of the game when they run out of health. 3 members outside the ring remain there throughout the whole game.
Neo Geo: 3 members per team. Members join the outer part of the opponent's side of the ring when they are knocked out.
NES & GBA: Team leaders and members can be rotated each match.
Neo Geo: Team leader remains the same throughout; however, as new teams are beaten, leaders of the opponent's team can replace members of your team.
NES & GBA: No time limit on the match or ball possession.
Neo Geo: Time limit for the match of 45, 60, or 99 seconds. Lose ball possession if hold it too long.
This game is one of the most esoteric in the Neo Geo library and definitely not for everyone. Long-time Dodge Ball fans that worship the NES and GBA incarnations will get a kick out of this game and take a liking to it immediately. Fighting fans will adore it for its fireball and dragon punch motions, supers, and counters, and may welcome it as an alternative to fighters. For those of you who have never played a Dodge Ball game before, give it a try on an MVS machine (if you can find it), or try it on MAME before you buy it. Word of warning to emulator users: this game plays much better when used with a stick, as the precision control needed to pull off supers with a pad leaves much to be desired.
Super Dodge Ball, while one of the most obscure games on the Neo Geo, is arguably one of the most under-rated and fun to play. The quirky characters, flashy graphics and sound, and stellar game play make this game a keeper. Hard-core Dodge Ball fans will eat this up, while the uninitiated may want to try before they buy. This may just be the perfect Dodge Ball game. Technos + Dodge Ball + Neo Geo = Perfection.
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Replay - 6/10
Overall - 9/10
A look back on the two previous Super Dodge Ball games and a look at the new version on GBA:
Super Dodge Ball - Arcade (JAMMA) - 1987
Super Dodge Ball - NES - 1989
Super Dodge Ball - GBA - 2001
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