Super Dodge Ball Review
Posted by Marcel van Duyn
Super Lag Ball
Many people are familiar with River City Ransom, the cult classic NES game, but what you might not know is that it's actually part of a series with many, many more titles. Of course, that can be hard to figure out when those that were localized all got completely unrelated names.
Interestingly, while the series is mostly known in the west for its beat 'em up instalments, a huge part of the franchise is made up of sports games, with dodgeball having far and away the most iterations of the bunch. This particular title is a home conversion of the arcade game with the same name, and was actually the first time the characters delved into sports.
While Super Dodge Ball might seem like regular old dodge ball, with two teams of six players and the objective to hit the enemy players with the ball and avoid getting hit yourself, looks can be deceiving; there are some wonderfully wacky twists at play here - for starters, each character has a health bar, so getting tagged once won't immediately knock you out, you'll have to keep wailing on your opponents until they finally drop. While this can be done (slowly) with regular throws, you've got plenty of other moves as well, such as running or jumping throws, as well as crazy special attacks that make the ball move in ridiculous ways and dole out massive damage.
What is quite important is that each character in the game has completely different stats and special attacks, meaning no two characters are the same. As such, you should decide carefully what characters you want to use, and where you want to place them on the field. Naturally, you'll want to have characters with high energy and throwing power at the front, while the weaker ones should hang back or be placed on the sidelines of the opponent's half of the field.
A game like this would be fun enough with nothing but a two player versus mode, but there are actually multiple modes for you to sink your teeth into. Versus Play is said versus mode, with the ability to set up a match between any two teams and duke it out against a friend. World Mode is more of a single player mode, as you try to take your team up the ranks to become the world champion, taking on teams from all over the globe. It's pretty fun, but feels a bit basic now, as later instalments would flesh it out quite a bit more by including the ability to train and level up characters in this mode, thus increasing their stats further.
The one mode that works a bit differently is Bean Ball, which is only played with a total of six players, essentially one entire team. This is pretty much a free-for-all, where everybody tries to take out everybody, and the last man standing wins; there are also none of the regular movement restrictions, so you can run all around the field trying to chase the ball down before slamming it into someone's face.
While it is a pretty fun take on the sport, Super Dodge Ball probably won't keep you entertained for long in this day and age. There's not a whole lot of meat to the single player mode, and if you don't have a friend to play against, you're obviously not going to be getting a whole lot out of the versus and Bean Ball modes.
Further dragging the game down are technical issues. While the graphics are charming and the music is pretty catchy, Super Dodge Ball is a clear example of why many NES games decided to limit the amount of sprites that could be on-screen at any one time. At just about any moment, you can see six or more sprites in this game, and that means two things - near-constant lag and sprite flickering, both of which don't let up until some players are eliminated, which slows down the action tremendously and gets annoying quite fast.
Although it is a cult classic, Super Dodge Ball is definitely beginning to show its age now. The familiar art style is still as funny as ever, but there's just not a whole lot of content on offer, and it's hard to stay entertained for too long with the constantly flickering sprites and slowdown, even if you're playing with a friend. It's still worth consideration, but unless you're getting the game for nostalgia reasons or you just want to see how it all began, we'd advise you to check out one of the more recent dodgeball games in the series instead — they're a lot more fleshed out.