“Downtown SMASH Dodgeball!” is more exciting dodgeball.This dodgeball fights until the other party is downed. Let’s Play it by an easy operation and a variegated action. Copyright (c) 2009 Miracle Kidz Corp. All rights reserved.
Although it is a Japanese game listed under its Japanese name — ??????????????! — Downtown SMASH Dodgeball should be instantly familiar to anyone growing up in the 80’s busy playing Technos Japan games. Developer Miracle Kidz is composed of former Technos employees, the people responsible for Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom, and all of the other Kunio-kun games. This is a welcomed sight for sore eyes for fans of the game, and Miracle Kidz manages to stick to the game’s roots while expanding upon the gameplay to deliver the best dodgeball game yet.
Downtown SMASH Dodgeball is features teams of seven players with four on the inside and three defenders around the perimeter of the opponent’s side of the court. Before play the player can decide what position each teammate will play along with the interior formation. Each player is rated in a few categories such as attack, curve, catch, and shot, and he will have two separate special shots available to him. There are well over a dozen special shots in the game, triggering via a variety of running and/or jumping techniques. The shot selection is wonderful: the U-turn shot will swing by and come back, the return shot will go back to the thrower should it connect, the power shot flies with such strength that it pushes a player out of bounds if caught, and so forth. The variety of flight paths and special techniques coupled with the ability to curve all shots makes each one effective in the right situation, and the game does will in keeping relatively balanced unlike some dodgeball games such as All-Star Slammin’ D-Ball (The Dodgeball) which are often crippled with useless special shots which degrade the experience.
The game offers two modes of play: one-on-one and an eight round tournament. Progress is both modes is automatically saved and can be resumed at any time. Downtown SMASH Dodgeball provides six distinct courts each with its own theme and background music. The courts also appear to impact gameplay with the beach court noticeably slowing down the range of steps needed for the super shots compared to the other ones available. The course graphics are fitting and nicely detailed but devoid of animation. During play and all throughout the game the bottom fifth of the screen is set aside for chatter from the team during play or the referee girls chiming in here and there. It was good to see “BARF!” make a return. The animation and graphics are classic Super Dodge Ball but with greater color and more fluid action while still keeping a 16-bit aesthetic. While newcomers may question the quality of the graphics — and to be sure they won’t impress anyone — I’m happy Miracle Kidz stuck with the look of the original games as opposed to the Technos’ Super Dodge Ball on Neo Geo or Million’s Super Dodge Ball Advance. There’s a definitely charm to the Kunio-kun style, and it’d be a shame to lose it.
Downtown SMASH Dodgeball offers three pages of options from changing the ball strength to the shot selection, timer settings, and more. There is also three pages describing how to play the game including a new techniques such as “Dashman,” where a player uses the right bumper or trigger to send the AI teammates racing toward the line, finally allowing the series some team gameplay controls. The strength of the gameplay makes Downtown SMASH Dodgeball my favorite game of dodgeball by far, even if it’s lacking the trappings of Nijiiro Dodge Ball, my previous favorite dodgeball video game. Downtown SMASH Dodgeball is a somewhat barebones release in this day and age, but Super Dodge Ball made its name on its excellent gameplay, something this release has improved upon.
Downtown SMASH Dodgeball’s tight gameplay and control innovations make for the best dodgeball game yet. The big drawback for most here is going to be the high price of 800 points and being limited to local multi-player. It will be difficult for the average consumer to swallow buying an indie game for 800 points, and certainly a lower price would be welcomed here, but this feels like a game made to cater strictly to those who love Super Dodge Ball, not necessarily to wow and entice newcomers. As such, it’s highly recommended for fans of the series and is just too much fun to pass up.