This post is more than a bit late… behold! My tribute to the insanity that is video pinball:
Over the years, I have amassed quite aof video pinball games. Even though I’m not much of a pinball player, I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I’ve long wanted to do a retrospective on the legendary Alien Crush.
Alien Crush game was the visual centerpiece of the TurboGrafx-16 when it was released. It was one of those games that made you think “I want this system.” However, being a pinball game, it doesn’t make for terribly compelling gameplay footage – at the end of the day, it’s just pinball.
I decided to bolster the video by adding additional pinball games. As I browsed through my library, I began to notice a pattern of… uh… “heavy metal absurdity.” A video pinball game relies quite heavily on the theme applied to its table(s) – if you’re working with a decent physics model and table design, that’s really about all that separates one game from the other. I found myself increasingly amused at the “edgy” nature of the themes developers chose; many games from the early 1990s just seem like they were designed to upset parents. In a word, they were SWEET.
So, with that in mind, I took inspiration from one of my favorite NES commercials:
I thought it would be fun to just go full sensory overload – inundate the viewer with over the top nonsense as rapidly as I could. If nothing else, I think I accomplished that goal.
FUN FACT: I had originally recorded footage from the TG-16 version of Devil’s Crush. Unfortunately, due to some hardware issues, I wasn’t able to capture it in RGB, and I wasn’t happy with how it looked next to the rest of the footage. As such, what you see in the video is actually from Devil’s Crush MD: the Japanese Genesis version of the same game. Here’s the video of the TG-16 version if you’re interested.
Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu: PC Bangai Hen
PC Engine, 1990
Publisher: Naxat Soft
Like many gamers who grew up in the heyday of the NES, I have fond memories of playing Super Dodge Ball. Tecnhos’ 1988 classic was an early highlight in what I lovingly refer to as the “fake sports” genre; a game that, without licensing any official league, athletes, or actual sport, provided you with all of the thrills of a “legitimate” athletic simulation, with a little extra panache to boot. The NES Super Dodge Ball replicated the excitement, drama, and intrigue of fourth period gym without the need for you to actually get beaned in the head by a rubber ball.
That is, when it wasn’t stuttering, blinking, and running at a snail’s pace every time the action picked up. Super Dodge Ball was a great concept, but actually playing it could be extremely frustrating at times. The game’s ambitions far outstripped what its designers were capable of getting out of the NES in 1988. It wasn’t uncommon for sprites to simply vanish from the screen, and the framerate dipped to borderline unplayable levels. It was a lot like playing a UbiSoft game in 2014 (zing!).
So when I learned that Super Dodge Ball had received a facelift for the PC Engine, and that some guy on eBay was selling it for less than $30.00, I knew I had to have it. If the game was halfway decent on the NES, it had to be at least twice as good on PCE, right?
The answer to that seemingly rhetorical question is an emphatic “YES.” The extra power of the PC Engine allows Super Dodge Ball to fully deliver on the promise of its predecessor.
The rules of the game are simple enough. The court is divided into two halves, and each team consists of four infielders and three outfielders. The object of the game is to defeat the opposing team’s infielders. Outfielders are confined to the sidelines on the opposing team’s half of the court – their primary function is to toss the ball back to the infielders, but they are capable of mounting a modest degree of offense as well. Confused? Well, just watch the video at the end of the article and it will all make sense.
So the rules of the game are simple, but… WHY? Why do I want to play dodge ball? I need some motivation!
Well, that’s a good enough reason, I guess. This is the introduction to the game’s Tournament Mode, in which we take team Japan on a globe-trotting quest to prove that the land of the rising sun will not suffer beanballs lightly.
And by “globe-trotting quest,” I mean “charmingly racist dodge ball safari.” You’ll travel to many exotic locales and throw dodge balls at any number of classic ethnic archetypes, including….
Jolly old London town, where you’ll play on the banks of the Thames against a team of angry, pasty, cod eaters!
Iceland! While penguins look on, you’ll battle it out with some vaguely Eskimo looking dudes as you slip and slide over some glaciers!
China! Play against a team of jaundiced obese children in front of a picture of Chairman Mao! Bonus points if you kill some sparrows with your dodge ball.
Kenya, where you’ll play against a team of extremely fast athletes on the sun-scorched Serengeti!
And of course, the worst nation of them all, AMERICA. You’ll compete against a team of roided-out supermen on the top of some fictitious skyscraper frighteningly close to the statue of liberty!
And what is your prize, for defeating this murderers’ row of dodge ball assassins?
Superman descends from the sky to present you with a trophy, of course, presumably renouncing his American citizenship in the process. Nippon ichi!
You can play through tournament mode on loop for hours, but that’s for chumps. The real action is in the PC Engine exclusive QUEST MODE. Why would a dodge ball game have a quest mode, you ask?
Aliens? To quote Will Smith, “AW, HELL NO.” Quest Mode tracks team Japan on its quest to hunt down the intergalactic asshats that wasted some untold amount of fuel to fly to Earth and bean us in the head. How does this play out you ask? Well, surprisingly similar to Tournament Mode, at first. You’re immediately dropped into a match with a rival Japanese team which plays out exactly like any other bout in the game. However, when things finish up, we are presented with… Dialog options?
While I don’t speak a word of Japanese, based purely on gameplay experience, I’m willing to bet the post match conversation between you and the opposing team’s captain breaks down like this:
Him: Yo dawg, good match. You beat us good. Mind if I leave these simps behind and go on the road with you?
You: Hell yeah, brah. We lookin’ for these aliens. They done beaned us in the head.
Him: You serious, man, aliens? Let’s do this.
You: Fo’ sho. Hey, you seen a UFO?
Him:Naw man, try checking any other country with a national dodge ball team.
And that’s exactly how quest mode progresses. You travel from country to country looking for your alien rivals, recruiting each team’s best infielder along the way. Each recruitable player has has two unique “super throws” he can utilize against the enemy, which range from conceivable (100 mph beanball) to absolutely ridiculous (dodge balls dropping from orbit). The catch is that you only have four infielder slots on your team – you have to kick someone off to make room for someone new. You have to pay attention to your adversaries’ skills in order to determine whether they are worth recruiting.
As quest mode progresses, you will slowly discover that alien invaders have been impersonating members of each nation’s dodge ball team.
And as you discover each alien invader, its corresponding nation is wiped off the game’s map, meaning you can no longer recruit from that country.
When you’ve finally uncovered the last of the body-snatching fiends….
Let’s just say it’s a pretty epic conclusion.
All goofiness aside, there’s not much to find fault with in Super Dodge Ball for the PC Engine. It’s a wonderful game with tight controls, colorful graphics, and a refreshing sense of goofiness that is rarely found in the sports games of today, fake or otherwise. Buy it, emulate it, steal it, do what you need to do…. but I heartily recommend that you play this game.
And on that note, I leave you with this – The greatest comeback in fake sports history, as Kenya Bill overcomes insurmountable odds against team Moonman:
 The Japanese name for the console known as the Turbo Grafx in the US.
 The actual name of the game, as indicated at the beginning of this post, is Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu: PC Bangai Hen – Literally, “Hot-Blooded High School Dodgeball Club: PC Extra Edition. For ease of reference, we sill simply refer to the game as Super Dodge Ball.