Not many people know that the Dodgeball games have ties with one of the best games on the NES, River City Ransom, and one of the worst games on the NES, Renegade. In Japan, all three are a part of a series featuring one school punk named Kunio that goes to Nekketsu High. In both Renegade and River City Ransom, you're playing the character, Kunio, kicking ass throughout the game. As expected in Japan, once a game series becomes a big hit, it's time to milk it for all it's worth hence the Dodgeball series. In earlier version, the Dodgeball series didn't keep the Kunio and gang names giving the character a more generic name for the Westerners unfamiliar with the Nekketsu High series. Super Dodgeball Brawlers for the Nintendo DS was the first US game that did keep the original characters name along with the classic dodgeball fun.
The gameplay for Super Dodgeball Brawlers is almost identical to the gameplay from the original Dodgeball released in Japan in 1988. You control a team of seven players. Four of your players are on the court while the other three are on the outside of the court on the opponents' side. The goal is to take out the other team's four players are on the court. To do this, you must use a variety of throws. The trademark of the game is the Power Shots that offer some very incredible looking throws with harsh results. Power Shots can take the form of the balls going supersonic speeds to the balls transforming into ice making the opponents freeze when touched. These Power Shots can be thrown via running on the ground or by jumping in the air. Hit your opponents with a few of these shots and their life bars will deplete, making you the winner and onto the next match. While this gameplay is very simple and very much like the original, it is still a lot of fun.
Even though the core gameplay stayed the same, it seemed only natural that there should be some additions to the gameplay making use of the Nintendo DS dual screen and touch pad. For starters, the action takes place on the top screen while the lower screen provides you with info on the character you're controlling. Mainly what Power Shots the character has available. The touch pad comes into play with the Super Gauge System. Hitting your opponents enough times will increase these gauge and give you access to special abilities for the team. The abilities vary on either making your throws extra strong or making your team better at defense. To activate this special ability, you have to touch the big S that appears on the touch pad. Also new to the game is the use of punches, kicks and items. Punches and kicks can be used to inflict a little damage to your opponent if they're close enough. Items fall from the sky when players are knocked out and can be used on your opponents for extra damage.
The modes of Super Dodgeball Brawlers are a combination of the modes from the previous games. There is the Tournament mode where you pick a team that battles teams from other countries. In this mode, every team you beat will give you experience points that improves your teams and cash that allows you to buy items to improve specific stats. Vs. mode your typical multiplayer mode. Brawl mode can support up to eight players in an all out fight. You can use the ball, the items that fall from the sky, or just punches/kicks to take out your opponents with the winner being the last man standing. The Locker Room lets you create your own team by either creating your own players or taking players from other teams. When you create your own player, you can have access to whichever Power Shot you like depending on the birth date of the character.
Graphically, Super Dodgeball Brawlers is not pushing the DS to its full potential. Instead, it uses many of the same sprites from the previous Dodgeball games with of course a little touch up here and there. Still, seeing well done 2d sprites touches a gamer's heart in a special way. Just like the graphics, the music keeps with the previous games. Again, it's not pushing the limits but it has that charm that only 2d games have.
Needless to say, I've been a fan of the Dodgeball series since the original NES game (well you could say I was a fan of the whole Nekketsu series starting with River City Ransom). It's simple, yet fun gameplay reminds us that while some games need to be redone to make them attractive to the current gamer, other games can still be enjoyable when keeping the same formula.