There has been a recent resurgence in all forms of media where creators want to repackage 90s nostalgia to sell to customers while doing minimal work. Whether it’s a classic television show. a popular movie, or just the aesthetics, this is a common approach to creating new content while not giving the audience anything new or different than the original content.
Dodgeball Academia could be in that category. It’s clear the game is heavily inspired by a classic NES title, Super Dodgeball and it would be easy for someone to create a clone of that classic game and sell it for twenty or thirty dollars.
That’s not what Dodgeball Academia is about. While Pocket Trap, the developers of Dodgeball Academia are fans of Super Dodgeball, Dodgeball Academia is more of a love letter or an homage to a classic title showing what can happen when nostalgia is only the first step of a project.
Super Dodgeball was an NES title in 1987 and was part of the Technos’s Kunio-Kun saga, which is better known as the River City Ransom franchise in the west. It is relatively well known and quite popular, but also one of the few dodgeball titles of note. Super dodgeball focuses on a three-on-three dodgeball tournament with big hits, a strategic style, and super moves.
Dodgeball Academia takes a lot of inspiration from Super Dodgeball. The characters are different and some of the mechanics have changed, as well as having far more controls, it’s really hard to ignore the similarities between these titles.
But as stated previously while all Dodgeball Academia needed to be was an updated version of that classic title, the fact is, Dodgeball Academia uses it as a base for its title.
Dodgeball Academia starts with the main character named Otto, coming to the titular Dodgeball Academia as a new semester starts, and the players have a chance to discover the university. Dodgeball Academia’s world is one where Dodgeball has taken over almost all aspects of life, and there are multiple humorous versions of everyday phrases and media titles that have been changed to focus on Dodgeball.
The core gameplay is set up as an RPG, with Otto going around the school, building his team, and running to class or a dodgeball tournament depending on the section of the story. At the same time, the conflict will happen quite often in the story, or just while wandering around, Otto and his team will have to fight…. with dodgeballs.
When Dodgeball Academia switches to its dodgeball system, it’s time for the game to shine. While heavy inspiration is clear from Super Dodgeball, Dodgeball Academia also refines the formula, giving each character in the world unique abilities, skills, fighting style, AI, and more. The main characters are also given unique charge moves, super moves, and even different styles of catching or countering enemy throws.
With six main characters, it’s refreshing to see each character have a unique skill set and style, but it’s equally impressive that every named opponent feels like they have a different set of skills and abilities. If there is a flaw, it’s that there are so many unplayable characters and players aren’t able to use them in any capacity, even after the game concludes.
The story in Dodgeball Academia plays out like a sports manga with a new student coming to a prestigious institution for dodgeball, meets everyone, and ends up having to prove himself constantly while dealing with various situations.
The dialogue reminds me of Super NES RPGs at times with some cheesy dialogue given, though not an excessive amount. Characters are given simple motivation to keep playing or join Otto’s team, but Dodgeball Academia uses short scenes to keep players engaged with the narrative rather than bogging down in long explanations. Most characters will say only a couple of lines before letting someone talk, and I found the game to be quite funny at times, and almost every interaction feels quick enough to get you back to what you’re hoping to do.
Dodgeball Academia’s first two chapters flow well if a bit fast, players can quickly run through them learning the basics about the school and gameplay. However, from the third chapter throughout the end, the rest of the game slows down and starts giving the player larger tasks. Everything from finding out who sent a love letter, to dealing with a robot invasion plays out.
Chapters are a little longer than they need to be with each chapter feeling like they could have shaved a few goals to let the game flow better. With a school-wide tournament occurring, it feels like the story seems to forget that point and lets the character go on large quests which take a very long time.
The core of the story involves Otto and his team trying to win the tournament against various enemies they see throughout the school and Dodgeball Academia often succeeds at finding interesting and unique reasons for more games of Dodgeball.
But what saves the story, is how enjoyable the core experience of dodgeball is throughout the entire game. I’m often critical of RPGs for their reliance on grinding and repetitive battles, and while not every battle is a unique and special occurrence, every battle felt fun, interesting, and engaging. Even when fighting through round after round of fodder between a major event, the quick battles reminded me of how well designed Pokemon was with each battle being a small trial.
The one downside is that players will have to manage their health, and while players are given quite a few items to help restore health, players will likely feel the pull to return to one of the locations that give a free full health restore. However, players may do this more often than required, which only prolongs the game with needless backtracking.
A majority of the game doesn’t even bar this approach, but the first section of the game heals the players’ damage instantly after every encounter, and I wonder why that wasn’t kept for the entire game when it’s viable and useful option throughout the entire experience. It would be a minor change, but as a hoarder of RPG items, I didn’t realize I wouldn’t have a use for them.
Yet even that didn’t damper my excitement. I spent over 10 hours playing through the story and enjoying the combat and dialogue. A big part of the reason I enjoyed Dodgeball Academia is it’s at the intersection of two of my favorite things. I am a huge fan of Dodgeball as a sport, and I love RPGs. That’s an important area for players of the game, but if fans are ready to tackle both genres at once, Dodgeball Academia does a great job in delivering them a fantastic experience.
I give Dodgeball Academia an arbitrary
I played this as part of the Xbox Game Pass. if you want to see more of my coverage of the Xbox Game Pass, or more videos from me, you can check out this video: