Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Dodgeball Academia (Multi) Review

I'm a little late to the party with this next review, but it was such a fun and unique title that I would have been remiss had I not covered it on SuperPhillip Central. It's Dodgeball Academia, and class is now in session with the SPC review.

To enroll in Dodgeball Academia or to drop out? The ball is in your court.

Despite the popularity and love of the RPG mechanics and stories found in some of the Mario Golf and Mario Tennis games as well as the more modern Golf Story (and hopefully upcoming Sports Story), the sports RPG is a genre that doesn't see the light of day too often. While golf is a now well-trodden sport to base an RPG off of, now we have a brand-new entrant in the scene with a new sport: dodgeball, and it's by developer Pocket Trap. It's none other than Dodgeball Academia.

Dodgeball Academia stars Otto, a precocious young boy yearning to become a dodgeball pro--so much so that he defies his parents' wishes and drops out from a school for referees (of course, without them knowing) and joins an academy for up and coming dodgeball youths. The story features an eclectic and eccentric group of characters, and while many of them spout off incredibly antagonistic lines and attitudes, they're all charming in their own ways. The humor in Dodgeball Academia is at quite a high level, offering plenty of moments where I either laughed loudly or cracked a smile, whether that was with the game's wild and wacky scenarios, plot points, or many references to other games. It all adds up a story and game that provides a lovely Saturday morning cartoon feel to it, and one I absolutely appreciated. 

And thus, Otto's academic adventure in dodgeball begins!

Dodgeball Academia is, of course, a dodgeball RPG. It has all the trappings of the genre, but turned on its head to make for one interesting and unique game. You gain experience and levels from participating in dodgeball battles. These are similar to Pok√©mon games in how a character will have an exclamation point over their head, and if you enter into their line of vision, you do battle with them. There's also lots of equipment to outfit Otto and his party of five other zany characters as well, though each character only has two slots apiece. These boost various stats like health, attack power, defense, and much more. 

The competition is fierce at Dodgeball Academia, but keep your eyes on the prize!

Battles in Dodgeball Academia are all in real time. While Dodgeball Academia doesn't follow standard dodgeball rules (for instance, a character is only eliminated from the match when they lose all of their HP as opposed to when simply getting hit by a single ball), matches play out in a similarly heated fashion. Battles begin with both teams on opposite sides of the court with a column of balls in the center, ready for the grabbing and then subsequent throwing. Balls ready to be thrown can be charged to deliver and dish out more damage, while balls thrown by the opponents can be caught as a means to evade damage. 

It may be a game at the end of the day, but Otto certainly isn't playing around here.

Some characters throw balls in unique ways or earn different powers as they level up. Otto, for instance, can add burn damage to his thrown balls, setting opponents on fire and delivering chip damage over time to attacked opponents. Meanwhile, Mina forgoes catching balls entirely, instead performing a counter to knock them back right in her opponents' faces.

True to RPGs, each character has a super powerful ultimate ability, cleverly called their "Balltimate" move. As players hit other opponents, catch balls thrown by opponents, or when players charge up their Balltimate when balls have been cleared from their side of the court, a gauge fills. When it's maxed out, a Balltimate move can be unleashed. Some dish out massive damage by throwing a litany of balls out at once, while others serve better for defense, serving as a means of healing your party.

Careful, as opponents can unleash their own Balltimate attacks as well!

Needless to say, there is plenty to take in with regard to Dodgeball Academia's rules, gameplay, and matches, but the game does an excellent job of delivering players info and introducing new concepts at a slow and steady pace. I was never overwhelmed by a new mechanic because there was enough time in between mechanics to learn and become comfortable with them. That's whether the game introduced Balltimate moves, courts with unique gimmicks like traffic or tall grass, or even special dodgeballs that deliver status effects like poison, burn, freeze, and stun upon getting damaged by them. 

Generally, Dodgeball Academia is a balanced experience gameplay-wise. It's especially so if you engage in every battle you possibly can, as battles aren't lengthy excursions at all--perhaps taking a minute or two to finish. However, Pocket Trap smartly added some accessibility options allowing players to change how much damage they take and how much damage they give in battles. This is performed by moving percentage sliders around. You can get to the point where there's no challenge at all by sliding your damage taken output to 0% if you'd prefer to experience the story. Conversely, you can make the game harder on yourself, too, by increasing how much damage you take and decreasing how much damage you dish out. This way you can customize Dodgeball Academia how you want, depending on your skill level and gameplay experience you want.

When you're not engaging in dodgeball battles, you're strolling around the academy's multiple areas, chatting it up with fellow students and talking with teachers and staff, participating in side quests, shopping for items and new equipment, and more. Any other game would provide a run button for players to skirt around the game world quickly, but Dodgeball Academia cleverly keeps things dodgeball-themed by having Otto curl up into a ball and roll around the academy that way. It's far too easy to crash into objects and obstacles, which sometimes makes rolling around irritating, but there's no penalty for absent-mindedly slamming into things. 

The forest, one of a handful of unique areas within Dodgeball Academia's world.

One point about Dodgeball Academia that I'd like to broach about is that the game's world is relatively small. Thus, you're tasked with moving backtracking to and from similar environments over and over again, ad nauseum, which does make for a taxing experience at times. Several points are closed off at the beginning of the game, and one major area of Dodgeball Academia doesn't even open up until the near the end of the adventure. Thus, you will be frequenting the same places perhaps more times than you may like.

Dodgeball Academia is a colorful, crisp-looking game, exuding immense Saturday morning cartoon vibes through its super-fun story and eclectic cast of characters. The immense amount of dodgeball battles (how ever enjoyable at first) and backtracking may grow tedious and repetitive at times, but the game introduces enough variety to keep things from getting too stale. All in all, you'll want to enroll at Dodgeball Academia if you haven't already. You'll have a ball.

[SPC Says: B]