If asked to name a Super Nintendo game starring an anthropomorphic bobcat, chances are that most retro gamers would cite Bubsy. Well, Bubsy ain’t the only bobcat in town! Bonkers D. Bobcat is his name and preventing crime (in his own bumbling way) is his game. Developed by the almighty Capcom, who had an impressive track record with Disney licenses, surely we were in good hands. Surely, right? Right…
THE DISNEY AFTERNOON
Growing up in the early to mid ’90s was awesome. The Disney Afternoon ruled the airwaves on weekdays from 3 to 5 PM. With classic shows such as Duck Tales, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, Aladdin and Goof Troop just to name a small handful, the Disney Afternoon was a huge part of many childhoods. Bonkers was one of the lesser known entries; the Disney Afternoon was clearly on the decline by the time Bonkers made its debut. 61 episodes ran from February 28, 1993 to February 23, 1994.
THE STORY GOES…
Behold: Magic Lamp, Sorcerer’s Hat and Mermaid’s Voice!
Never trust a ghost with a mallet my dad always used to say.
Lightning strikes and thunder rumbles… and of course, the prized treasures go missing! Meanwhile, somewhere in the city…
Pretty standard platforming 101 stuff here. You start out in the mansion and then have a choice between the studio, downtown and ocean liner stages. I recommend that order because the ocean liner level is the hardest. My favorite is the downtown one because there’s a lot to do there, such as dashing through glass barriers. After beating all 4 levels, it’s off to fight the Collector.
After beating the Collector, you face off with the final boss. Pops Clock, like the rest of the game, is easy and it’s over in less than half an hour. Yeah, one can beat Bonkers in less than 30 minutes. This game is crazy short.
GAME OVER MAN?!
Capcom has created some of the most memorable continue screens in gaming history. Who could ever forget Final Fight with the dynamite? Bonkers has a good one, too. Laugh at his jokes and continue. But don’t laugh and suffer the dire consequences. It’s a small touch but a nice one nonetheless.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Bonkers received fairly solid reviews in the press back in the fall of 1994. EGM gave it ratings of 7, 7, 7, 7 and 6. Super Play rated it 74%. However, many who have played it tend to agree that it’s easily Capcom’s weakest effort on the Super Nintendo. Not that it’s a bad game mind you. Just that nothing about it stands out in particular. A perfectly decent and serviceable platformer, then, but nothing more.
I never rented Bonkers back in the day but do recall seeing previews in EGM and GameFan. It wasn’t one of those SNES games I was clamoring to play, but a small part of me was naturally curious about it. Although I wasn’t a fan of the cartoon show, I am a big fan of platformers (even the simple ones). So when I finally played Bonkers more than 15 years after it was released, I was hoping to perhaps find an underrated, overlooked hidden gem. You don’t hear much about Bonkers in the SNES community. It rarely gets brought up in the discussion of good games, bad games or even games you might have missed. It’s just sort of… forgotten, a little bit. So I was somewhat excited to fire this game up for the first time back in 2011. Besides, coming from the almighty Capcom during their heyday, I expected at the very least a very solid platformer. Unfortunately, maybe Capcom’s C-staff was left in charge; Bonkers just feels a bit half-arsed. Graphics are decent enough, though not up to Capcom standards. The same can be said for the sound and gameplay. I expect more coming from Capcom, and I expect more from a Super Nintendo game that came out in late 1994.
But to the game’s credit, it’s not like it disgraces Capcom or the SNES in the least. Details like slipping deeper into a Jell-O dessert the longer you stand on it show a flash of charm and that classic Capcom know how. But then the negatives come into play and overpower the few moments of quasi-brilliance. Such minuses include a dash feature which is a bit cumbersome to use, the game’s difficulty being laughably easy and the game being far too short. Not to mention there are dozens of SNES action games that does what Bonkers tried to do a whole lot better. After going through this game, I see why it rarely gets mentioned. It’s not good enough to be lumped into the overlooked, underrated or hidden gem category, yet it’s nowhere bad enough to be in the same group as say, an Ultraman or Pit Fighter. So its fate, then, is somewhere roughly right in the middle of the pack. Along with arguably about 100 other SNES games that are largely playable and even decent, but are ultimately forgettable.
2 thoughts on “Bonkers (SNES)”
Hello, Steve, happy belated 15th anniversary to your website! =)
Ah, Bonkers… Regarding the show it’s based on, I remember it being on Toon Disney on TV in the early to mid ’00s but I don’t remember much about the show itself if I’m being honest (and I saw countless animated shows growing up, Disney or otherwise, and I have a stronger recollection of those), except for this one episode which stood out to me where Mickey Mouse got captured and you never see his face once (but you do hear the late Wayne Allwine’s Mickey voice at the end when Bonkers finds him) and that was a long time ago.
Now for the game itself: Bonkers (or Disney’s Bonkers: Hollywood Daisakusen! as its title would be extended to in the Japanese Super Famicom version, because many licensed characters wanted a piece of Hollywood it seems from Pink Panther to Daffy Duck to the former 7-up mascot Cool Spot) is a game I first played and caught up with over seven years ago and I thought it was solid fare, not the best Capcom Disney license but it was enjoyable in its own right. Having played it again after several years, I now find it to be pretty okay; it’s still enjoyable in bursts, but it definitely lacks the polish and novelty of other Capcom Disney platformers at the time.
Some of the strongest elements of this game for me: I like how the second through fourth stages you can access in pretty much any order you please which adds a tiny bit of replay value, I like the variety of locations you peruse through like a movie set (going from the Western genre to the space genre) and the inside of a luxurious cruise ship with the occasional nods and references to Donald and Mickey, I like how there’s a built-in timer letting you know how long it took for you to complete the stage (and game) similar to Capcom’s own Disney license Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu – Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken, I still get a kick out of the recurring visual gag of the main character ducking in a Capcom Disney game with their hat following suit in delayed fashion (like when it happened with Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales and Aladdin in Disney’s Aladdin), the luxury cruise ship theme is relaxing, Bonkers himself is highly expressive (I like how whenever he jumps on a puddle of paint he becomes that solid color, a bit similar to how the Rocket Knight Sparkster went through a paint machine that one stage with similar results in Konami’s SNES platformer which is the vibe I got from seeing that happen), and visually it’s appealing to look at with the bright color palette and distinctive Capcomesque Disney charm.
Something I’ve noticed when I played it again recently is the date that shows up on the Toon Gazette newspaper any time you clear a stage (or the game): the first one you see after the intro where Lucky crashes and gets hospitalized says the date 9/3/1994 on the upper right corner, but any time Bonkers loses a life it’s the equivalent of losing a day… so say you lost two lives by the time you cleared the first stage, rather than saying 9/3/1994 by the time you cleared the first boss it would say 9/5/1994. That is such a small and subtle detail that I can’t believe I didn’t notice before; I thought at first it was a cheeky nod to the month and year it was released, but the NTSC SNES version of Bonkers didn’t come out until October 1994.
Controls are fine, but they can feel a bit clunky and feel like they lack polish in spots particularly when it comes to dashing ahead. The game does feel like it borrows assets from prior Capcom Disney titles, like certain sound effects lifted from past Capcom Disney games (like the pounce sound effect), the heart container design from Mickey no Magical Adventure/The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse and certain layout designs reminded me of Disney’s Aladdin (even the final area leading up to Pops Clock up in the clouds visually reminded me so much of the inside of Genie’s Lamp with the puffy clouds), and it’s short plus there are no alternate difficulty settings which only slightly diminishes any chances of replay value (if not for the randomized order for stages 2 through 4).
It also doesn’t list any credits once you’re finished, which is always off-putting when it occurs with a game developed during the ’90s; the only two names I know of who worked on it (but are left uncredited) are Tokurō Fujiwara who produced the Capcom Disney licenses (and acted as general producer for the first Biohazard/Resident Evil before leaving the company to found Whoopee Camp, short-lived developer of the two cult classic sidescrolling Tomba!/Tombi action adventure games on the PlayStation One) and (according to MobyGames) Norihiko Togashi who worked on Bonkers’ music (credited under his pseudonym “Noririn”, he also had audio credits for Namco-published/Nova Games-developed Super Wagyan Land and Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai). Perhaps there wasn’t enough budget to credit all involved in the game, I don’t know?
As Nintendo 16-bit Disney licenses go I do think Bonkers is one of the weakest in terms of overall quality and enjoyability factor, but it’s fine to play once in awhile even if it does pale in comparison to most Disney licenses by Capcom or otherwise. But hey, at least Michael Berlyn’s creation Bubsy isn’t the only anthropomorphic Bobcat to star in a 16-bit platformer anymore…
It used to be that the order I liked Capcom’s 16-bit Disney licenses was:
5. Disney’s Aladdin
4. The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse
3. Gūfii to Makkusu – Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken
2. The Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie
1. Mickey to Donald: Magical Adventure 3
But after pondering about it further, I’ve decided that this is the order I like them now (first and last positions haven’t changed):
5. The Magical Quest
4. Disney’s Aladdin
3. The Great Circus Mystery
2. Gūfii to Makkusu
1. Mickey to Donald
Since I’ve mentioned Xandra no Daibōken, I’ve recently covered it on my blog once more and wondered what your thoughts on it are (if you have the time to read it, that is, I understand if you don’t)? It’s my starting over point for my video game reviews, I wanted to articulate my thoughts and feelings on it better and more thoroughly, improve my review skills, explained my affinity for it and made a little case for why it might not be for everyone, and gave a heartfelt apology to the late cover artist Greg Martin for what I’ve said about his Whirlo cover in the past (I wish I had known… once I learned of his passing, I hoped to make up for that with my review).
Hope you have a great day, Steve, take care!
To each their own
Apologies for the super late reply. I saw this, meant to reply but then things happened and I never got back to you. THANK YOU for the well wishes on the 15th year anniversary of RVGFanatic! Crazy huh? Feels like yesterday (kinda lol) that I fired this site up for the first time in January of 2007… right before Obama became president and right when the first iPhone was released! Yep, we is OLD, lol. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on Bonkers and your Capcom Disney 16-bit license rankings. Bonkers is definitely at the end of that list but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It’s decent, it’s alright, but after some of the hits Capcom cranked out, you just expected a little more from them. As a $60 purchase back in 1994, especially during a time when I was lucky if my parents bought me 3 games all year long, I would have been PISSED. But as a $5 buy in 2006? Perfectly suitable and got more than my money’s worth. Not sure how much the cartridge today commands, but yeah. Brother, I see your request for my thoughts on Xandra on your website. I got it down on my to do list. I’ll reply to you there on your site hopefully soon. Take care.