My brother and I owned an 8-bit Nintendo and Sega Genesis growing up. As such, we got to enjoy such mascot platformers as Super Mario Bros and Sonic the Hedgehog. Well, I remember seeing Bonk’s Adventure on the Turbo Grafx 16 (or PC Engine if you will) and wanting to badly play it, but alas, the system back in those days was something of a semi-mythical beast. You rarely ever saw it in stores other than once in a blue moon, and you hardly knew anyone who had it. It was, on a smaller scale, somewhat similar to the Neo Geo. As such, I figured I would never get to play a Bonk game ever, with emulation not being a thing back then.
But lo and behold, in the early ’90s my bro and I were graced with a Super Nintendo. Gaming had evolved for us, but still in the back of my mind I never forgot my bald little caveman. After all, you can’t talk about evolution without starting at the beginning. I have always had a bit of a fetish for the caveman sub-genre, anyway, and Bonk was probably the reason why. Anyway, fast forward to 1994 and what do I see in GameFan Magazine? Super Bonk coming out for the Super Nintendo? What madness is this?! It blew my mind that a Turbo Grafx 16 mascot was jumping ship to Nintendo’s 16-bit machine.
Long story short, I finally played Super Bonk earlier this year (2016) after being curious about it for roughly 22 years since seeing it featured in the pages of GameFan Magazine. It, quite frankly, fell short of my expectations. Still a decent platformer, mind, but nothing like I had hoped. Alas, there was the Super Famicom exclusive sequel, Super Genjin 2, still waiting for me to finally play. I had heard in years past that it was a much better game. I’m happy to say I completely concur.
Right away you can see they have captured the zany, goofy spirit of the Bonk games with this intro alone. It only gets weirder from this point on. Super Bonk was plenty quirky enough for an American SNES game, but Super Genjin 2 being only released in Japan, it didn’t hold back on the weirdness!
There is an in-game map, but unlike Super Mario World, you can’t backtrack.
Like he’s always done, Bonk demolishes his enemies by smashing them with his noggin. He can either do this standing or jumping. You get hurt if you simply jump on enemies, which does make it slightly tougher. Speaking of which, don’t expect precise control like in the Mario games. Although Bonk controls a little better here than he does in his first Super Nintendo outing, I wouldn’t call moving him around “super crisp.” It just takes some getting used to.
Just like previous Bonk games, there are icons scattered throughout that when collected will transform Bonk accordingly. Here is one such example, which allows the little guy to leave a trail of flames in his wake. Unfortunately, take one hit and it’s back to regular Bonk.
The game, visually, is stunningly impressive. Released in mid 1995, it’s got a simple but striking look all the same. It’s a major graphical improvement to the first SNES game. There are lots of different locales which add to the fun of the game. From graveyards to forests to even the wild west, each new level presents a slightly new look.
By timing your noggin smasher properly, Bonk can bounce off the surface of water, making for some neat transitions. More importantly, it makes you look like a really skilled player. Guaranteed to impress your special lady friend. Or guy friend. Or simply, yourself [You like playing with yourself, huh -Ed.]
Ah, the advantage of having a hard head. Also, Bonk can bounce off walls to bring himself back up to the surface. The timing of this technique is much more forgiving than it was in Super Metroid. But not quite as easy as Ninja Gaiden. Somewhere in the middle, then.
Super Genjin 2 is everything a sequel should be. Bigger and better. Although speaking of bigger, the sprites here are actually smaller than the sprites in Super Bonk, which is a GOOD thing. The sprites for Super Bonk were so big that it made playing the game not nearly as fun as it could have been. I like the smaller sprites here. The game features a password system after each world you conquer. It’s not a long game by any means but I always appreciate a nice, clean password system. That’s another thing that Super Bonk lacked.
The power ups are fun and range from turning Bonk into a worm to a thief that can throw the smiley faces as projectiles. The visuals are much improved over the first SNES game and there isn’t much Japanese text to contend with, although there is an English translation for those who want to experience it in full. The game is full of weirdness and is a delight to explore. It’s definitely one of the system’s better platformers, particularly when talking about those that came out exclusively for the Super Famicom. This is everything Super Bonk should have been in the first place. The controls do take some getting used to, but for a gaming experience that is truly bonkers, look no further than Super Genjin 2.