Beginning as any sports anime would, with the protagonist’s first day at school, Dodgeball Academia throws our hero Otto right into the fray right away. He immediately learns that they don’t just teach the noble art of dodgeball in this school, but they also learn incredible powers from their time studying.
The basic principles of Dodgeball Academia are simple; you’re thrown into matches either alone or in a group of up to three, and your aim is to reduce your opponents’ HP to zero before they do the same to you. The basic controls are nice and simple, with movement, throwing and catching, but you also have to master charged attacks that change the balls trajectory or element. Then there’s the Balltimates, super-powerful attacks that can be unleashed when you have the power built up.
These Balltimates come in all shapes and sizes and usually relate to the element of the character using them. Mostly these powerful abilities rely upon the old ‘the best defence is a good offence’ adage, like Otto’s very familiar flaming ball, for instance. However, these are balanced out by actual defensive options like Balloony’s regenerative area of effect spell, which is an absolute godsend in longer matches.
Oh and some of your opponents have Balltimates too, so beware of some of the most frustrating attacks known to mankind.
For some added spice, some of the character-specific catches aren’t catches at all. With Mina and Suneko, for instance, their catch manoeuvres are actually counter attacks. Mina’s is a kick that repels dodgeballs back at the opponents, while Suneko bats them straight back with a charged swipe. This does mean you have to consider which of character is at the head of the party or else you’re going to have a lot of balls to the face. Not something that everyone enjoys…
There’s a lot to remember here, but when you combine all these elements, you have a tremendous amount of gameplay depth for such a simple premise. In fact, the game is so finely tuned with its mechanics that, if you master the gameplay of Dodgeball Academia, you can overcome any battle in the game regardless of your opponent’s level. As long as you can avoid the shots thrown at you or catch the ones you can’t avoid, you can defeat anyone.
You won’t be wanting for battles as they are absolutely everywhere. There aren’t random battles, and you’ll see people wanting a match in a fashion that’s very similar to how Pokémon trainers accost you as you walk by. Although almost everything you will be doing will involve dodgeball in one way or another, which is a little to the detriment of the experience, but there are a few other things to do as well.
Every school day there will be a set of side quests to do around the campus for students or staff. You get pretty good rewards for completing these quests, so it’s worthwhile doing them all, but be warned they have to be completed on the day that they appear. Dodgeball Academia does warn you before you sleep each day if you have missed any quests though, so they’re hard to miss.
Also, it should be pointed out that most of these involve – you guessed it – winning dodgeball matches against one or more opponents – Pocket Trap missed a trick in failing to create some interesting diversions.
Dotted around campus are shops to buy new equipment and increase your stats, a cafeteria to buy food items to restore health and grant permanent stat boosts, and a huge number of chests hidden all over the place. The game isn’t a long one, with each episode only taking an hour or so, but there’s always something to do in each in-game day.
The best thing about this is discovering the various food items. Not only are they all junk foods and the like, which fits the setting and premise all too well, but the characters will each have likes or dislikes of flavours. This makes giving the right food for the right character crucial, as if they dislike it the item has a diminished effect, and vice versa. It’s a silly thing, sure, but little details like this really work to make this a more cohesive experience.
Everything about Dodgeball Academia simply screams ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon’, with exaggerated hand drawn characters, blocky and colourful buildings, and explosive battle animations. The music echoes this with high tempo pseudo-rock tracks for the battles and various parts of the school, and softer tracks for other locations such as the forest or dormitories. In fact, I would honestly love a TV show set in this world if only to see how it would play out when Otto isn’t just rolling into walls all the time.