Side-scrolling space shooters usually involve power-up orbs, deadly enemy spacecraft, and missiles. Super Air Zonk? Not so much. Following in the footsteps of oddball shooters like Parodius, Super Air Zonk--the second game in a two-part series--tosses the power-up orbs for meat and smiley faces, the spacecraft for flamingos with fans mounted on their fannies, and the missiles for the strangest weaponry you can imagine. It also packs in an eclectic assortment of CD-quality rockabilly and metal music. Along with the wackiness comes the unfortunate realization that, though it's an entertaining ride, Super Air Zonk takes up more memory and costs more while being less flexible and less visually impressive than its predecessor. As a result, it doesn't carry as strong of a value proposition.
Super Air Zonk is a spin-off of Hudson's Bonk series for the TurboGrafx-16, so you'll immediately recognize its visual styling if you're familiar with all things Bonk. Ramming into colored flowers yields such items as smiley faces (collect 100 for an extra life) and delicious meat that upgrades your firepower. Many of the enemies are some variety of the helmeted critters running about in the prehistoric days, and Zonk himself looks like Bonk with a lightning bolt icon grafted to his head.
The enemy design veers off into clinically insane territory, with Zonk being assaulted by detached sink faucets, angry weather vanes (complete with rooster), and floating bugles. A pink mechanical rubber ducky--with an eerie metallic face embedded underneath it--serves as a midlevel boss, and at the end of a level called TV STAGE you'll come across what looks like a floating Jeopardy! board. Some of the weapons will convince you that the boys at Hudson were off their collective rocker when developing this game: Zonk uses the help of a sentient microphone to belt out musical notes and the power of a grateful fish to fire --wait for it--waves of deadly sushi.
Zonk is granted these wonderful toys by way of the series' "friends" system, in which you "merge" with one of seven companions who each give you different firepower. Alternatively, you can set them to provide backup fire alongside you. Each of these friends is in captivity somewhere in each level, and you'll have to rescue them before exploiting their powers. This provides a nice variety of ludicrous firepower throughout the game, but if you were a fan of the original Air Zonk, you'll probably miss the ability to choose which friend you want to use before each level. Here, it's already predetermined which friend will be found in each level--a design decision that also reduces the game's replay value.
Oddly enough, Super Air Zonk also takes a slight step back in the visual presentation. With the colorful cast of zany characters and weaponry, it still looks cheerful and clean, but it's missing the impressive parallax scrolling from the first game. The good news is that thanks to its CD-based nature, the soundtrack is presented in Redbook Audio instead of emulating the garbled TurboGrafx-16 sound chip. The result is clean, crisp music that thankfully doesn't seem to be affected by whatever compression was used to get the Virtual Console version to a manageable size. The wailing guitar licks during boss battles do a great job of getting you right into the action.
The price for this is that despite the audio compression, Super Air Zonk still takes up far more blocks of memory than Air Zonk and more than many Nintendo 64 games. If you've been collecting many Virtual Console games, you might have to do some data management just to get this to fit on the internal memory. At 800 Wii points, it'll run you a third more than its predecessor. Furthermore, to get any challenge out of it, you'll have to crank up the difficulty level. Thus, the total cost of entry is somewhat hefty for a game that can be completed within an hour and is downgraded in some respects from its cheaper, thinner, and just-as-insane precursor.
The upshot is that if you enjoyed Air Zonk and are craving more insanity, you'll enjoy what Super Air Zonk has to offer. It controls very well, it's still fun, and it's still off the wall. Ultimately, though, the original is a better value with a slightly more replayable design. With that said, deadly flying sushi is pretty hard to pass up.