RED/Hudson Soft - 1993 - U.S.A.
Bonk 3 CD is a perfect example of why the TurboGrafx/TurboDuo failed in the US. Instead of focusing on developing new cutting edge titles, TTi was wasting their time attempting to fix something that wasn't broken to begin with. Those of you who've read my review of the HuCard version of this game will understand that my critique here is not reflective of the game itself, but rather the enigma that is the CD version.
Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure already proved itself a worthy outing with the release of the cartridge earlier in 1993. For whatever reason, TTi felt motivated to try to one-up this release with a "new and improved" CD version of the same game. Maybe to try to push the CD format and the Duo in the process? Not likely, since by the end of 1993 the writing was already on the wall for the console. We may never know the motivation here, but that's beside the point.
Bonk 3 CD addresses the "shortcomings" of the HuCard version by adding a redbook soundtrack and some extra 2 player bonus rounds. Wait a minute.... Oh, that's right, the cart version already had a fine soundtrack and plenty of bonus rounds. At least it should be a no brainer that a redbook soundtrack would automatically destroy a set of lowly chiptunes. .....Right?
The redbook tracks are recomposed versions of the same tunes using "real" instruments which in itself isn't a bad thing, but there are some serious mixing issues that shouldn't have been allowed to make it out the door. First and foremost: someone forgot to equalize the volume of the music tracks. So what, you ask? So a number of the tracks are mixed at such a high volume that they completely and totally drown out all sound effects. Combined with the fact that some tunes (like the short "invincible" jingle) are still chiptunes, and relatively quiet in comparison, makes transition from one to the other extremely jarring. To make matters worse, TTi saw fit to add environmental noises to some of the stages to "complement" the atmosphere. These effects are repeated over and over at 2 second intervals for the duration of the levels. Like many of the redbook tracks, these clips are played at ear-splitting decibels. I don't know about you, but I can do without 30 clips per minute of a bird chirping or "wind" blowing against a microphone.
If there is one thing Bonk 3 is most famous for, it's the introduction of 2-player co-op play to the series. The standard HuCard version offers a fine co-op mode, but Bonk 3 CD takes it a step further by introducing special 2 player bonus rounds. Instead of mixing these with the standard bonus rounds, these have a real tacked-on feel, via randomly placed "VS." gates. I imagine these would be somewhat enjoyable in an actual 2 player game, but in 1 player mode you're pitted against a CPU AI. Problem is, the AI is so utterly stupid and useless that facing off in, say, "wrestling" is excruciatingly tedious. And what's with having to win 10 rounds of these things to move on? Without even so much as a score bonus upon victory, I found myself wondering what the point was.
A glimpse of the exciting new CD-exclusive content.
Worthy of note are the missing frames for angry Bonk when you are giant Bonk. Curiously missing from this CD edition, when Bonk eats meat while he is giant his appearance does not change like it should. In fact, he stays as normal Bonk despite possessing angry Bonk's normal abilities. Chalk up another point for TTi!
The Ugly Crab!
A little bit of attention to detail would have gone a long way with this release. You get the feeling the product was rushed out the door, and for what? The game was already out there on HuCard. It's a real shame because Bonk 3 is a really great game, and a properly done CD treatment would've been killer. Unfortunately, Bonk 3 CD proves itself to be a totally superfluous release, and with the ridiculous price it fetches these days on the used market (you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars), I can't think of a single justification for picking it up.