Interview with Andrew Plempel of Hudson Entertainment and Jeremy Statz of Pi Studios about Bonk: Brink of Extinction

Unlike a lot of people in the 16-Bit era who were choosing either the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, I split between two camps: Sega and the OTHER 16-bit system known as the Turbo-Grafx. There were so many great games for that system. Y’s Books I & II, It Came From The Desert, Devil’s Crush and so much more.

According to many, the crown jewel of the TG-16 was a game known as Bonk’s Adventure. It was the story of a plucky bald caveman with a head twice the size of his torso with a knack for finding meat lying around as he went through 2-D platforming levels in order to Stop King Drool, an evil dinosaur.

Once the TG-16 died, Bonk wasn’t really seen that much outside of a cameo is the Saturn’s Super Bomberman and a critically acclaimed remake of the first game for the Nintendo Game Cube THAT I HAD TO IMPORT FROM JAPAN BECAUSE THEY NEVER BROUGHT IT STATESIDE. However, with the success of all three Bonk’s on the Virtual Console, it appears Bonk is being brought back for one more go-around. This new bank Bonk: Brink of Extinction will be coming to Wiiware, PSN and XBLA some time in 2010.

I sat down with Andrew Plempel, Producer for Hudson Entertainment and Jeremy Statz, the Lead Designer from Pi Studios to learn more about the resurrection of Bonk.

DHGF: What was the decision to bring Bonk back after such a long state of torpor, especially as the US never got the Game Cube Bonk that was released?

Andrew Plempel: The team here in the US had been working on getting Bonk back into the public eye for the last two years. We had a number of ideas that we pitched to Japan but for some reason or another, we were always rebuffed an approval. After constantly refining and revising our vision we were able to present a story that Hudson Japan just couldn’t say no to.

DHGF: Story Mode promises co-op play. Who is the co-op character or characters?

Andrew Plempel: The other co-op character will be another bonk, but with a different colored tunic. We really didn’t want to introduce a new character that was not part of the main story.

DHGF: The game promises eight transformations for Bonk. What are some of these?

Andrew Plempel: Some of the transformation will allow Bonk to control fire and ice attacks. There is also a transformation that will allow bonk to shrink himself down to a smaller size so he can fit into tiny passageways. We also have a couple of wackier powers but I can’t really comment about those at this time.

Jeremy Statz: Some of these are holdovers from the previous Bonk games – Bonk 3 had Tiny Bonk, for example. The big difference here is that Bonk can switch between the different forms as needed. They’re no longer a 30-second one-off pickup item. Bonk has a limited amount of power and making use of his transformations reduces that, while certain items increase it.

DHGF: What other modes are available besides story mode?

Andrew Plempel: Well in the initial download we are only including the story mode and online co-op. We do have some PDLC planned that will bring competitive multiplayer modes to the table.

Jeremy Statz: From the get-go, online cooperative play is the big one. We’ve experimented with different kinds of ‘helper’ powers as well, so the players can find shortcuts or hidden items together. The second player can press start at any time to join in – we really wanted to keep the classic arcade feel there.

DHGF: How will the gameplay compare to the original Bonk trilogy?

Andrew Plempel: You can expect the classic platforming action from the original games. What you can expect to be different, are how the transformations will allow Bonk to interact with his environment and the enemies

Jeremy Statz: We’ve tried to keep the basic platforming feeling very similar, right on down to playing the new game side-by-side with the original and ensuring timing of jumps and bonking and so on matches up exactly. Some other aspects have drifted some – we original had the camera positioned such that Bonk’s on-screen size was exactly the same as the old TG-16 games, but as we’ve playtested people liked it better when the camera was pulled further out than that.

DHGF: Bonk: BOE is going to be through digital distrubution only. What made you to decide to release Bonk as DLC rather than in disc format?

Andrew Plempel: We initially had Bonk slated as a full console title but after rounds of revisions, we felt the game was too bloated to deliver a good enough experience as a disk-based product. What we have now is a solid game that will satisfy old fans of bonk and introduce a group of new gamers to an often missed platformer.

DHGF: The original TG-16 Bonk games are available on the Wii’s Virtual Console but still have yet to make it onto the PS3 or 360. Will any of them be unlockables in this game so newer gamers can experience the originals?

Andrew Plempel: This was a feature that we did think of but it was eventually left behind. It could make an appearance in future products, though.

DHGF: Is King Drool going to make an appearance in this game?

Andrew Plempel: Are you kidding? Of course! It wouldn’t be a bonk game without King Drool.

Jeremy Statz: A Bonk game without King Drool is like a caveman without a giant head: ridiculous.

DHGF: Are we ever going to get that BONK RPG you promised us like 20 years ago? Why must you toy with our emotions so?

Andrew Plempel: Uuuuh, really? There was a Bonk RPG?

Jeremy Statz: I remember the screenshots of that from back in the day. Nobody’s brought it up recently but I’d love to take a shot at a classic-style console RPG.

DHGF: Are there any plans for Bonk past this release? Perhaps a Bonk or even a Hudson Soft collection?

Andrew Plempel: There are currently no hard plans for another Bonk after this release. Although that’s not to say it won’t happen. I would certainly like to keep this franchise alive.

Well there you go gang. This could very well be Bonk’s last game after a half decade of slumbering and more than a decade since the last truly new Bonk title. I guess we’ll have to see how the game plays out in 2010 when it’s released onto all three consoles. Keep checking back here at Diehard GameFAN for more information, screenshots and the eventual review of the game.

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