Arcade – Capcom Sports Club: Dunk Stars Review

The CPS2 arcade game Capcom Sports Club attached to an HDMI-supergun

Note 1: This arcade game is a Japanese CPS2 arcade board. CPS2 boards are made with a battery that, if not replaced before it dies, will cause the arcade board to no longer function.  This game’s dead battery was removed and, to my knowledge, repaired with something called the avalaunch code, which no longer makes the CPS2 board require a battery at all.  *This is not the same as a ‘phoenixed’ CPS2 board. There is a lot of great information on the internet about CPS2 arcade boards and the issues with their ‘suicide’ batteries and ways to repair them or have them repaired.

Note 2: This arcade board was connected to a HDMI-supergun (a device that allows you to play arcade games/boards on your television).  It was connected to a 39-inch HD-tv.  The supergun device has 2 controller ports for Neo Geo arcade sticks.  I could probably do a review on the HDMI-supergun itself, which is an incredible device in its own right.

Note 3: I do apologize for the quality of the ‘action’ pictures of the game.  You cannot pause an arcade game, so getting a great picture, using my simple methods, is tough.  The game itself, especially played through a HDMI-supergun, looks spectacular, as I hope you can see from the pictures I have included.

Dunk Stars is one of three sports games in Capcom Sports Club.

Note 4: Capcom Sports Club includes 3 games: Dunk Stars (Basketball), Smash Stars (Tennis), and Kick Stars (Soccer).  This review is only for Dunk Stars, although I do have this to write about the other two games.

Dunk Stars and Smash Stars are incredible winners.  Kick Stars? Not so much.

Smash Stars – Amazing tennis game where you choose a woman from among multiple countries and play in a tournament.  Win 3 games, and you’ll be the champion!  Fantastic control, awesome gameplay, and a great variety of women to choose among, each with her own strengths and weaknesses.  A great game that I intend to play more often and discover its nuances.

Kick Stars – The worst game of the bunch.  A mini-soccer game that also plays in a tournament style, with 3 games-to-the-championship.  Oddly, unlike Dunk Stars, the players are very ‘clunky’ in their movements and the game lacks the fluidity of the basketball game.  Passing is often difficult to accurately execute, and a weird ‘jump’ button is included that is mostly unneeded, and would have better served being a ‘turbo’ or ‘air pass’ button.  I’ve tried to figure out a way to enjoy it or find something redeeming about it, but it’s just not that great, and certainly not compared to the other two outstanding games included on Capcom Sports Club.

You’ll get ‘hints’ following wins or losses from the ‘Coach.’  This is the only in-game Japanese you’ll find.  While it’s not anything critical, if you pay attention to the English buttons (ABC in this picture’s case), you’ll pick up on the few nuances of the controls without knowing the language!

Brief History: Capcom Sports Club was released in 1997.  The game was released in various regions, but the version I am reviewing is the Japanese version (Japanese CPS2 boards came in the green shells, while U.S. and Europe CPS2 games came in blue shells).  The only parts of the game that include Japanese are little messages the female ‘coach’ character gives you after you win or lose a match.  While it seems like these are supposed to be some helpful hints, they in no way impact your ability to figure out how to play any of the games.  Additionally, CPS2 arcade boards have a ‘Test’ button on the side that allows you to alter certain game options, like difficulty level, how many coins to enter for a play, etc.  All of these directions are in Japanese as well, but with a little bit of common sense I was very easily able to figure out how to set the game to ‘Free Play’ (meaning you don’t have to press the ‘insert coin’ button at all) and set the difficulty (‘1’ is the easiest and ‘4’ is the hardest).  The board will save your settings for next time, too (unless you play another CPS2 game, or ‘B’ Board). *Later, I actually used ‘Google Translate’ to screen shot the Japanese Test menus for even more clarity on what options were available.

The CPS2 ‘Test’ menu is in Japanese, but it’s not tough to figure out how to set things like ‘Free Play’ and difficulty level.

Gameplay: There are two play options in Dunk Stars: 1 Player Tournament and 2 Player VS.  In the Tournament mode, you’ll choose from among 8 international teams: Japan, Korea, China, Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and the USA.  Each team is composed of 3 players.  After choosing your team, you’ll play an 8-team bracket tournament.  You start in a quarterfinal, then move to a semifinal, and ultimately the championship game.  Each game lasts for 2 minutes, and there are no “halves” like in other basketball games.  Win the 3 games, and you’ll be the champ!

Pass, shoot, block, steal, use turbo speed – simple and fun gameplay!

Controls: Dunk Stars uses 3 buttons, aside from the joystick.  Since my supergun uses a Neo Geo controller, that’s how I’ll be describing each button’s function.  On offense, Button A shoots, Button B passes, and Button C uses your ‘turbo,’ (makes your player run faster, and is unlimited).  Additionally, you can perform an ‘alley-oop,’ but only if you have a Center on your team. When your Center is under the basket, when he’s open, he will ‘signal’ the shooter by waving his hand.  While controlling the shooter,  immediately hit A + B to throw it up for him – he’ll jump up, and press A again to have him catch and dunk it for the alley-oop.

On defense, Button A blocks (used when an offensive player shoots – you’ll jump up and attempt to block the shot – if done correctly, you’ll literally snatch the ball out of the air), Button B steals (used when an offensive player is dribbling the ball – you’ll swat or throw an elbow to dislodge the ball and take possession of it), and Button C uses your turbo.  Also, hold A + B + C on defense to ‘recharge’ your defense and stamina (increasing your stamina also makes your shots more likely to go in).  You’ll see all your players raise their hands and glow.

Find a team with the kind of players you think make champions!

Teams: The 8 teams in Dunk Stars are all different, although it’s not so obvious just how different until you play a few games.  Each team is composed of 3 players, and each player falls into 1 of 4 cateorgies:

1. Guard – The fastest players on the court (they can move as fast as Forwards without even pressing the ‘turbo’ button!), but the absolute worst shooters.  You can count on them for dunking and close-range jump shots, but FORGET about taking three-pointers with them.

2.  Forward – The 2nd fastest players on the court.  Average shooter, but not a high percentage 3-point shooter.

3.  Center – The 3rd fastest players on the court.  Good shooter from nearly anywhere and can make 3’s more consistently than a Forward, but it’s never guaranteed.

4.  Shooter – The absolute SLOWEST players on the court.  Really, really slow compared to the others.  But they can BURY 3-pointers consistently if you can give them a good look.

Some teams have 3 different types of players, while others have 2 of the same types of players (China, for example, has 2 Shooters), so it’s really fun to explore the game and find a team that works best for you. On the court, a letter (G, F, C, or S) appears above the head of whoever you’re controlling for convenience.

Courts: A few different courts are available, including a traditional blacktop, seaside court, and a court that is made on top of a skyscraper construction site!

Win the Tournament and accrue over $200,000 and you’ll be challenged by the Golden USA Team.

Golden USA: Based on how badly you beat your opponents, you are given “money” after each of your 3 games in the Tournament.  If that sum total goes over $200,000, you will be challenged by the Golden USA team following your third game.  They are TOUGH and AGGRESSIVE.  You play them on a special ‘street’ court at night, and it’s by far the best court in the game.

Golden USA is TOUGH, and they play on an awesome looking street court.

2 Player VS: 2 Player games vary a bit from the 1 Player Tournament.  Instead of being only 2 minutes, VS. games are 3 minutes long.  Before the game begins, you can choose to ‘handicap’ one team by giving them a set number of points before the game even starts.  So, for example, if you’re playing with someone who’s never played before you can start the game with them already having 6 points and you having zero.  The game also keeps track of your win streak in 2 Player VS.

You’ll get brief stats after games.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter GradeA+ Dunk Stars is an incredible arcade basketball game.  It’s fast, the controls are outstanding, the graphics are cartoony and ‘loud’ (all kinds of explosions go off when you dunk, or ‘fans’ jump in front of the screen when you make a good shot).  There are some outstanding ‘bad English’ voiceovers during gameplay that add to the charming nature of the game.  You can set the difficulty if it gets too easy, although even on the lowest difficulty Golden USA is a beast to beat.  It’s a shame this game has never gotten any attention, seemingly from anywhere, because it’s that good (in the amazingly simple way arcade games should be).  Recommended.

Dunks and great shots result in explosive celebrations.