Retronauts Returns to the '90s "Cave-mania" with a Look at the Bonk Series

Retronauts Returns to the '90s "Cave-mania" with a Look at the Bonk Series

Listen in as we explore the short, strange history of the TurboGrafx 16's prehistoric mascot.

Back in the '80s and early '90s, having a mascot character represent your console stood as an essential fact of life.

Nintendo, of course, had Mario—the star of their 1981 arcade hit, Donkey Kong. Sega stumbled a bit with Alex Kidd, then corrected course years later with the evocative Sonic the Hedgehog. Predating this famous blue rodent, though, was NEC's Bonk: Like Mario, he ran left-to-right through colorful worlds, but his games carried a bit of edginess before the 16-bit console wars made this quality a necessity. Instead of hopping on enemies, he smashed them with his giant cranium (and used his face to climb walls); and the creatures he stumbled across made for a much more grotesquely outlandish cast than the soft and gentle Nintendo crew. More importantly, the sheer expressiveness of the Bonk series seemed engineered to show off the TG-16's half-step between the worlds of 8 and 16-bit—long before our multimedia fantasies came true, Bonk was about the closest you could come to playing a cartoon.

Of course, Bonk's essentially been dead for a decade, and the fact that Konami owns this IP doesn't bode well for any possible revivals—unless you count pachinko machines, and I really hope you don't. Seeing as the future holds absolutely nothing for this long-lost series, we at Retronauts must again look to the past, which has kind of been our thing for—oh—the last nine years. Bonk barely had more than a half-decade of relevance, but regardless of his time in the TurboGrafx's fading spotlight, he managed to star in a few games that are definitely worth your time (and widely available thanks to the Wii's Virtual Console).

Joining us on this one is Ray Barnholt, our old friend (and Scroll superstar), as well as Vidjagame Apocalypse's Mikel Reparaz, following up his Joe & Mac episode appearance with another Retronatus devoted to caveman games—I swear, it's only a coincidence. As always, you can keep up with the latest Retronauts news via our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and check out some of our video content over on our YouTube page. And, in case you forgot, Retronauts is fully funded by our Patreon campaign, so if you can afford to donate even a dollar a month, please consider it! Every little bit really helps our cause.

[Note: All the musical selections on this episode come from the stellar Air Zonk soundtrack, which you can listen to in its entirety here.]

Libsyn (1:18:49 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

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