Air Zonk, named PC Denjin: Punkic Cyborgs in Japan, is a side scrolling shooter game. It is an unlikely and unusual sequel to the prior Bonk games from Hudson and NEC that were successful on the TurboGrafx-16. The game was developed by Red Company and provided an update to the popular boy-caveman character Bonk. For this game Bonk is renamed Air Zonk and converted into a more punk rock, modern and contemporary style. The result being a punk rock cyborg character sporting sun glasses and a mohawk. The game even uses the same villain from the Bonk series, King Drool.
Red Company and Hudson Soft decided instead of creating a direct sequel to the Bonk games' popular platformer gameplay, Air Zonk would be a side-scrolling shooter game. Side-scrolling shooters being almost equally popular as platformers in the early nineties video game era. Air Zonk's art style was somewhat distinctive in the shooter category at the time, using cute cartoon like graphics, in a very similar manner as presented in the earlier Bonk games. The game is recognized by most as what would be called a "Cute 'Em Up," a cuter art style version of a typical "Shoot 'Em Up." Other games in this "Cute 'Em Up" style of the period included Parodius and Ordyne. Air Zonk was originally released on November 20, 1992 in North America.
Air Zonk was later adopted as the mascot for the TurboDuo video game console, the followup to the TurboGrafx-16 released by Turbo Technologies, Inc. (TTi) in the USA which included the CD drive peripheral as standard, as well as an increased RAM size. Air Zonk received a sequel game named Super Air Zonk: Rockabilly Paradise (CD Denjin Rockabilly in Japan) for the SuperCD format used on the TurboDuo console. Most critics and players considered the Super Air Zonk sequel to be sub-par and not as good as the first game due to the lack of parallax scrolling in the game.
The original game has been rereleased on Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console in 2009 in Japan, North America and Europe.
Air Zonk is a side scrolling shoot 'em up with several unique gameplay elements that separate it from the glut of shooters that existed on the TurboGrafx-16 and other consoles of the time. The game includes the use of assistants to the game's main character Air Zonk and also several unique power-ups throughout the game. The game has three difficulty levels that it names humorously as sweet for easy, spicy for normal and bitter for hard.
Players can choose an assistant companion character at the onset of the game and then chose one of these friends for each subsequent level, or friends can be automatically assigned in a particular order. Friends can only be used once through the course of the game. Friends are enabled by collecting five smiley faces, which were also used in the Bonk games as bonus stage currency, and then collecting a large super smiley face. Once enabled, companions assist Air Zonk by attacking enemies alongside the player and granting special attacks and invulnerability. If a second super smiley face is collected and Air Zonk's companion friend is unharmed, Air Zonk and the friend transform into a strange combined form with even stronger attacks and invulnerability. For example, one combined form has Air Zonk don a torpedo bra a la Madonna that actually shoots missiles.
Air Zonk was awarded the best TurboGrafx-16 game of 1992 by EGM.