The Bonk franchise (known as PC Genjin in Japan and BC Kid in Europe) originated on the TurboGrafx-16, although the series' origins can be traced back even further. According to a Hudson Soft website, Bonk was conceived as a comic book character and was featured in a Japanese magazine specializing on the PC Engine. Based on the popularity of the character, Hudson Soft decided to put Bonk into his own game (as the mascot of the TurboGrafx-16). Since Bonk's Adventure's release in 1990, the franchise has seen scattered releases, with the latest being released across all major platforms later in 2010.
Bonk games have been relatively well-received, depending on the game. The first game was very well-received, garnering very positive reviews and great commercial success in Japan. Although the game did receive several awards outside of Japan (TurboGrafx-16 Game of the Year, Most Exciting New Theme of 1990, etc), the franchise has never performed exceptionally well in the United States.
Bonk's name in Japan is PC Genjin, which stands for "Pithecanthropus Computerurus" (and Genjin translates to Caveman). However, he has been referred to as FC Genjin (in the Famicom version, which carried the subtitle Freakthoropus Computerus or Friendthropus Computerurus), GB Genjin (in the Game Boy version), and even Chou Genjin (on the Super Famicom version). In addition, Air Zonk was initially known as PC Denjin (which carried the subtitle Punkic Cyborgs), which essentially means electric man. Zonk was also known as CD Denjin for the CD release of Air Zonk.
The first game in the franchise, Bonk's Adventure was initially released for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1990. The game stars the titular Bonk on a quest to rescue Princess Za, who is a smaller pink dinosaur. The princess has been captured by King Drool, a large dinosaur. Bonk's key attack is the ability to jump into the air and then smash down to the ground with his large head, smashing enemies and sometimes parts of the level. As Bonk collects meat, he can grow stronger and gain more special abilities. There are three levels of this; the first, normal level, the second level in which Bonk's ground pounds stun enemies, and the third level where Bonk is completely invincible for a short time.
Bonk's Adventure has been ported to a variety of platforms. The game's European version was ported to the Commodore Amiga by Factor 5, and has been since released for free on the company's website. A 3D remake of the game was included in the Japanese only Hudson Selection Volume 3: PC Genjin for the GameCube and PlayStation 2. Additionally, the game has been ported to the arcade (by Kaneko, which added two player cooperative play), the NES (FC Genjin in Japan; which essentially keeps the game the same, save for a few level cuts), the Game Boy (GB Genjin in Japan; adds a variety of new levels),
Bonk's Revenge was released the next year, in 1991, for the TurboGrafx-16 (and was later ported to the Game Boy). The game is very similar to Bonk's Adventure, gameplay wise. However, there were some major changes from the first game. Graphically, the game is much truer to the comic on which Bonk was originally based. The game also adds new characters and power-ups. Bonk has a much wider array of power-ups, from an item that freezes enemies to an item that causes Bonk to spin around wildly, killing everything he touches.
The plot of Bonk's Revenge concerns the theft of the moon by King Drool. Bonk must defeat King Drool and rescue Princess Za again, before he manages to create a kingdom of monsters. In Bonk's Revenge, there is a new arch-enemy of Bonk named Mechabonk, who is a robotic version of Bonk that constantly fights him in a one-on-one best out of three style match.
Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure
The last of the trilogy of Bonk games for the TurboGrafx-16 was released in 1994 in two forms, as a cartridge and as a CD version. The game wasn't regarded as highly as the previous two games in the franchise, with many critics complaining that the gameplay was not changing enough. In addition, very few copies of the game were produced, due to the end of the TurboGrafx-16's lifespan, so the game goes for a good sum of money on auction sites nowadays. Bonk 3 is largely unchanged from its predecessors, retaining a very similar plot and similar gameplay. The largest difference is the addition of power-ups which shrink and grow Bonk.
The only game in the franchise outside of Japan to be released in the United States for the SNES, Super Bonk is widely regarded as one of the best in the series. The game was released in 1994, after Bonk 3, and adds a wide variety of new mechanics, including new power-ups, new level design traits (e.g. teleportation panels, transportation tubes, etc). The levels also varied much more than its predecessors, ranging from the inside of a dinosaur to the moon (Super Bonk even has a shooter minigame).
Chou Genjin 2
Also known as Super Bonk 2, Chou Genjin 2 was a Super Famicom exclusive game released in 1995. The game was largely different from previous iterations of the game, including power-ups from nearly every previous game (including a cavewoman who was not seen since the arcade version of Bonk's Adventure). In addition, Bonk's abilities are taken much more advantage of, something that was almost unheard of in previous games. Despite these changes, the game was much more difficult than other Bonk games, implementing a system where, upon dying the level must be completely started over.
Bonk: Brink of Extinction
A canceled game in the Bonk franchise, Hudson Soft announced Bonk: Brink of Extinction for release on WiiWare, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade during 2010. The game was set to include new power-ups for Bonk (such as Fire Bonk, a fireball spitting version of Bonk), cooperative play (both online and local), and new minigames that can be played in between levels. Some of the game's plot was revealed, stating that a large comet was set to wipe Bonk's world out, and it's up to him to stop this from happening. The game was canceled shortly before it was set to release.
Released in 1992, Air Zonk is a spin-off of the Bonk franchise, starring a futuristic Bonk lookalike named Zonk. Unlike previous Bonk games, Air Zonk is a space shooter in which King Drool (the same antagonist of the Bonk franchise) sends robots to attack Zonk's world. The game is widely regarded as being one of the best shooters of the TurboGrafx-16, coming from the same developers of another critically acclaimed TurboGrafx-16 shooter titled Gates of Thunder. Air Zonk even won some awards, such as Best TurboGrafx-16 Game of 1992, from Electronic Gaming Monthly.
The game stars the titular Zonk, who shoots his way through a variety of enemies, and eventually a boss in each level. In each level, Zonk can use a sidekick or assistant who helps him perform special moves and even attack enemies on its own. These companions are chosen manually before each level, but can only be used once. The companion is activated upon collecting five small smiley faces, and then will assist Zonk. However, if Zonk collects another large smiley face while the assistant is active, Zonk and the companion will merge together with a special ability and temporary invulnerability.
Super Air Zonk: Rockabilly Paradise
The second game to star Zonk, Super Air Zonk: Rockabilly Paradise, was released in 1993 for the TurboGrafx-CD. The game is also a shooter, although the gameplay is largely unchanged from the previous game. New assistants, levels, enemies, and music are among the updates that Super Air Zonk made. However, Super Air Zonk removes parallax scrolling found in the first game, leading many fans to consider Super Air Zonk the inferior game in the franchise.
The Bonk franchise has had a variety of Japanese only and other minor releases in the franchise. GB Genjin Land: Viva! Chikkun Oukoku is a Game Boy exclusive game in the franchise which is a mixture of platforming stages and role-playing like overworld gameplay. Genjin Collection is another Game Boy exclusive which is essentially a collection of GB Genjin (Bonk's Adventure), GB Genjin 2 (Bonk's Revenge), and GB Genjin Land. Bonk also game to mobile platforms in 2006 in Bonk's Return, which is essentially a remake of Bonk's Adventure.
The game has also had a variety of canceled games. RPC Genjin was a planned role-playing game for the PC Engine. Several screenshots and some minor information was released, but the game was canceled long before release. Additionally, there was a special version of Air Zonk planned for Japanese release. There is very little information about this game, and only its initial existence is known.
Bonk has made a cameo in a variety of Hudson games, but only a few are notable for his appearances. Same Game on the Super Famicom is a puzzle game which allowed for periodic downloadable updates from the Satellaview attachment. In this block matching puzzle game, Bonk's head and several items from the franchise appear as optional blocks. In Saturn Bomberman, a well-received Bomberman game, Bonk appears as a playable character.