Monday, October 1, 2012

Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 5

Today's post is about Dragon Ball games on the Sega Mega Drive and the Sony PlayStation!  How about that?  It's exactly what I said it would be about yesterday.

Sega Mega Drive/Genesis

Buyuu Retsuden (or, as the French title up there translates to, The Call of Destiny)
This game is technically considered part of the Butouden series but was instead released on Sega's 16-bit console. It's not very good. It's better than the first Super Butouden but it has rather wonky physics and awkward controls. It looks alright and marks the first fighting game appearance of Krillin, Captain Ginyu and Recoome, but all in all isn't really going to wow you and keep you wanting more.

There's a pretty decent roster of characters in all (11 in total) and the characters actually do play differently from each other.  Similar to the first Butouden title, it's an admirable effort but several quirks in the game really hurt the experience.  The limited buttons on the Mega Drive/Genesis controller resulted in the game having to map even basic energy attacks like fireballs to button combinations (rather than a simple tap of A as in the Super Famicom titles).

The music is OK, it's a bit more entertaining than Super Butouden 2's soundtrack but it's certainly nothing that will leave an impression.  The sound effects are pretty nice though and the Character Select music is a bit catchy.

The graphics are nothing spectacular but they certainly look better than the original Super Butouden and personally I think the sprites do have their own unique charm that I can't quite describe.

 Buyuu Retsuden is a refreshingly fast paced game with certain attacks that can knock your opponent well across the stage in a split second.  Unfortunately, as said prior, the game has very wonky physics and awkward controls.  There is fun to be had here, it just isn't a must-play and doesn't quite live up to some of the experiences available on the Super Famicom.
 Truth is, while I do have some nice things to say about the game, I never bothered with it much and I'm not going to spend much time on it here. If you have access to the Super Famicom games, don't bother with this one.
 And now I'm left to wonder why I got so many screenshots of this game when I don't have nearly enough text to compliment them.

Sony PlayStation:  I have never owned any PlayStation iteration, but I have had plenty of experience with all 3 thanks to friends.  I have only played 3 of the original PlayStation Dragon Ball games and, much like the Famicom games, they all suck.

Final Bout
The follow-up to the Super Butouden trilogy (and Shin Butouden which I have not played) and probably the most well-known of the games I've mentioned so far, Final Bout was one of the first Dragon Ball video games to see a North American release despite being grounded in the Dragon Ball GT anime which North America was still several years away from seeing. The voice cast used for this release was entirely different from the FUNimation or Ocean Group voice cast. Oddly, this translation features the voice of Steve Blum, a fantastic voice actor relatively unheard of at the time, as Goku. The game was reissued by Atari in 2004 (having been previously released by Bandai in 1997) and, by this point, GT actually had begun to air in English. Unfortunately, this was well after the PlayStation had run its course.

My local hobby shop had a kiosk set up where people could go right up and play a game of Final Bout whenever they wanted.

I know for a fact that this game is a cult classic but I am also entirely confident in calling it terrible. This was the first Dragon Ball fighting game to use fully 3D graphics and it actually looks better than I remembered. Obviously it's very, very dated but for a lot of Dragon Ball fans, it was the first time we saw the characters built with 3D models which was pretty cool at the time.. Of course, graphics don't make the game, you need a healthy dose of quality gameplay to make a good game. Too bad Final Bout has easily the worst gameplay in the Butouden series. Yes, even worse than the first one.

The one and only improvement this game made was flying...but Hyper Dimension already made that improvement and did it better than Final Bout.
The controls in Final Bout are sluggish and unresponsive, the physics are nonsensical and the game is slow. I've read that the English release is actually considerably slowed down compared to the Japanese original but I've never been able to test or confirm that. Honestly, since the core design elements of the game are bad anyway, I don't think increasing the speed is going to help it much.
In the end, I just don't care. It's a bad game so I'm not wasting my time and efforts on it and neither should you.

Legends (or 'The Legend' according to the Dragon Ball Wiki)

 Here's a game that I really wish was good. Legends was this weird blend of the action/RPG and fighting genres and also marked the first use in a Dragon Ball fighting game of having multiple characters on either side. The combat was also heavily flight-based, a concept that didn't get very thoroughly revisited until Gameboy Advance's Supersonic Warriors and the overall playstyle was built around a 'balance meter' that displayed on screen that would move to the left or right depending on how well either side was fairing. Incidentally, the balance meter was also revisited in Supersonic Warriors but the game wasn't built around it like Legends was.
This game had a great concept but, once again, it played terrible, sounded terrible and looked terrible.
That's all there is to it. Moving on.

Ultimate Battle 22/27
Holy balls is this game awful. Not only does this game suffer from all the same problems as Final Bout, it also featured some of the worst presentation I have seen in a fighting game and introduced a gimmick that I now consider the bane of Dragon Ball video games' existence.
The in-fight graphics feature very minimalistic 3D environments with 2D character sprites that are actually rendered cel-drawings from animators. This is a pretty cool idea for the character sprites but the renders are atrocious and riddled with bad anti-aliasing. Additionally, certain character match-ups feature special dialogue (such as Gohan versus Cell) and these special cut-scenes are some of the most uninteresting, uninspired, dull easter eggs you will ever encounter in a video game. Even by anime standards, they're very poorly animated too.
For example, the special dialogue between Gohan and Cell is a rendition of Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 transformation. They both speak to each other, and to Android #16's malfunctioning head as they did in the anime. So far, so good. Then, Cell's right leg spazzes out and for some reason that makes Gohan transform.
Hyperbole aside, Cell's leg moving is supposed to be the part where he steps on and crushes #16's head. Why didn't they actually show that happening? Why was it just 2 frames of Cell bending his knee while his feet were off the bottom of the screen?

 As for the gimmick, boasting 22 characters in a Dragon Ball game is beyond laughable today. I really wish it wasn't. Ultimate Battle 22 (or 27 when you put in the secret characters code) started the trend of pushing a large character roster as a selling point and, as a result, also started the trend of fans demanding each successive Dragon Ball fighting game to feature a larger roster of characters. I rather dislike this trend, because now, rather than make the characters truly unique by spending time developing and balancing each individual moveset, developers instead focus on cloning the same template character again and again and again, give it minor tweaks, a new character model and add it to the roster. In case you hadn't guessed, I'm not entirely fond of the Budokai and Tenkaichi series.
The ironic thing being that, even as terrible as Ultimate Battle 22 is, having a large character roster is the one thing it actually does right. Each character is actually unique. But that doesn't save the game.
Once again, don't waste your time here.

Next Time:  Gameboy Color and Gamecube.

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