Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 6

Well, we're at what I think will be roughly the halfway point with this retrospective.  It's nearly 20 pages in the OpenOffice file and this section begins on the 10th page.
So, without further adieu, Gameboy Color!
The Western market only saw 1 Dragon Ball game released on the Gameboy as far as I'm aware.  I've attempted to play the previous 2 that were only released in Japan but could not understand them well enough to even make it beyond the very first scenario of either game so I won't be including them here.

Legendary Super Warriors
Remember back in Part 1 when I said that Card Battle games are not a totally lost cause?  Here's why.  Legendary Super Warriors (despite the rather...dumb name) is the one and only example I know of of a Card Battle game done right.

This is actually a rather impressive game. The story mode covers the entirety of Dragon Ball Z. That is absolutely nuts for a Gameboy Color game. And what's more, it covers damn near every single fight, featuring probably the largest character roster any Dragon Ball game had at the time. Although, it's not exactly a fighting game (and as I covered in yesterday's post, larger rosters are not indicative of quality gameplay).

In this case, the card-based combat system is treated very much like a virtual version of a license-based card game; only it's not based on any card game that actually exists (the actual Dragon Ball Z card game being much different). You get to build a deck, you get to improve your deck throughout the course of the game and you unlock more characters as you play.

 Being able to build your deck is one of 2 elements that make this game vastly superior to the Card Battle games that came before it. In the previous games, cards were given to you randomly from an imaginary deck of infinite capacity; and that totally throws strategy out the window.
Giving the player the option to specifically set up what cards they'll be seeing subverts that problem.
The game's superiority is also affirmed through the fact that you actually understand what every card does without resorting to trial and error.
I've played Legend of the Super Saiyan dozens of times and I still have no idea what most of the card symbols mean. In Legendary Super Warriors, all the cards have upfront, clear descriptions of what they do and properly indicative artwork.
 The game is a treat to look at too. It's definitely one of the better looking Gameboy Color titles, not quite meeting the best the system has to offer but coming in close. The clever methods of working around the limitations of the system are much-appreciated and the game uses the 'SD' style for battle sprites which, I think, suits Toriyama's character designs just fine and are always a good pick when you have limited resolution.

 Once again, I feel like quite a hypocrite because the story sequences of this game are very, very similar to the Super Gokuden games, which I wrote off as being incredibly boring.  However, in Legendary Super Warriors's case, the story sequences move much faster, have a lot more personality to them, and don't force you to wait through 3 centuries' worth of dialogue before you get to the next section of gameplay.  The text printing is also very fast.
The game splits the story into chapters (32 in total if I recall correctly; it has been a while since I played the whole way through) and effectively consists of 3 different presentations to its gameplay:  Story sequences (the aforementioned Super Gokuden-like dialogue scenes), overworld scenes and battles.

The overworld scenes are the most graphically unimpressive portions of the game and, likewise, are also the least fun.  Thankfully, they make up very little of the playtime.  During these, you can search for hidden items, and talk to characters who may or may not trigger the next portion of the game to go underway.

Battles make up the vast majority of actual gameplay and that's not really a bad thing.  They're actually pretty fun and give you a lot more tactical input than the likes of Legend of the Super Saiyan.  You have the option of taking one of any 4 positions during battle (either near or far from the opponent, either on ground or in the air) and each has a relevant advantage and weakness.

Certain cards also involve quicktime button input from the player (one of few quicktime events I'm actually fond of); for instance, there's "4-Stage Attack" cards which will show a sequence of 4 button presses that you have to press in the specified time limit (usually around 2 seconds).
In fact, now that I think about it, battle sequences in turn-based RPGs might be the one and only thing that would be improved by quicktime events.  At least in this game, it certainly helps to feel that you, the player, are actually contributing something to the on-screen action.

 There are certain dialogue quirks in the game that mostly result from censorship.  While the European release will use words like "die" and "kill" liberally, the US release replaces those instances with "lose" and "lost"; often resulting in grammatical errors ("Did he lost?").

Oddly, Raditz's name is spelled with 2 d's ('Radditz') in this game despite the majority of characters using the spellings from the FUNimation dub.

Now, it might be because I've always been a sucker for colourful 8-bit graphics, which this game has in spades, but I really do think this game has a very strong and unique charm.

 In this case, I'd say if you want to see the only decent Card Battle system ever (to my knowledge) give the game a shot. Be warned though that the game is difficult, very long, and can get rather boring.

It's alright if you're a fan and alright if you're just a gamer. If nothing else, it's a fairly unique experience.

And here we are at the Gamecube section.  I only have 2 games to talk about for this particular system.


 The first Budokai was ported from the PS2 to the Gamecube roughly a year after it came out and the only difference was the inclusion of primitive cel-shading. It did make the game look moderately better than the PS2 version but it's still an example of a lazy port as the Gamecube had the technical power to do at least a little better.

(Credit for the screenshot goes to spong.com; I no longer have access to a Gamecube in order to get screenshots of this game.)

 This game is just dull. So dull, in fact, that I can't really dislike it. It's mediocrity itself branded into a Dragon Ball Z game.
It plays OK, the music's OK, the graphics are OK, the voice acting's OK, it's just OK in every aspect.
While I only occasionally got to play Budokai 2 and 3, I can say that they are marked improvements over the first but not so much that they're really worth investing in (although I do sporadically hear good things about Budokai 3 so maybe I just need to go back to it).

This is one example of a game where I don't really know what to say about it as far as whether or not to recommend it. I'd say rent it but I doubt you'll find a rental store that still carries it. I suppose if you can grab a used copy for a couple bucks and you really want to own it, I could see that being justifiable.

Similar to Budokai, I don't hate this game but I don't like it either. In concept, it sounds like a great idea (a free-range Dragon Ball Z action platformer? Hell yeah!) but in practice it's just very dull.
The controls are awkward, the physics aren't well-polished and the game, even by standards of the time, isn't very strong visually either. The geometry is fine but the textures are ugly, especially the muscle definition on the characters.

 There's really just not much to say about this game. I will give Sagas that it is a somewhat unique game. There really aren't a whole lot of Dragon Ball games that use similar mechanics (Infinite World sort of did but did a very poor job of it from what I've seen, heard and read) so this is another game where if you can get it for a few bucks, and you're interested, that's alright.

Sagas was actually the very first video game I ever bought with my own money (being a 15 at its release and, as such, games I owned prior were all presents). So it is a little unfortunate that an event like that resulted in owning such a dud.

Next Time:  The Legacy of Goku Trilogy (or Gameboy Advance games Part 1).


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