Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 8

I think I'm going to go cry in the corner now.

 I do not think the standard beat'em-up genre has aged very well. Spider-Man Separation Anxiety was one of the games I played most in my childhood I just get bored playing it for anymore than a few minutes. Ditto with Double Dragon, ditto with River City Ransom. Certain exceptions come in the form of BattleToads and, as much as I hate to admit it, The Death and Return of Superman (the latter of which being probably the best 16-bit era beat'em-up I've played despite being very hard from the get go...and I hate Superman).

So, the thing is, I already don't like the genre of Dragon Ball GT: Transformation. But even if I did, I can tell you with relative certainty that I would still absolutely despise it.

Transformation is beyond bad. It's seriously like Legacy of Goku all over again. It oozes design choices, gameplay mechanics, presentation and graphics that I can't believe are part of an official product. The character sprites seriously look like they were drawn in MS Paint by people who were new to computers.
Although I guess some of the environments look OK.

 The fact that this game was eventually released on a dual-game cart with Buu's Fury is just insulting. The first two Legacy of Goku games saw a similar release and, as insulting as that is, at least it makes a little more sense with both games being of the same series and genre.
I'm only going to waste two more words here: Stay away.

Do I really need to say anything about this game? Watch any gameplay footage of it and you can see in a few seconds that it's just terrible.

 The physics lack any polish whatsoever, the pacing is awkward, and the mechanics are very basic and generic leaving effectively no reason for this to be a Dragon Ball Z game. You don't even fly or see transformed states (such as Super Saiyans) in this game unless it's part of a special move.

 The graphics are especially awful. The backgrounds are poor renders of bad 3D models and the character sprites are even worse renders of even worse 3D models; also very, very poorly animated. Every character looks like they're suffering from neck pain in this game.
This game feels like it was built with an alpha build of Fighter Maker 95.

 Oh, and I absolutely despise how the advertising for this game boasted it as the first Dragon Ball Z game to feature Broly as a playable character. That's a lie and you know it Webfoot! Just because Super Butouden 2 didn't see a North American release does not mean it doesn't exist!
I will say the game does have some OK extras including a screenshot gallery, character bios and the like. Still, extras have no bearing on whether a not a game is good. This game is definitely not good. Not even close.

 The only reason I own this game is because it was a birthday present from my high school sweetheart and I have a vice about returning or selling gifts.

Supersonic Warriors
Ah! A saving grace!

 Now, my brother plays several fighting games professionally, as do several of his friends. Speaking with them, I've been informed that Supersonic Warriors is not a great game for competitive play due to game-breaking maneuvers and some blatantly overpowered moves. However, I do not think that should make or break the game for you; I still think it's a great game, and you will probably never play anything else quite like it (except maybe the DS sequel).

 Somewhat in the vain of Legends, Supersonic Warriors is a tag team fighting game that's entirely designed around air combat. Unlike Legends, it's very good.


Visually, the game's just under the best-looking of the respective handheld's library. The physics are just fine; in fact, since the fighting all takes place in free-range flying, certain physics like gravity are rarely even an issue. The controls are responsive and easily understandable and the gameplay is very straightforward.

Much like any of the Dragon Ball fighting games, you have physical attacks, fireballs, and special energy attacks. This time around, your special attacks are not determined by unique button combinations but by your orientation to your opponent while all specials use the same button input; it's somewhat Smash Bros.-like in that sense (where B is your special attack button and what special is performed depends on the direction you press).

 Certain game mechanics can actually be used to pull off some of the more flashy maneuvers seen in the anime as well. For example, you can actually land a strong hit against an opponent, dash behind them and land another strong hit, but you do it manually. This kind of move in just about any of the other fighting games would be automatic as part of a special combo, but here you actually get to really do it yourself.

 The character roster is quite large so I won't be listing it off. This game features a free-play mode in which you can have teams of any combination of 3 characters, including multiples of the same characters; a feature unfortunately missing from the sequel.

 One of the overpowered special moves that stops this game from being a top pick for competitive play is Frieza's Death Ball. This is Frieza's 'above the opponent' special which he fires towards the ground. If this attack misses, it's actually worse for Frieza's opponent because it starts a timer (90 seconds if I recall correctly). When the count down finishes, the stage explodes and Frieza wins. Obviously, Frieza can still lose if the opponent defeats him before the timer runs out; the balancing issue comes from the fact that Frieza is one of the faster characters in the game. It is very easy for Frieza to out-maneuver other characters and just wait-out the timer. This makes the best option for the opponent to intentionally be hit by the Death Ball, which causes considerable damage.

 The story mode is actually a collection of 'What-If' stories assigned to each character. Depending on what character you choose, you are treated to a story that deviates from the anime to a variable degree in such a way that it makes that particular character the victor over most, if not all, of his or her opponents. This means that villain story modes will actually conclude with the villain succeeding.

Personally, my favourite story is Piccolo's. Near the end, Piccolo uses the dragon balls to revive King Piccolo and fuse with him to make him strong enough to defeat Buu. That is really cool.

If I had to make one complaint with this game, it would be wasted potential in the character roster. It is a large roster but every character has 3 'forms' and for several of them, all 3 forms are the same appearance despite the fact that those characters had multiple forms in the show. For example, all 3 of Cell's forms in this game appear as Perfect Cell. In a sense, I could understand leaving out his first form, then having his second form, Perfect Cell and Super Perfect Cell, but to have all 3 of his stages be Perfect Cell just seems nonsensical.  Simlarly, Buu's forms are Fat Buu, Super Buu, and a stronger Super Buu despite the obvious choice that could have been made of Kid Buu.

I feel like I could go on for a good while about why I really like this game but I'll just give a closing statement now. Supersonic Warriors is very unique and a lot of fun. That's all the reason anyone should need to play any game.

Advanced Adventure
After all the crappy games I've talked about so far, I am elated to arrive at this one. I'm just going to say it right at the beginning: Advanced Adventure is a great game. No. It's a really great game. It is a beautiful stand-out in the entire action/platformer genre.

 If you've ever wondered what a Dragon Ball game would be like with the amount of care and polish that goes into classics of the genre such as Mega Man X, here's your answer. This game looks great, plays great, sounds great, it's a must-have for any fan of both Dragon Ball and video games and I strongly recommend it even to people who are only fans of either one of the two.

 Playing this game, you can just feel the amount of care that went into every aspect of it. The pacing of the movement, the gravity, height and arc of your jumps, the sound effects and animations for every last attack, it's all just perfectly put together. It's easily one of the best games the Game Boy Advance has to offer.

Impressively, Advanced Adventure tackles almost the entire Dragon Ball anime (i.e. not Z or GT), starting right from the Emperor Pilaf arc and going all the way to the final confrontation with King Piccolo. And speaking of confrontations, this game has a unique fighting game-esque battle system for the major boss fights which, after completing the main adventure, is unlocked with a character-select to be played as its own separate mini-game. The system reminds me of the Super Gokuden games except far, far superior (read: it actually makes sense).

 Advanced Adventure is a very easy game to play, all of the controls are totally straight-forward and the few tutorial-style tips you get are never overly intrusive (a problem all too common in modern games). Easy to play does not mean easy to master or beat though. There is a pretty strong difficulty curve going through the game and, especially playing on Hard mode, the game will tax your ability to time every move you make.

There's a bit of arcade-style beat'em-up influence in this game as well with certain sections of a stage locking you in place until you defeat swarms of enemies. These are, in my opinion, the one weak point of the game but they only just barely overstay their welcome.

Goku has a huge variety of attacks at his disposal and progressing through the game builds onto his abilities. You progressively get longer basic combos and strengthen the Kamehameha.

 The game, again, looks great. Where Hyper Dimension is one of the greatest achievements in pixel art that features detailed pixel-by-pixel gradients, Advanced Adventure is one of the major games in pixel art that doesn't, instead opting for more traditional shading but doing a damn good job of it.

 The amount of polish in this game is stunning. You really feel powerful as you plow through enemies. Anybody with an appreciation for good game design should have no reason to dislike this. It's impossible to describe just how good it feels when you play Advanced Adventure.

I have one request to those reading this: Play this game.

Next Time:  Nintendo DS Games Part 1

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