Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dragon Ball Video Games: A Retrospective Part 10

Attack of the Saiyans

This one's an interesting outing. Attack of the Saiyans is a turn-based JRPG, like Legend of the Super Saiyan, only unlike Legend of the Super Saiyan, it's actually quite good. The game begins with the Piccolo Jr. Saga and ends with the defeat of Nappa and Vegeta on Earth; making it among the games that cover the least of the anime's plot.
Visually, the game has some of the most stunning 2D environments Dragon Ball games have ever had. The overworld character sprites aren't quite as impressive; they get the job done just fine but they're very tiny and sometimes seem rather out of scale with the locations around them. Thankfully, the in-battle sprites are very nicely done.
I don't have much to say about the sound because I don't remember any of it; I most often play handhelds with the volume turned down for various reasons.
But of course, it all boils down to gameplay. Attack of the Saiyans takes a lot of notes from various successful RPG franchises (Final Fantasy and Pokémon being the most apparent) and adds a lot of its own stuff too and very little of it feels wasted. The battle system has attractive and easily understod presentation, it's streamlined and efficient and there was definitely a lot of thought put into it.
Traversing the overworld is similar to Legacy of Goku II and Buu's Fury where certain locations have full maps that you walk around but you also have to fly from landmark to landmark over a simplified world map. The game doesn't offer a lot of minigames (if any, don't remember at the moment) so there isn't a huge variety in the kinds of things you get to do but what is there is usually pretty fun.
My only major gripe with the gameplay mechanics is the lack of touch screen support. In-battle, your options are displayed on the touch screen so it only makes sense that touching them would select them, right? Just like how it is in the DS Pokémon titles? Alas, nope.
I greatly dislike this because if there's one thing that turn-based JRPG's desperately need to consider, it's how to make their battle systems as streamlined and efficient as possible. Plain and simple, scrolling through text box list after text box list with the D-pad and A button is not fun.
The saving grace is that the battle system isn't based around text box lists but instead takes the Lufia approach by having the four basic options in each of the four directions on the D-pad. Also like Lufia, and this I consider a fault, is that it still requires you to press A after you've pressed the direction. I know this seems like a minor gripe but if the options were just quick-keyed to the directions on the D-pad, it would help the pacing of the battles and keep the longer encounters from seeming to drag too much. Of course, quick-keying wouldn't matter if they would have just let you touch the options that are displayed on the touch screen.
But I digress; as I said, Attack of the Saiyans is a good game. It's an all-around solid RPG with mostly very minor flaws.
I've always found irony in the game's title difference between Japan and North America. In Japan, this was the first game released under the 'Dragon Ball Kai' title, but it came out over here before Kai began airing for us. So, the title was reverted to Dragon Ball Z. The irony is in the fact that the game includes almost all of the filler from Z which Kai existed to remove; scenes including Goku falling off of Snake Way and getting stuck in Hell, his encounter with Princess Snake, etc. Additionally, the game also adds some entirely original filler. So despite being a 'Dragon Ball Kai' title, it goes out of it's way to be more like Z than Kai.
On the anime side of things, I don't like filler, but I don't mind it in video games; especially RPG's; because it's an opportunity to provide more gameplay to the player. Although, some of the new filler makes absolutely no sense to the point that the game creates a large plothole.
Among these new scenarios is an actual adventure to gather the dragon balls and wish Goku back to life (which, even in Z, happened off-screen). Here's the kicker: Goku joins your team on this adventure. Baba allows him to return from the afterlife in order to help the other Z-fighters collect the dragon balls.
Think about that for a second.
Goku is brought back to life so he can help his friends gather the items that will bring him back to life.
OK, so it is a temporary resurrection but if that was an option, why bother in the first place? Why not just bring him back when Vegeta and Nappa arrive? Plus, if he's already come back once then he should already know that he has to run back along Snake Way when he's wished back.
So yeah, very major plothole. Thankfully, this is a video game and not a movie, so a plothole like that doesn't make the whole product bad.
Following the original gathering of the dragon balls, if you wish you can gather them again (ignoring the canon a bit where the dragon balls turn to stone for a year after every use) and make a wish from a list of options. You can do this multiple times until you've made every wish you have the option to make. Among these is to wish to battle the 'Ultimate Enemy' who turns out to be Legendary Super Saiyan Broly. Logically speaking, the strongest evil character to appear in Dragon Ball Z is Buu, but considering Broly is both a major fan-favourite and a Saiyan (keeping in theme with the game's title), I can understand why he was chosen for the “ultimate enemy”. And he absolutely lives up to the title. Even if your party is totally prepared to defeat Vegeta (the proper last boss of the game), Broly will be strong enough to take out any party member with one hit. Your team needs to be prepared to obliterate Vegeta about 30 times over if you want to be able to defeat Broly in this game.

And finally, we move on to Dragon Ball games I've played for the Wii.

 Budokai Tenkaichi 2 & Budokai Tenkaichi 3

I'm putting these two games together because they're basically the same game with a difference in character roster. As I already mentioned, Ultimate Battle 22 began the unfortunate trend of fans putting demands for more characters ahead of demanding better gameplay and that culminates to its peak in the Tenkaichi series.
Well over 130 characters and it doesn't matter a damn bit which one you choose because they all play the same...well, so long as you don't choose Yamcha if your opponent is a Saibaman.
On that note, that's the one thing I do really enjoy about these games; the easter eggs. Yamcha is instantly defeated if his enemy is a Saibaman and uses their self-destruct attack on him. At the same time though, that particular easter egg is one of those things that breaks the game in a way that makes it a very poor choice for competitive play. Imagine tournaments being held with this game having to ban a character like Saibaman because of that.
Additional fun easter eggs include certain versus character interactions (such as when #18 and Zangya are pitted against each other), and dialogue that occurs on the menu screens when left for too long (such as Nappa asking Vegeta if turning Super Saiyan would grow out his goatee).
But the actual game portions of the game are just soulless. At least in the Budokai games; specifically 3; there was clear, sincere care and effort put into creating a fun fighting game. The Tenkaichi games, while I do have some fun playing them, feel like they've made no effort to hide the fact that they are shameless cash-ins on a successful franchise.
Visually, the Tenkaichi games are OK. The toon-shading + rendered outlines looks pretty much like the anime most of the time, excepting occasional clipping errors and jagged geometry. The character portraits on the character select screen bug me; they're vectorized 2D drawings but they're drawn in a way to be more accurate to the game models than the actual manga or anime; by which I mean they're drawn with that same jagged geometry.
Once again, we have lazy ports graphics-wise because Tenkaichi 2 and 3 are both PS2 titles and have no visual updates on the Wii despite the fact that the Wii is capable of better.
Tenkaichi 3 has different controls than 2 on the Wii, mostly improving the motion control and eliminating some of the pointless inputs. For instance, in 2, you had to move the nunchuk forward to dash while moving the control stick alone, no matter to what degree, just floated slowly in whichever direction. In 3, the slow floating occurs when you tilt the control stick slightly and dashing occurs when you tilt it all the way (totally removing having to move the nunchuk to dash). This makes sense since you'll very rarely want to move slow anyway.
Unfortunately, I don't really have much else to praise about these games. They're just very dull experiences and, looking back, I have no idea why I bought both of them.
I will however say that being able to run straight through mountains as any of the giant characters can be a lot of fun and was especially humourous when I did so as Janemba's first form surprising my brother whom I was playing against at the time.


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