Ah, Dragon Ball. Atari just can’t stop milking the franchise. But they come to us this time with something a little different. Instead of going with Dragon Ball Z, they bring us part of the original Dragon Ball adventure. Yeah, I was surprised when they announced that. Even in the NES/SNES era, Dragon Ball games mostly concentrated on Z (with a few exceptions), so this was quite welcome.
Now I still wasn’t sure what to expect from the game itself.
So let’s see if it’s actually any good.
As mentioned just above, this game covers the original series… Well at least part of it. This starts when Goku and Bulma meet for the first time, and when they depart for their quest for the Dragon Balls. On the way they fight and befriend Oolong, they encounter the Ox King at Fire Mountain, meet Yamcha in the desert, fight the evil Rabbit Man as well as Emperor Pilaf, up to Goku’s first participation in the World Tournament. If I’m not wrong, that’s just around the first 26 episodes of the series, so there’s a LOT of potential for sequels, considering Dragon Ball ran for 153 episodes before going to Z.
Overall the story is pretty much like the anime/manga. Some parts are skipped/censored/modified to be more fit to a video game, but overall they follow the story really well. Most scenes are well replicated and true to the original. Overall the story is pretty fun, and it’s nice to revisit it if you’re a Dragon Ball fan.
The graphics look pretty good, especially by DS standards. The models are well done and look a lot like they do in the anime, with the only problem being a relatively low polygon count, but that’s to be expected from the DS. The enemies look just like in the anime as well. The weird big tiger things with swords, the boars, the bosses, the robots, they all look just like Akira Toriyama designed them in the first place.
During cut-scenes, the emotions in characters’ faces look…. weird. Sometimes they’re normal and really well done, but other times their mouths take up more than half their face, which looks a bit weird, even if it’s trying to imitate the same feel as the anime.
The environments look nice… the first time you see them. The levels look good, but when you go through the same room the twentieth time in the same level, it gets stale.
Overall the graphics are nice, if not a bit repetitive.
Just a passing mention here. The sound is fine, sound effects are nothing overly spectacular but they do the job, and the music sounds like stock music but fits with the game properly. The voices are weird. They sound a lot like in the original anime, but they’re used so sparingly it’s a wonder they even used any at all. I say either use voice acting or don’t, it feels completely useless to use voice acting for only like 5 lines in a game. I was surprised late in the game when I heard some voice in a cut-scene, and the line right after had nothing.
If I would be to compare the gameplay to anything else on the market right now, it would be Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The basic gameplay is very similar. The main difference is that, instead of taking place in a big world map like PH, it takes place in “episodes” which are just a series of closed maps with very little exploration. You control Goku through the whole game, with no possibility in using other characters.
There’s only a few elements to talk about, so here goes.
Each map in an episode is basically a puzzle to get to the next map. You are given an array of moves with either your fists/body and your power pole. As the story goes one you learn different moves that will conveniently let you go through the current puzzle which is needed to get further in the game. Some of that includes using Kamehameha to break walls, big power pole hits to break big walls, spinning your power pole to reflect projectiles or stop gas leaks, or extending the power pole to get to further places, and a few more things. Overall the puzzles are fun to do the first few times, but after a while they get really repetitive and you which you’d just reach the boss of the level.
As for exploration, well there’s barely any. You have a map that shows you the whole level from the start, and you can see alternate routes that will bring you to treasure chests and such. But in the end it just side-tracks you a bit on your way to the end of the level.
Using the same moves as the puzzle solving, you have 2 stances: Combat (fists/body) and Power Pole. Both stances have slightly different functions. Combat is for close/mid-range attacks, and Power Pole is for long-range. Also, Combat lets you dodge attacks by double-tapping somewhere, and if you time it properly you teleport behind the enemy. In Power Pole mode, you don’t have a dodge move, but if you’re not doing anything you’ll defend and take less damage.
Now all of the combat, and everything else in the game, is controlled by touch screen, except for movement which you have the option to use the d-pad, but in the end it doesn’t work exactly as well. You do basic attacks by tapping an enemy, and you have other attacks by tapping on Goku and then tapping somewhere else, or touching goku and dragging the stylus along the screen. Depending on your stances you’ll release different attacks. Each attack uses Ki, and when you’re depleted you have to wait for it to recharge, which doesn’t take too much time. If you really deplete all of it, Goku will be exausted for a few seconds.
The combat itself doesn’t work too bad. Doing basic attacks, dashes, kamehamehas and various pole attacks works really well, but it’s not without its problems. The stylus controls are a bit inaccurate. Sometimes I want to click on Goku to start a Kamehameha or something, but an enemy is overlapping Goku just a bit and instead of doing what I want Goku just starts attacking the enemy. I didn’t mind the first time it happened, but it does get annoying. I also don’t like how, when you get attacked, it stops your current attack (except for Kamehameha), but when the enemy is doing an attack and you try to stop them, they are left completely unaffected.
Also, during some of the stages, you have Bulma following you around. In general she’s pretty useless, not attacking much and being really inneffectual, but if her Ki bar is full, she’ll unleashes her special weapon attack when you click on her. At the beginning it’s a shotgun, but when you get the money you can buy multiple other weapons/items in the shop, including some that boost stats or heal you. It can be a bit annoying though, as sometimes you’ll end up clicking on her by error and she’ll waste the special, which, even with lots of upgrades, takes a while to use again.
Overall the combat is pretty fun, it’s fun to try and find weakpoints and such, and some of the boss fights are pretty fun. Despite a few problems I had fun with this.
There’s not much to talk about in this aspect.
Each time you kill an enemy, you’ll either get money, health, experience or, if you’re really lucky, items(which power you up or replenish health). Experience is used to power up moves, either making them more powerful or giving them added effects. This system works well, and as you get further in the game enemies start giving more experience, so leveling up your moves gets a bit less tedious.
Other than that, there are treasure chests and breakables that give things as well. Chests either give Money, Figures (I have yet to find a purpose for those, other than selling duplicates for small amounts of money) and upgrades for Goku and Bulma. Those upgrades increase maximum health, maximum Ki, or for Bulma increases the rate at which she replenishes her Ki. That’s pretty much all there is to collectibles and leveling in this game.
This is a really fun game for the Dragon Ball fan who wants to revisit the original story (well, part of it, only ). It’s nice to see the part of Dragon Ball which isn’t about OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAND and destroying planets and all, and it’s just a fun little adventure.
The game is pretty fun to play, despite a few problems, and its only big problem is the fact that it’s overly repetitive.
If you’re a Dragon Ball fan, check it out. If not, I’d say to pass on it.