Review by Mykas0
Shiny, but what else?
Last time a game based on the original Dragon Ball series was released for an handheld console, the resulting title end up being an unexpected pearl, a game that could please fans and gamers alike. Now, having such past in mind, alongside with the vast myriad of clumsy Dragon Ball Z games that were released across the last few months, it is certainly hard to judge this game, all preconceptions aside.
People tend to say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that's entirely true here. Just by looking at screenshots from this particular game, it's easy for any player to realise how beautiful this game is. All characters and pieces of scenario are perfectly drawn, very alike the environment you could see in the actual show, and that's good. No more will you have to stand for the crappy-looking characters that some Atari games have been offering for ages; instead, you'll here find totally enjoyable graphics, ones that could even have been taken from the actual show, to the point where events taking place in this game are incredibly similar to the ones spotted in the show, in more than one way. Truth be told, this game's graphical quality is possibly the best I've seen in this console so far, and it has nothing to envy to some of the games released for 128-bit consoles.
In terms of sound, this game is also quite impressive. Unfortunately, not all of the character's lines are voiced, but the ones that are indeed hearable (which often happens in important parts of the story) are just fine. If, a couple years ago, you were a fan of the show, you'll certainly find it extremely pleasant to recall all the important sequences of the show, ranging from Goku's unique Kamehameha scream, up to the presentations made before each Tenkaichi Budokai battle. Also, all the important songs from the actual show are included in this game, adding even more value to the game.
Featuring such unusual (in a good sense) technical features, it was possibly expectable that the producers were going to use all those masks to hide some poor gameplay, but that's not the case here. Instead, you get an interesting game, resembling The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass in more than one way. You may have think of this game as a good junction between that famous Zelda title and Dragon Ball's own storyline, with an interesting result coming out of such unique mixture.
Just like you'd do with Link in the aforementioned game, in this game Goku is controlled solely by using your stylus. Using the normal controls isn't even an option here, and those buttons merely allow you to fine tune the camera, if you ever feel the need to do so, which doesn't come very often. Instead of making you constantly press buttons in order to accomplish diverse actions, Goku moves and attacks simply by means of player's touches in the lower screen. At first, you attack an enemy by tapping it once, and you move your main character by holding the stylus over at a particular spot, but later in the game many more motions are unlocked, and you'll have to advantage of all their strengths and weaknesses in order to succeed in completing the game, which is way easier than you may be expecting.
Don't misunderstand me; this isn't a game just for kids, or anything like that, but apart from the boss battles, which are harder than you may be expecting, the game is extremely simple. More often than not, Bulma and Goku tag along, and your main task ends up being the one of opening new paths to your girlie friend. In general, the game's just fine like that, but I was expecting to find many more important battles in a game based in a series with such iconic confrontations. Instead, Goku is usually given the role of a simple servant, which is there only to open doors and fight for his weak lady, whose only strengths lie on the fact that she can equip several different weapons, not that they'll be as useful as you could be expecting, even against snakes and bats, which always seem to be popular foes in anime-based games.
Apart from this basic gameplay, Goku finds many other tasks to complete during his adventure. Sometimes, you'll have to pass through sequences that resemble short races, and later you'll even get to deliver milk, as part of a training, but the most notable mention should be given to boss battles. Either if you're fighting Yamcha in the middle of the desert, or facing a gigantic Pilaf robot in an empty castle, there's always an epic feel to the whole process, an idea that you shouldn't just tap the enemy a thousand times, that you need to devise some sort of strategy if you want to do some more damage to the enemy that is in front of your own character.
This is exactly where the storyline comes in. I cannot assure you that all parts of the show are included in the game, but most important events that take place up to Goku's first Budokai Tenkaichi finals are cleverly depicted in this game. There's the scene when Goku and Bulma originally met, the ones that take place revolving around Yamcha, the one where Muten Roshi first uses his Kamehameha, and many more. They're not only a mean to tie the knots between different levels, but also serve as a way to please and amuse players, no matter if they're fans of the show or not, and they're quite good at accomplishing such task. Besides, this game also includes some events created specifically for the game, and although you don't have to complete any of those to achieve the ending sequence, they certainly add some play time to this game.
If you just aren't a fan of completing extra stages in order to unlock minor bonus content, there's not much else to do once you've completed the main storyline. Obviously, you can go back to previous stages and use newly-acquired skills to obtain some of the items you may have missed, but with an ultimate goal of unlocking character models, I really doubt that's the kind of thing that everyone wants to do. Dragon Ball fans may like the opportunity to check those models, but for random players out there, those who were expecting to buy this game solely on the basis of it being an interesting gameplay experience, will be disappointed with such eventual goal. Later on, you can even trade models (or statues, whatever you want call it), via local wireless and with other people who also have this game, but... really, you'd rather not, it's really not worth the trouble of finding someone who also has this game.
This is certainly a good game, one that you don't even need knowledge of the Japanese language to play, but be careful with the western (as in, not Japanese) version of it - Atari, the company that usually publishes these games outside Japan, tends to have the silly idea of removing (or censoring) some of its game's functions, such as the soundtrack and certain storyline sequences, which may probably make this game slightly worse than it originally was.
Product Release: Dragon Ball DS (JP, 09/18/08)
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