Whelp, time to ramble on again…this time, about one of my favourites of all time. Dragon Ball. But not just about any Dragon Ball subject; about its video games! 😀
Dragon Ball as a series has a funny history when it comes to adaptions, mainly the anime and video games. About the anime, you probably know the story, being filled with tons of TOEI filler, overblown ki charging never present in the manga, less martial arts than in the manga all of them became memes as far as shounen anime in the west are concerned, Dragon Ball GT and other crap…that were curiously never present in the movies…probably because Toriyama Akira, the creator and author, was present and held a creative spot in them. And then there’s Dragon Ball Kai, a really good “Toriyama Akira Cut” as they advertised it, with the remastered visuals looking really good. It currently stopped at the end of the Cell saga and there is a rumour about animating the Buu saga once Toriko ends its broadcast this year, to return with the new Toriko animation after a year or two. Personally, I’d much rather the visuals consisted of a slightly updated version of those used in the latter Dragon Ball movies, these captured the visual style so perfectly.
As for their videogames…there have been ups and down. The most recent “up” is arguably this :
The Zenkai Battle Royale game, a 3D fighting game with up to 4 fighters simulteanously on the arena, emulating the battles from the manga mostly with some interesting mechanics and a very familiar look…something from the Gundam Vs Gundam series. It is made by ByKing…probably…everything points there to be honest. But things aren’t always as stellar as that. So, by methodically getting into each genre that Dragon Ball can be in, we will see what can be done.
01.)The Role Playing Games!
First, the RPG genre is good as it is. From the time of the Famicom(NES), Dragon Ball has got some quite good games, mostly the Gokuden series, the Legendary Super Warriors and now with the excellent Attack of the Saiyans on the DS…too bad Bandai Namco didn’t hire Monolith Soft again to make them go to the Freeza Saga, the Android Saga next and even the Buu saga. Despite that, the RPG genre has been kind to Dragon Ball.
02.)The Action Games!
As far as Action games go…the first part of Dragon Ball has gotten some good games, the one standing out the most being the various Dragon Ball ones on the DS and the Wii, the GT Transformation one and the best of all, Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure. Excellent on all accounts, it catches the essence of the first part quite beautifully.
03.)The Card Games!
As for puzzle and card games of all sort, DBZ and its collectible card machines are quite good, making heaps of money all the time, no worries…in fact, they almost rival the Fighting genre as far as DBZ goes. There also exist other card battle games for the protable Nintendo consoles as well and other interactive games out there.
04.)The Action Role Playing Games!
And now to Action RPGS. Arguably, the winner for this category would be the later part of Dragon Ball, what is known in the anime world as Dragon Ball Z. Multitude of characters, all with their unique fighting styles and super moves, working against common enemies. All that, while exploring a vast world and chasing villains while engaging in battles from the movies of that era. Cool, huh? The Legacy of Goku series for the Game Boy Advance all seem to have had that idea and for the most part, it worked.
Despite that, the A-RPG genre lacks more good Dragon Ball games…my guess is that after the horrenduous SAGAS…no one else wanted to make another for the genre out of pure fear, be it Atari or Bandai Namco. Though actually, videogames have moved so far on from then and evolved into something that was the stuff of dreams 10 years ago. The most profound example of what an excellent DBZ A-RPG game should be comes from the Ys series by Falcom. Ys Seven and Ys : Foliage Ocean in Celceta come to mind as that.
Yup, like that. Lightning-fast battles with skills and super attacks in open fields, with a party or without, that grow along with the character through battle. It’s perfect as a concept for the series, no matter how one looks at it. I can only hope that Bamco ever has the guts to copy that style of gameplay for a DBZ A-RPG of their own or better yet, ask Falcom themselves to develop one like the Ys series. DREAM COME TRUE, RIGHT THERE! MAKE IT HAPPEN!!
05.)The Fighting Games!
And now for the main attraction. What DB is known for : Fighting games!
EXACTLY! This is what became the main focus during DBZ and a plethora of games with unique systems and surreal battles being bent to fit into a console with the most unpredictable ways. That’s mostly what happened the later years. At first we had Bandai’s attempts with normal, 2D fighting games like Hyper Dimension etc…good stuff. And because the japanese are experts on that genre we got some fighting gems such as the first Arcade games, Burst Limit, Hyper Dimension, Super Dragon Ball Z, Supersonic Warriors series, Budokai 3 and the Shin Budokai & Shin Budokai 2, the latter being the penultimate culmination of all that is good with 2D DBZ fighters :
Despite all that epicness, the 3D fighting scene has struggled with Dragon Ball for quite some time, for the single reason of being unable to simulate the epic battles it has, due to the fighters often being flying all over the place. The Tenkaichi / Sparking series managed to simulate the feeling of the battles but ultimately it was just a DBZ F(l)ight simulator and a very good at that…but by the time it moved to the PS360 it was apparent that it wasn’t doing so good due to non-existant innovation. Zenkai Battle Royale seems to have the right idea though, even if it sticks to close to the Gundam Vs formula. And then comes the newest 3D fighter for the home consoles :
Yeah…it’s a Team Fighting game with the mechanics of Zenkai Battle Royale placed on top of something really familiar…
Ah, of course, because it’s Artdink, known for the Gundam Battle series and the even better Macross () Frontier series. Their newer game seems to be “Macross wearing a DBZ costume…while fighting”. It’s not a bad idea, but not great either. Bamco has been known to move in a very sly way when it comes to exploiting licenses and this one comes as no surprise especially when the first announcement of the game was this :
I imagine we’ll be stuck for a while with these…but it doesn’t hurt to try and add a third opinion on the whole subject.
06.)My take on the Dragon Ball games.
A.)A fighting game
First, we take Zenkai Battle Royale as it is, but strip it of the team battle aspect and focus on the one-on-one fights, with the systems it has almost intact. Then, proceed to give each character more combos than the standard ones they have by mashing the melee attack button and instead give them something more reminescent of Gundam Vs Gundam and Gundam EXTREME VS by having the melee attacks in conjuction with directional inputs along with dashing inputs, not to mention spacing between combos and mashing at a certain point of the combo for a crazy combo. As for DBZ characters having the same fighting style, that’s what the anime led many people to believe, yet in good fighting games like ZBR, Shin Budokai 1 & 2 and SBDZ all the characters have largely different movesets and not just different special attacks and ultimates. A nice touch for the characters that transform would be to have some moves slightly altered to reflect upon the difference in power. Nothing radical, something like : Vegeta’s neutral ground combo ends with chop that sends the oponent flying straight. In the subsequent transformed states, Vegeta’s chop is now encased with energy and deals slightly more damage, has slightly better range and gets better with each transformation. The addition the Aura systems from the Shin Budokai games is also a must.
The Ki attacks system can stay the same, the combinations done in ZBR to do the various ki attacks is pretty good. Health though is something has always been tricky and many developers are often afraid to experiment with in DBZ games. The most innovative gameplay mechanism regarding the tie between health / stamina and ki has been in Hyper Dimension.
As you’ll notice, both the Ki and Health meter are one and decrease as the character is hit or uses a very costing Ki attack, while it’s replenished by charging Ki. While this is a decent idea, by taking it a step further it can really be even better. Have both the player’s and the enemy’s health bars at the bottom of the screen like in the Dissidia games and have them be two life bars, one on top of the other, like the first Dissidia again and have health be able to recover on its own over a really short period of time if the character is not attacked. However, for this condition to be fullfilled, the player must have been damaged while successfully blocking or have been dealt normal melee damage, without any special melee moves or any ki moves have damaged him, kinda like in Shin Budokai 2, Tatsunoko Vs Capcom : Ultimate All-Stars and Kamen Rider Super Climax Heroes. The Health also uses an variety of colours to reflect on the situations, like here :
Where does the Ki relate to all this? Imagine on the health bar if you will, around the blue case that holds the health, about 6 to 8 segmentes that are white and yellow, the white segments representing the natural Ki supply of each character, like in Budokai 3 and the Shin Budokais and like them, if a character transforms, the natural Ki might increase. Ki increases naturally and far quicker with charge when filling the white segments, again like these games and charging slower over at the yellow segments, where Ki naturally decreases over time, if no action is taken. The auras’ shapes and intensity are related to the Ki a character has at the moment.
Moving to the crucial part : As long as the characters stay on the second health bar, they can use Ki like in the previously mentioned games, yet when their stamina starts dropping after the first bar of health disappears, the chunk of health that’s left also represents how much Ki the character can use. The Ki segments that cannot be used will be coloured black and the character will not be able to charge beyond that point. If the health of the character though falls low, then the character can charge over the black bars to enter a “Desperation Mode” where he or she will be able to execute a highly damaging move that will make them unable to use their Ki attacks and Ki related moves for the rest of the match. Examples of those “Desperation Moves” would be Cell’s Self Destruction, Majin Vegeta’s Majin Blast, Goku’s Spirit Bomb to Dragon Fist etc.
Finally, a new system will be placed to make battles more complex and more skill based than the previous games. It’s what I’s like to call the “Dragon Rush” system. For it to work, the Boost mechanics from Gundam Vs Gundam, the Rainbow Cancel from Gundam Extreme Versus and the principal that some advanced moves consume part of the dash bar is needed here as well. The Dragon Rush system essentially is used to unlock more advanced branches in the combos of the players as the hit count rises. Usually the moves of the players won’t be more than four hits long or at least more than four button presses but as the hit counter rises and certain numbers are reached the moves change a bit, the first change being adding more moves into the main attack, upping the variety of them and the next being unlockable branches with different properties and at the maximum level we have the ultimate melee brances where trully extravagant moves that consume from the dash bar and usually require button mashing can be used. This feeling of “rush” is also found in the series as well, when a character attacks and has the edge in it, he usually stops having any restraints and starts mauling the opponent until he gets tired and requires to rest for a bit, dealing a lot of damage to the enemy and displaying a great aray of techniques and moves.
Or…we can go with the “Dissidia Dragon Ball” option I presented some time ago, here.
A.)An A-RPG game
*To be added*
What does the future behold now…well…we’ll have to see. Currently, it’s onyl screens and barely any videos for the next game and even then, Bamco is stingy with the details. I just hope we get some quality games in the future, the franchise needs it. 🙂