Friday, October 24, 2014

Dragon Ball: Origins review

There are currently two chains that sell used games in Kagoshima - Book-Off and the Softmap located in Bic Camera. What's interesting is how inconsistent their pricing is. Within the chain, every shop sells the same title for the same price, meaning that they have a central database that controls pricing. But Softmap and Book-Off have differing valuations of the same title. As an example, Blue Dragon Plus is 1,500 yen at Book-Off, and 750 yen at Softmap, while Radiant Historia is about 1,000 yen cheaper at Book-Off. And, of course since these are recycled games, there's no guarantee what you'll find at each of the 3 Book-Off outlets here. So, I've been visiting various shops to try to find stuff that I want to get, at the lowest price. I'll wait for Puyo Puyo Anniversary to get below 1,000 yen, and I'm trying to decide if I want Blue Dragon Plus (I may get it because the designs are by Akira Toriyama.

(Images used for review purposes only.)

Dragon Ball: Origins (2008), Grade: B
Origins on the Gameboy DS is a fairly accurate retelling of the first couple of volumes of Toriyama's Dragonball manga. Unlike most DB games, this one isn't a Street Fighter-style one-on-one combat game. Instead, it's an RPG similar to Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (same kind of use of tools for puzzle solving). You control the hero, Son Goku, as he encounters Bulma for the first time, and the two of them set out to find the 7 Dragon Balls in order to make a wish. Along the way, they encounter Oolong, Yamcha, Kamesennin, Chichi, and ultimately get into the great battle ring to fight against Jackie Chun. In general, games based on manga tend to have a problem with lesser "filler character" enemies, in that to have something to populate the dungeons and fields, the designers run out of monsters to use from the manga, and start adding their own creations, like snakes, lizards and so on. That's the case here, where Goku has to wade his way through cowboy skeletons, fire-breathing lizards and rabbit gangsters to get to the next boss. While these add-ins don't belong to the manga, they do at least provide some variety to the things you have to fight all the time.

(Opening CG.)

It is kind of ironic that DB was turned into an RPG like this, since the original manga was designed around the idea of "find the treasure" video arcade games, with the possible intent of spinning it off as a game at some point (which obviously has happened multiple times now). In this iteration, the story is divided up into chapters and sub-chapters (1.1-1.6, 2.1-2.7, etc.) In most sub-chapters you have to run through a field or dungeon to get to the exit, while solving certain puzzles or fighting various enemies along the way. Puzzles include pushing large blocks into a river to dam it up, pushing buttons to open doors, riding conveyor belts through a maze, and spinning mirrors to open doors of the same color. Defeating enemies can give you money, skill points or items. Breaking rocks and barrels can net you the same things, plus figurines and jigsaw pieces. You can spend money within your inventory menu shop to get items (healing, power ups or guard ups), weapons for Bulma (machine guns) and some random figurines. There are 200 unlockable figurines within the game, which are simply screenshots of Gokuu, Bulma and the other characters in various poses (after finishing the game, I've still only got about 80 of them). They're useless and add nothing to the game; they're only there for people that like to collect stuff for bragging rights. As for the jigsaw pieces, both Goku and Bulma have "health" and "energy" (ki) pictures, which get filled in with each jigsaw piece (15 pieces for each of the 4 pictures). I didn't notice any obvious changes when the pictures were completed.

(Typical dungeon. Fight the enemies - laser robot - without Bulma getting killed by accident.)

Each sub-chapter gives you a rating when you finish it, from D to A, then S, the faster the better. Getting an A or S rating gives you a rare or super-rare figurine. Again, since the figurines don't do anything, the only reason for replaying a chapter is to find all the treasure chests to get the remaining jigsaw pieces, or to get all S ranks because you're obsessive-compulsive. The fourth sub-chapter in each chapter (1-4, 2-4, 3-4, etc.) generally gives you the boss fight at the end. Subsequent sub-chapters are just subquests, which can be played in any order. Again, the sub-quests are there to give you more figurines.

(Bulma's Health and Energy screen, with both pictures completed.)

The game uses the stylus a lot, mainly for combat. Goku has two weapons, his fists and the expanding staff. Tapping Goku and then tapping the enemy can give you one kind of attack, depending on the weapon. Tapping and then dragging the stylus gives another, and drawing a circle around Gokuu gives a third. You learn new attacks as you go through the story, with Kamehame-ha showing up in chapter 5.1. It's an easy attack to initiate, but it takes about 5-10 seconds to charge, making it bad against the faster enemies (leveling it up does cut down on the power-up time). Mainly, it's good for destroying certain obstacles in the mazes. You can power up Gokuu's attacks by spending skill points on them in the inventory menu, up to level 3 per technique.

(Goku goes were-monkey.)

Overall, it's a good game for anyone that likes the original manga. The designers do take some liberties with the storyline, but the main elements are there, and the sukebe scenes involving Oolong and Kamesennin have been included as cut scenes (you know which ones I'm talking about). Nothing really graphic, but it's still not appropriate for young children or anyone easily offended. The artwork's good, as is the music and most of the character designs. Some of the puzzles can be frustrating, and I don't like the mini-games where you control Kintoen, the flying cloud, in what is essentially a linear "don't hit anything chase". Otherwise, the main point of the game is to get to the big tournament and then fight your way up to face Jackie Chun. Everything else is just filler. Not too bad for 950 yen ($10 USD). There is one complete walkthrough on IGN, and a couple others that are absurdly incomplete and useless (on Gamefaqs). So, it is possible to get all the jigsaw pieces with the help of the walkthrough, but the decision as to whether to race through a chapter to get S rank just to pick up one more figurine is something left completely up to the player (so in my case, the answer is, "not interested").

(Figurines screens. Basically, it's just 200 separate character screen shots. They don't contribute to the game in any way, and many of them aren't good poses.)

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