It's a wish come true... FINALLY!
First off, a mandatory warning: If you're a fan of Dragonball/Z/GT/whatever-others-there-might-invariably-be, and you're insanely fanatic, you're going to love this game. And anything bad I might ever say about it will most certainly mean I'm destined for the deepest regions of hell. So if that's you, then just go ahead skip over this review... your mind's made up already. Move along.
[image1]If you're still here, let's get crackin'.
Dragonball Origins is a re-telling of the very beginnings of the Dragonball series. It introduces everybody's favorite gang of fight-seeking animé heroes: Goku (the little kid with too hard a head), Bulma, and the friends they make along the way (like Yamcha, Pu'ar, Master Roshi, and Oolong, among others). Really, all the designers needed to do to make it playable (as opposed to a kind of “interactive” manga) was have the player walk around as Goku, acting out the journeys between plot points. I was honestly surprised at how much of the manga made it into the game... it earns the “T” rating with comments about “no balls!” regarding the female “side-kick”, and the infamous anime nosebleeds whenever the girls show a little skin. Oh, those silly animé girls...
Since this game is on the DS, the touchscreen is obviously the focal point of the control of the game. For most tie-in games, it's used in fairly gimmicky ways and doesn't integrate itself well on the DS (just about every DS title that has a console counterpart can do without the stylus entirely). In Origins, this isn't the case at all - the controls are very well done and tailor to the DS style beautifully. A player can jump in with minimal instruction and start to control Goku, even figuring out easy attack sequences on the fly. The rest of the controls are explained in such a way that they become second-nature.
[image2]Combat, though fun, isn't very deep. The tutorial bits early on tell you that button mashing isn't going to get you far, but I've yet to find too many problems with it. The enemies have a handful of techniques at their fingertips and they do change up their movements, but most are still pretty easily expected and avoidable. And while mashing is one way of easily going about it, to become a “good” player, learning how to use all of the skills Goku acquires are rewarding... even if it only means you're able to save up money for the various figurines you can buy in the store. I just wish I could have looked forward to something more than just extra weapons for Bulma and new “figurines” of the polygon characters. Yay for collectibles in games... don't have to catch them all, do I?
What's really a shame about the entire experience is that if you've read the Dragonball manga or watched episodes of the animé before, you know how everything is going to happen. Every interaction, every character, even various bits of the dialogue. The game is entirely a retelling of the story, with no real frills other than the actual beating up of some creatures and characters. There are side-missions along the way from the main story arc, but they're not very compelling. Making dinner for Bulma just makes me sad that the developers couldn't come up with, err.., anything else. To be fair, the missions are very much what good hand-held gaming is designed for: short bursts at a time, perfect for short bus rides, long plane trips, or those five-minute poops.
[image3]From a technical standpoint there isn't anything too special about the look or sound of the game. Sure, the characters look like polygonal versions of the animé, but they're still fairly jaggy and a bit rough around the edges. The facial expressions are nice, even if they're not fluid and very “comic strip”, meaning that their faces move sharply from one expression to the next. Music is... come to think of it, even when I tried to listen to it, I couldn't remember any of it. Nothing about the presentation is too powerful, but it does what it's supposed to do just fine.
I can't see anyone playing through this game multiple times (especially people who know the story front-to-back already), but for the newly initiated or the curious gamer, it's just nice to see a popular franchise turned into a perfectly playable video game. As far as licensed games go, this is easily one of the better ones, and one that takes advantage of what the DS is capable of is a real achievement. Now, just about the whole “collecting balls” thing...