That poor, poor dragon.
Ahh, Dragon Ball… I always seem to be on my way back to you. Sure, some people say you’re nothing but overly-long “I’m gonna channel my energy” sequences and fight scenes with only five frames of unique animation tossed together, or the story of “Mama said knock you out!” told over 40 episodes that for any other series would be over in 13. Oh wait, no, that’s DBZ, not DB. DB is about an adorable little crazy-naive child that beats up bad guys and collects balls.
[image1]Ha, balls. No matter how many reviews of Dragon Ball games I write, I still always find that funny. My inner seventh-grader is smiling.
In this second Origin story, you’ll find yourself at odds with the always-evil-sounding Red Ribbon Army, in search of the Dragon Balls. You start off as Goku in a search for his grandpa’s four-star ball, and along the way, you take on the roles of some of the companions you make along the way. Whether you’re playing as a small baldy, the bossy lady, the big android or the small android, the end goal remains the same: defeat anyone in the way and find the keepsake the little alien-baby is searching for. Are all alien babies this needy?
Graphically, it’s the same as the first Origins, and there isn’t anything new here. It’s a 3D game on the DS, so it’s still a little jaggy, but at least it’s sharper than before. There still aren’t any facial animations – just a quick palette swap to change a character’s emotions – which combined with the tiny trickle of spoken dialog is underwhelming. There’s a surprising amount of dialog throughout the game, so the amount that is spoken is rare. But c’mon now, isn’t there enough space on a DS cart to hold some Master Roshi clips? Can’t Krillin get some audio-lovin’?
[image2]The action is where… well, the action is. Since multiple characters are available for play, like Krillin and Bulma, they have their own specific attacks and weapons to choose from. Goku is definitely the balanced fighter here, while someone like Bulma works with an arsenal of guns (a.k.a. a gun-totin’ crazy woman) and a character like Eighter, a gigantic yet loveable and gentle android, is slow as hell with a big right hook. Each level that a given character is asked to traverse is suited well to their strengths, with a specific task that only a specific character is capable of. Following through the same section with another character does happen in some spots, and they can reach more areas and more treasure chests or areas.
Also like the original game, it’s not particularly long nor difficult. The only reason it takes some time is because the dragon scales, specifically for upgrading Goku, are few and far between… though with the enemies as easy as they are, it never feels like a problem. But that in and of itself is a problem, as the game quickly becomes too easy and just a virtual way of getting through the same story told multiple times over the past few decades.
With Goku’s ability to dart around at will, fights just become monotony: dart in, attack, dart out, attack another baddie, repeat. It’s a shame that there isn’t more to it than that, even in most boss fights; if you have enough HP-replenishing items, you don’t even have to dart back and forth in a big fight. Controlling each character is simple and sharp, with the commands for special techniques quickly becoming second-nature, but with enemies as straight-forward, only a few buttons are necessary on a regular basis. The others, like smaller energy shots, might as well only be puzzle-solving tricks.
[image3]And as far as where those puzzles take place, the environments are all nicely different from one another. Even though they all take the same skills to get through (with the exception of some spots where a technique like Bulma’s remote-controlled drone is needed), they all are colorful and stand on their own as a point of interest. From forest floors to underwater caves and secret bases, there is a nice variety of objectives from beating up the bugs and bears, to bastard-sword-wielding army men who are all gunning for your turtle-wearing butt.
It really is a testament to the story that developers can keep telling Dragon Ball – over and over again exhaustively – and players/readers/watchers still eat it up. The characters are as amusing as ever, the story is easy to follow and broken up enough to keep it interesting, and there’s always a fight to be had (complete with Goku getting hit, which I think could be considered child abuse in some areas). It’s just a shame that the actual fighting is just as boring as it’s ever been. True, energy attacks are plentiful and the well-loved Kamehameha is only a few upgrades away (and then available at will), but it’s difficult to get excited about. If the story wasn’t as amusing as it was, Dragon Ball: Origins 2 would really be a vanilla-bland sandwich.