This Week in Games
The Dregs of Dragon Ball

by Heidi Kemps,

Howdy! It's a new week, and we're gonna talk about games, dangit!

Well, uh… honestly, there isn't too much news. I mean, yeah, there are a few noteworthy news bits, but I don't have much in the way of commentary to add to them. So, we're going to do a little something fun after the news. Stick around!

SONIC IS GEARING UP FOR A NEWS-FILLED 2020

Did you know Sonic is almost 30 years old? Yup, 2021 marks the big three-oh for everyone's favorite needlemouse, and you'd better believe that Sega's got big plans for the event. To help build up hype throughout 2020, Sega promises that they'll be dropping Sonic-related news on the 20th of each month all through December. That's a lot of Sonic!

What do you all think will be announced? I know lots of folks want a new Sonic Adventure-style game, but I'd be totally down for another throwback like Sonic Mania or an enhanced re-release of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Maybe they can poach a few folks from the smoking crater of BioWare to finish up that cliffhanger ending of Sonic Chronicles! …Or not.

BANDAI-NAMCO IS BRINGING FOOTBALL AND ROBOTS HOME

The most prolific publisher of anime- and manga-based video games is no doubt Bandai-Namco. They've been publishing many, many titles in North America over the past decade or so, and this week, they announced two more – including a surprising North American appearance of a manga superstar.

First off is the one that will probably get most folks hyped up, *takes deep breath* Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Maxiboost ON! This is a port of the latest Gundam 2v2 arcade game, which is ubiquitous in arcades within Japan and Asia. The series did finally get a bit of Western traction from the 2017 release of Gundam Versus, though that game was something of an oddity – it wasn't directly based on any particular arcade Gundam release. Anyway, this is a direct arcade port, so you're getting the exact same game that Japanese arcadegoers have been enjoying. Hooray! Just… try to forget that Bamco has already announced a new Gundam VS arcade game for later this year and your purchase will soon be outdated compared to what Japan's enjoying.

Also, we have none other than Captain Tsubasa making a splash in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions! This is the first Captain Tsubasa game in almost a decade, and the first to make an appearance in North America since the 8-bit era. This is an arcade-style soccer game – think along the lines of Virtua Striker – and features plenty of splash and pizzazz that Jump sports manga is known for. It may be worth looking into if the likes of FIFA and Football Manager are too dull and realistic for your tastes.

But here's a bit of fun trivia: this isn't the first Captain Tsubasa game released in North America! No, that's actually Tecmo Cup on the NES, a localized version of the first Captain Tsubasa Famicom game. Of course, it's stripped of all the Tsubasa-ness, so our hero gets turned into this douchey-looking guy:

Still, definitely a bizarre historical relic of the days when anime licenses had to be stripped out of Western games. We'll talk more about that in a bit.

FIGHTING GAME NEWS ROUNDUP: HEY, WE HEARD YOU NEED MORE GOKU

Where Sakurai's like, “add more Fire Emblem characters!” Bandai-Namco and Arc System Works are like, “add more Gokus! Add ALL the Gokus!”

Yes, that's Goku Ultra Instinct. Coming to Dragon Ball FighterZ. More details (and a trailer) to come soon!

Speaking of Arc System Works, they dropped a bit of news relating to Guilty Gear Strive over the previous weekend at the Frosty Faustings tournament. As expected, there will be an arcade version of Strive, which will be showcased at EVO Japan this weekend. However, they didn't want to make fans wait to see a favorite returning character: the mad doctor Faust!

I'm digging Faust's Strive presence – it seems like a good balance of weird, funny, and downright creepy. He's always been one of Guilty Gear's standout character designs, and this looks to keep him as memorable as ever. I wonder if anyone else will show up this weekend? Hmmm…

TWIG SPECIAL: THE WORST DRAGON BALL GAMES RELEASED IN NORTH AMERICA

Dragon Ball Z Kakarot released last week, and it's pretty darn good! My GameSpot review may or may not be live by the time you read this, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the game. Honestly, this console generation has been pretty good for Dragon Ball games: Xenoverse 1 and 2 are fanservicey adventures that lets your original character take part in the Dragon Ball universe, Dragon Ball FighterZ is a gorgeous, technical fighting game, and Kakarot is a charming RPG that emphasizes the characters and world just as much as it does combat.

Yes, it's a good time to be a gaming Dragon Ball fan, especially given the series’ past reputation for mediocre – and sometimes downright awful – games. To really appreciate just how nice the current crop of Dragon Ball titles are, you need to understand just how bad Dragon Ball games can get. So let's take a look at a few! I'm restricting this to titles released in North America, mostly because if we start digging into Japan-only stuff, we'd be here all day. Let's prepare for a rough journey, and wish that we never see Dragon Ball games this awful ever again!

DRAGON POWER

Bandai was an early licensee for the NES when it launched in North America, and they already had a whole bunch of games out in Japan for the Famicom they could bring overseas. The problem? Most of these games had anime and manga licenses for stuff nobody here knew or cared about. But that wasn't a problem: just redraw the graphics, change the title, and we're good to go! Obake no Q-Taro became Chubby Cherub, GeGeGe no Kitarō became Ninja Kid, and Dragon Ball: Mystery of Shenron became Dragon Power.

The problem? All of these games were awful to begin with, and the reworkings were only skin-deep: graphics were changed, but terrible gameplay generally was not.

In Dragon Power, you control LEGALLY DISTINCT Goku, who travels with his buddy Bul…Nora to find crystal balls. It's like The Legend of Zelda, kind of, if Zelda was miserable to play. All of your favorite characters are here, some changed beyond recognition, others mostly untouched. The funniest part is where you give Not Master Roshi a sandwich – in the original, he wanted womens’ panties, and the sandwich sprite is basically the original's panty sprite flipped upside down and badly edited.

Weirdly, France got a mostly-intact version of the game, but both versions have some sprite edits and some cut levels. Well, not that anyone's complaining about having to play less Dragon Power

DRAGON BALL GT FINAL BOUT

Oh goodness, this game. So back in 1997, Bandai decided to localize Dragon Ball: Final Bout for the North American market, adding the “GT” for some bizarre reason. This is well before anyone besides the most devoted of anime fans knew about Dragon Ball Z – the most national exposure that Dragon Ball had up to that point was Funimation's early dub of the original series. The game came out, it looked and played like garbage, nobody knew who all of these characters were, it got trashed in the press, only the hardest-core anime nerds bought it (and generally regretted it), and so DBGT Final Bout fell into bargain bins nationwide.

Just a couple years later, Dragon Ball Z hit Toonami and became the hottest thing around. All of these new North American fans were eager to get their hands on a Dragon Ball game. And hey, wouldn't you know it, there was one that came out just a few years earlier! Except… it had a low print run because it got awful reviews, and stores had long since cast it off the shelves.

Suddenly, that awful Dragon Ball GT Final Bout game was the most sought-after and valuable PlayStation game. I remember the game store I hung around in getting a not-great-condition copy in and still managing to sell it for about $180 at the time. All because people just could not get enough Dragon Ball. Nowadays the value's a lot less ridiculous thanks to a reprint and people realizing the game sucks, but jeez, I'm remembering what people paid for this and wincing.

I haven't actually talked about the game much here, but do I really need to? It blows. Moving on.

DRAGON BALL Z ULTIMATE BATTLE 22

I can't think of a move much more cynical than taking an 8-year-old, first-gen Japanese PlayStation game and dressing it up like it's a brand-new product for North America, but that's exactly what Infogrames (later Atari) did with Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Battle 22. This game first released in July of 1995, making it older than a good chunk of people reading this column, and was dropped onto store shelves in the US and Canada in 2003. After the PS2 had launched. Wow.

It wasn't like the game was particularly good when it came out, either: it's a slow, clunky fighter with pixelly sprites and ugly, basic backgrounds. Even back in 1995, the rich kids with money to import a PlayStation and Saturn before their US launch could tell you that Ultimate Battle 22 kinda sucked, and boy oh boy were those eight years extremely not kind to it. Making things worse is was hackjob of a localization that removed pre-fight cutscenes and put Important™ Trademarks® next to every character's name.

Thank goodness nobody ever tried to make easy money from DBZ fans who couldn't afford to transition to next-gen consoles with a crappy game ever again. Oh, wait…

DRAGON BALL Z INFINITE WORLD

The PS2-era DBZ Budokai games are generally fondly remembered by those who played them. So, what would happen if you took a bunch of Budokai assets and gameplay mechanics, added a bunch of awful side games, and released it on PS2 in 2008 for players who hadn't yet upgraded to the Xbox 360 or PS3?

You'd have Dragon Ball Z: Infinite World, a game that's not unfair to compare to Superman 64. No, I'm serious, there are numerous missions in the game's story mode where Goku has hop through rings like in the infamous Superman 64 levels, among other tedious and nonsensical activities.

Recycled content, half-assed new additions, and mind-boggling design decisions resulted in a game that reminded you that all of the cool kids were playing shiny HD Dragon Ball games on their new consoles while you were stuck with a cobbled-together mess.

DRAGON BALL: EVOLUTION

It's a fighting game based on the Dragon Ball Hollywood adaptation on PSP. I mean… what more is there to say?

DRAGON BALL Z FOR KINECT

Remember when the Kinect was unveiled, and we were promised cool experiences in the universes of Star Wars and Disney and Dragon Ball? That sure wound up not happening, at least, not in the way we'd hoped. The Kinect did have a couple of noteworthy games, but it seemed like very, very few developers could utilize full-body motion controls well, making many Kinect games feel utterly miserable to play.

But even among Kinect games, Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is a special kind of awful. This first-person-perspective combat game features visuals that I strongly suspect were recycled from other, better Dragon Ball games, motion tracking that feels barely functional most of the time, and fights that feel repetitive and easy despite the fact that the controls are pure ass. There's barely any story to speak of and little in the way of replay value, meaning the most entertainment you're likely to get out of this game is watching someone else look like an idiot jumping around and trying to throw out Kamehamehas.

The one bright spot: it came with cardboard Goku hair. That rules, actually.

Well then! That wraps up things for this week. I'll be watching EVO Japan this weekend – how about you folks? Got any gaming plans for the near future? Chat away below in the forums, and I'll see you again soon!


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