By Amanda L. Kondolojy
The Super Butoden series began in 1993 and was the first real DBZ brawler. It began on the SNES and featured a roster of ten playable characters. It also featured a story mode that led players from the final Dragon Ball saga all the way to the Cell Saga of Dragon Ball Z. The initial offering was successful enough to warrant a second outing on the SNES less than a year later.
The follow-up again featured 10 characters, but the biggest draw to this title was the fact the story was very interactive and would change depending on battles that were won or lost. A final Super Butoden title was released for the SNES after the huge success of the third installment, but interestingly enough, the third title did not include a story mode, which led to less successful sales. However, things started to pick back up in the next generation of consoles. In 1995, Dragon Ball Z: Shin Butoden was released. This game had a whopping 26 character roster and was wildly successful for its time.
None of these games made it to American shores, probably due to the fact that the anime had not been localized yet. The Japanese anime ended in 1996, but instead of being the end for this fantastic franchise, the final episode of the anime proved to be just the beginning of the international media powerhouse that would become Dragon Ball Z.
An International Explosion (1996-2003)
Notable Games: Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, Legacy of Goku
The first episode of Dragon Ball Z hit American airwaves in September 1996, which was about nine months after the final episode aired in Japan. It began broadcasting on network television, but did not have the ratings to sustain itself. However, the anime was soon picked up by cable networks where it did exceedingly well, and was consistently rated the number one show on cable for young and teenage boys.
DBZ fever was not only catching on in America. By the time the American dub wrapped up, the Dragon Ball Z series had been broadcast in Spanish, French, Italian, and German. The series took on an amazing international fan base, as its action-packed story resounded with supporters the world over.
Because the demographic of the anime's viewership corresponded to that of video games, the decision was made to start localizing current Japanese Dragon Ball Z titles for the new American audience. One of the first games to be localized and released was Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout in 1997. However, because this game took place in the GT series (which would not be aired in America until 2003), the plot didn't make sense to the American audience, and the game performed extremely poorly as a result.
The commercial failure of Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout raised suspicions that games based on the Dragon Ball Z franchise might not be as successful as was once hoped. However, as the Dragon Ball series began to wind down in the US, fans became hungry for an outlet to further their Dragon Ball Z experience. That outlet was about to explode.