Dragon Ball: Devolution
Even though the film Dragon Ball: Evolution has been dividing fans and causing a fair amount of distress to those who value the original plotline (and a silly thing we fans refer to as “canon”), this review is not for the movie but rather for the game, which could be worse than the movie itself!
The game presents itself as a pretty standard brawler, using models based on the actors who played the original characters in the series. I could add how the actors look nothing like their fictional counterparts, but I won’t digress for now. There are four main modes: story, arcade, practice, and mission mode.
The story mode seems to be the main mode, but by playing it, you wouldn’t immediately know. The story mode takes you through the events of the movie through the use of text-based plot scenes which flash before pivotal fights. These plot scenes consist of scrolling text and stoic pictures of the characters that pop up and look off into space. There are no animated plot elements, and the pop-up characters may look nice and detailed, but their expressions rarely match what is going on. The story is also very shallow, and these plot points are so predictable, there seems to be little point in reading them. You can expect a lot of clichéd responses like “I must find my true power” and “believing in myself is the only way!” The whole thing is extremely light on substance, but if you must know what passes for plot in this game, here’s a quick rundown.
Goku is a nerdy kid in high school who has friends who call him “Geek-o;” No, I am not kidding. Despite being severely underappreciated at school, Goku’s grandpa, Gohan, was training him to harness the power of Ki. However, before Goku is fully aware of his powers, the evil Lord Piccolo descends upon Earth. Goku must then seek out Master Roshi and collect the fabled seven Dragon Balls in order to save the world from total destruction. And, of course, learn more about himself and his extraordinary abilities.
Although the story is really off the mark in terms of a typical Dragon Ball storyline, the whole thing is weak, even for a brawler. However, the story mode is at least brief. You can finish the whole thing in under three hours, which is pretty shameful for a modern portable title. Although there is an arcade-style mode and a mission mode to supplement the story mode, these probably each add up to about an hour or two of gameplay time, which brings the entire experience to about six hours. This is inexcusable in a modern game. Even though this game isn’t that good, the lack of content makes me think that the developers really knew that they were putting out a sub-par product and purposely didn’t try to beef up the experience. This is the only reason I can think of as to why this game can be played to nearly 100% completion in only a few hours.
Another problem I had with Dragon Ball: Evolution was the combat; saying that it was simplistic is a major understatement. The combat features single button attacks that can be executed with the Circle button or the square button. Ki attacks can be performed by holding these buttons after building up a substantial amount of Ki, and an Aura Spark can be performed with the R button. There are no special combo attacks and no advanced strategic techniques. Beating enemies generally just involves spamming the Circle and Square buttons, and as long as you can press them fast enough, you will be able to beat every single opponent with no problems. This is a huge contrast to basically every other Dragon Ball game out there, which have traditionally favored strategic combat and complex combat systems.
The visuals in this game continue the low-quality streak that touches basically every other facet of the game. Character models are extremely simplistic, and environments are basic at best. The entire visual makeup can be described in one word: featureless. Basically, every facet of Dragon Ball: Evolution’s visuals lacks detail, color, or inspiration. It doesn’t necessarily fall into the “bad” category here, but the overwhelmingly bland look certainly doesn’t fall into the “good” category either.
Sound, however, is very bad. One thing that struck me as especially odd about this title was that there was absolutely no voiceover. Say what you will about movie-licensed games, but one of the hallmarks of titles based on movies is that they almost always feature voivceovers taken from the film, and considering the amount of dialogue from the movie in the game, I would have figured that slapping some of the dialog from the movie onto the game would have been a cinch.
But as it is, the characters are completely silent, and you’ll just have to imagine what they sound like as you read the miles of scrolling text that comprise the plot scenes in this game. There will be some looping background music that accompanies these scenes, but this is repetitive and annoying at best.
Dragon Ball: Evolution is probably a terrible movie, but I can say with all certainty that it is a terrible game. Poor graphics, a non-existent soundtrack, long loading times, and sparse play value make this title one that you should definitely skip. This is especially so if you have played previous Dragon Ball-inspired games, or enjoyed the anime. This game has nothing in common with your fandom and, as such, should be avoided at all costs.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.1 Graphics
Character models are far too simplistic and environments are bland at best. 2.0 Control
Basic fighter controls get the job done, but just mashing a single button will net you a “super” ranking. 1.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The total lack of voiceover is maddening, and the sparse music during plot scenes is ineffective. 2.0 Play Value
There are several different modes, but since they all require basically the same button smash, this game’s variety is all but lost. Even if you do attempt the different modes, you can get 100% completion in less than an afternoon. Just stay away. 1.5 Overall Rating – Avoid
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.