The Adventures of Little Goku Continue!
When most anime fans think of Goku, they probably think of the ultra-muscular Saiyan from the Dragon Ball Z series. However, before Dragon Ball Z became the epitome of Shonen in the early nineties, it was preceded by a little series known simply as Dragon Ball.
This series followed the exploits of a magical little boy named Goku who, along with his friends, searched for Dragon Balls that had the power to grant wishes. Although the premise may sound a little familiar to “Z” fans, the show was actually much lighter in tone and focused more on comedy and inappropriate jokes than epic battles and super power-ups.
Because of its lack of straight-up action, Dragon Ball never received the proper video game treatment stateside until 2008’s Dragon Ball: Origins. In that adventure, Goku went on a journey to find Dragon Balls, but instead found himself participating in a fighting tournament. The story featured plenty of heart and its transition to a video game story was seamless, but once it ended, fans wondered where the next game based on the Dragon Ball series would pick up. Fortunately, the sequel starts up right where the first left off: the beginning of the Red Ribbon Arc.
For the uninitiated, the Red Ribbon Arc is about the nefarious Red Ribbon Army who are competitors of the Capsule Corp., however, they have more than just technological advancements on their agenda. Not satisfied with being just a corporate entity, the Red Ribbon Army seeks to rule the world, and plans on using the Dragon Balls to achieve their ultimate goal of world domination.
Though the situation sounds pretty dire, the game still retains the series’ trademark humor. While the plot is a bit more focused this time, you can still expect plenty of humorous remarks and double-entendres from several characters (including the always-hilarious Master Roshi.) The game does assume familiarity with the game’s cast (main characters like Goku and Bulma are never formally introduced). However, if you’ve never seen the original Dragon Ball, you won’t be lost, and the Red Ribbon Army arc is told with surprising deft.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, fans of the first Origins title will find plenty of familiarity in Dragon Ball: Origins 2. The game takes an action RPG format, with plenty of platforming elements, and players will be able to run and jump across familiar locales from the Dragon Ball mythos. As you complete levels, you will be able to spend points earned through gameplay to level up Goku and add to his attack power, spirit gage, and life meter. Although there are a few new mechanics this time around, like tree-swinging and a new Kamahameha activation mechanic, most of the gameplay is unchanged. This is great if you were a fan of the first game and want to jump right in.
Of course, there is such a thing as being “too familiar” and I think that Dragon Ball: Origins 2 treads the line between repetitive and recognizable well. While the formula could have used a little bit more polishing since the last entry (I would have loved to have some updated battle mechanics), the fact is that one of the selling points of the original was its simplicity. Dragon Ball is almost 25 years old, and you’ll find fans of this series among several age ranges. Keeping it simple makes the game attractive to older fans and keeps it familiar for younger fans. I would love to see a little more innovation for the inevitable third entry in the Origins series, but for now, the gameplay is still interesting, and nothing here feels stale.
Although the story mode is formatted similarly to its predecessor, there is at least one element that is all-new: Tower mode. This is a co-op mode that can be played with other DS users over a local connection and features waves of bad guys that you and any other participants will need to beat in succession. It was disappointing that this mode did not feature an option to connect via wi-fi. However, it can be played solo, which is some compensation for those with DS-less friends. Although, due to the difficulty level of the Tower mode, it can be quite an undertaking to try and complete by yourself. It is obvious that the levels were designed to be completed with a nearby friend.
Dragon Ball Origins looks great and is a slight improvement over its predecessor. Cinema scenes are beautifully rendered, and character models feature plenty of detail. The only qualm I have with the cinema scenes (and I had the same issue with the original’s) is the way the game uses the two screens. Instead of just having a top and bottom image that blend together, the cinema scenes deliberately leave out the space between the DS’s screens. This can result in some interesting proportions, depending on which model DS you are using. On a regular DS, things look fine, but fire this game up in a DSi or DS Lite, and everyone’s torsos disappear!
Though this is only a minor issue, I was really hoping it would be changed for this title, but it seems they have kept it, especially since that middle bar works so well at covering up areas that would normally need a censored bar. Luckily, the in-game visuals don’t have this problem, and the top and bottom screen visuals work perfectly, sporting just the right amount of detail.
Audio in Dragon Ball: Origins 2 is good, with some inoffensive background music and some good voice work. Though the voiceover in Origins 2 is relatively sparse, it is effective and sounds a lot like the original voice work that was done for the US version of the anime (which was produced nearly a decade ago for those of you keeping track.).
Overall, I was pleased with Dragon Ball: Origins 2. Although the gameplay is nearly identical to the original Dragon Ball: Origins, it really works well in this sequel. In a franchise that has spawned dozens of fighting games with nearly identical premises, a familiar-feeling second entry doesn’t seem all that terrible. While I did hope for a little more innovation in the gameplay, the new story and trademark humor have carried over well from the Red Ribbon Army Arc, which is enough to earn this title a playthrough. Dragon Ball: Origins 2 is a joy to play for both fans of the original series as well as those who have only experienced Dragon Ball characters through the “Z” series. If you consider yourself a fan of the Dragon Ball universe, Origins 2 is a title that deserves a spot on your shelf.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
The environments are colorful, and the cinema scenes look great (though the dual screen format does leave some interesting bits out, depending on your DS model.) 4.1 Control
Although button-based controls work better than stylus-based ones, having the choice is nice. If you can remember all the different gestures, stylus controls may work well for some. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The background music is inoffensive. While voiceover is minimal, it is done well. 3.8
The story is pretty linear, but if you have a buddy with the game, you can play special co-op missions using the game’s Tower mode.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.