The Strange Fairytale of the Saiyan Saga
I’ve never seen more than part of one episode of Dragon Ball Z, and the only thing I could say for certain about it was that I had no idea what was going on. I turned my nose up at it. Yet Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans ended up being a real treat. If you’re already a fan of DBZ, then there are no flaws in this game that are so great that it should be avoided; if you are new to the world of DBZ, then Attack of the Saiyans will definitely be one of the strangest gaming experiences of your life. If you can accept the goofball humor, then you might be surprised to see how DBZ: AS ties together a sense of wonder, mythological undertones, and nonstop violence into a compelling experience.
The game starts off shakily because, unfortunately, three pretty lame characters take center stage, and they don’t give up the spotlight until a solid chunk of gameplay goes by. There’s Krillin, who kind of looks like a baby, or at least a very small, bald person who walks around in his pajamas; there’s Yamcha, who looks like a “poor man’s Goku”; and then there’s Tien, who actually is kind of interesting because he’s not sure if he is good or evil, but having Tien around usually means having Krillin and Yamcha around, too, so Tien is kind of lame by association.
But hang in there. Other (far more interesting) characters soon join your roster, plus each character has quite a few stats that can be customized at every level, so over time even the lamest characters can distinguish themselves in some field of expertise.
Going up in levels happens frequently, which is good for a cartoony game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but unfortunately a lot of the leveling occurs because there are so many random enemy encounters. Practically everyone agrees that random encounters are bad, and have done so for years. Take a wrong turn in a dungeon? Get ready to wade through at least two repetitious fights. Of course, there might be a level-up after those two fights, and the inevitable fun of distributing stat points or choosing new abilities (of which there are many), but still, just being able to see some enemy icons on the screen (and have them respawn if you leave) would save gamers a lot of frustration. It’s very typical of Japanese RPGs to make the non-boss fights tedious and repetitive – actually it’s kind of like you have to trade in brain cells for experience points – but I am glad to say that there are several interesting boss fights. The early battle between Goku and Piccolo is particularly fun; I’ve never experienced anything quite like it!
The color scheme is another aspect worth experiencing. I won’t say “graphics” because the graphics are neither particularly good or noticeably bad; if you can accept the mushed, squat character sprites that are typical Japanese RPG fare, then the graphics are fine. But what really stands out are some of the very bold colors used in a lot of the stages. It’s a really nice, vibrant look; it goes beyond cartoony and adds a sort of mythological, fairy tale tone to everything that’s going on. Keep in mind that it isn’t done at all times (some stages can look a little boring), but when it does happen, you’ll be glad that you’re playing a visually striking video game rather than looking at an abstract post-modern painting.
Replay value is pretty low. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to sit through the extremely long cutscenes and the laborious combat with monsters who aren’t bosses. However, it is a fairly lengthy game, so a second playthrough is not really necessary in the first place.
If you’re already a fan of the Dragon Ball Z franchise, then of course the biggest appeal of Attack of the Saiyans is that you get to play as your favorite characters. There’s nothing to disappoint longtime fans. Of course, to the uninitiated, using Attack of the Saiyans as your first venture into the world of DBZ makes for a ridiculously surreal experience.
There’s a large and extremely colorful cast of characters, some of them interesting, some of them very obnoxious, and you will be bum-rushed through a strange history that sounds like “so-and-so absorbed this guy and was reborn as you-know-who” and “he was evil but then turned good but then split into two people, one of which died, but then came back as an alien” – and none of this is really a deal-breaker by any means, it just means you might be spending some time on Wikipedia figuring out who comes from what planet.
In fact, the large cast and the deep history kind of make playing Attack of the Saiyans feel like stumbling on a collection of mythological stories from an alien culture, and since it’s all extremely cartoony and over-the-top, it’s like what Tolkien would have come up with for Middle Earth if Tolkien was brain-damaged (but in a good way) and received telepathic transmissions from an alternate dimension.
The point is, Attack of the Saiyans is not necessarily just for hardcore DBZ fans. If you’re into Japanese RPGs, and if you don’t mind a slow, tedious beginning (and seriously, the first ninety minutes are very weak), then Attack of the Saiyans can be an extremely charming, loud, and violent fairy tale.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
Visually interesting use of vibrant colors more than make up for squished characters and the occasionally uninspired dungeon. Looks like a fairytale! 3.3 Control
Standard turn-based Japanese RPG fare. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Very weak. You’re better off listening to your own collection of anime soundtracks or speed metal. 3.9
Be prepared for a slow start. Otherwise, fun for fans of either Japanese RPGs or Dragon Ball Z.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.