GameSpite Quarterly 8 | Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu

Despite being one of the world’s most famous, most influential action comics/cartoons, until fairly recently the vast majority of videogames based on the Dragon Ball franchise ranged from mediocre to horrendous. If you asked gamers in the know to name a few good Dragon Ball games before the likes of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai and Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure, they’d have to pause to think for several moments. The only title they might have given you would have been Dragon Ball Z: Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu.

Typically referred to as Dragon Ball Z: Legends, Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu is unlike any other Dragon Ball Z fighting game and is to this day perhaps the only game that has really managed to bottle the spirit of the Dragon Ball Z anime. The game plays out across infinitely scrolling 3D landscapes, but the combatants are all 2D sprites. A player may field up to three fighters simultaneously so battles often have six combatants all slugging it out at once. Of course, players only control one character at a time with the computer AI handling the rest, but players can quickly switch between their team, and they can even swap in combatants from a reserve pool of several more characters.

In this way Legends really stands out from its peers, because while the smooth animation and destructible environments found in the more recent Dragon Ball games may capture some of the show’s feel, when you’ve witnessed a match in Legends, with six fighters all duking it out at once, hurling energy blasts back and forth and destroying bits of scenery, you’ll realize how far off the mark those other games are. For years, it was also the only game that featured the entire Dragon Ball Z story, beginning with the battle against Nappa and ending with the clash against Kid Buu, showcasing almost all of the major battles between.

The combat is pretty unique too. While each fighter has separate health bars, regular attacks don’t actually inflict any damage. Instead, every attack a member of the player’s team lands fills an energy bar at the bottom of the screen shared by both sides with more of that team’s energy and reduces the amount of the opponent’s energy. Each time the bar is completely filled with the energy of one team or another, the lead character of that team executes an unavoidable super attack on a member of the opposing team which deals damage to their actual health. Battles therefore tend to play out like elaborate games of tug-of-war, and while two to four super attacks are generally enough to defeat a character, with three combatants on each side fights can be fairly lengthy.

Really, being accurate to the franchise seems to be the game’s primary goal. There was no effort to balance characters, so like the show some fighters are simply stronger than others. Also, you get more points for recreating the battles as they happened in the show, so sometimes it’s actually better to allow a given character to be defeated or to swap out your strongest fighter. Of course this means that, as a fighting game, Legends is something of a mess, and anyone who isn’t a fan of the source material will likely be turned off by the game’s bizarre mechanics and occasionally repetitive combat. But since being bizarre and occasionally repetitive is really what Dragon Ball is all about, that just makes fans love it even more.

By Mike Zeller? | April 24, 2011 | Last: Somnia Memorias | Next: Tobal No. 1: 60 FPS