Monday, November 16, 2009

Game Review: Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo

Dragon Ball is arguably the most popular anime franchise ever created. It has spawned hundreds of television episodes, over a dozen movies, and countless video games. Suffice to say, fans of the show have no short supply of ways to explore the adventures of their favorite characters. Every gaming console for the past few generations has been a home to Dragon Ball in some form or another. The most recent hit for the franchise was the fighting game series, Budokai Tenkaichi, but a new title for the Nintendo Wii aims to dethrone the previous title holder.

Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo takes fans that have cut their teeth on the Z franchise back to the roots of the show. This is a timely move on Namco Bandai's part as FUNimation has begun recently releasing the original series on DVD in America. Fans that are familiar with Dragon Ball are more likely to be knowledgeable of the Z brand, and not the first series. That means the story backing the game will feel recognizable, yet things will be skewed somewhat and feel fresh.

Basically, Revenge of King Piccolo takes place about a year after Goku decided to get out and explore the world in his quest for Dragon Balls. As fans of the series know, collecting all seven Dragon Balls grants the bearer any wish their little heart desires. It's a straightforward story that is presented in every version of the show, and this one closely follows arcs revolving around the Red Ribbon Army and King Piccolo. The plot unfolds during cut scenes and clips of animation, though the degree of success is varied. Sometimes the story is easy enough to follow, and other times it seems like it's out in left field. Then again, gamers tackling this game probably already know a fair deal about what's going on so the story is kind of a moot point.

One thing that will surprise most Dragon Ball fans right out of the gate is the fact that Revenge of King Piccolo isn't a fighting game at its core. The title is really a side-scrolling 2.5D beat 'em up and this was a nice, welcome change of pace! The gameplay in Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo is broken down into two different modes: Adventure and Tournament.

Adventure mode is truly the meat of the experience here and it's where players will spend nearly all of their time. The controls in here are fairly simplistic with one button for attack, another for jump, and the rest being used for guarding or launching special attacks. Players do have the option for different control styles too, so if they have the GameCube or Classic controllers they may use them as well. It would be advisable to switch controllers if possible because the original scheme with the nunchuk and wiimote can be a tad cumbersome and overly complicated for this type of game.

As Goku players traverse over 20 levels fighting small enemies from the series and encountering frequent bosses at the end of stages. There is a fair amount of platforming that needs to happen as well, and the game uses its 2.5D interactions nicely enough with multiple parts on the field for Goku to interact with. It's nothing we haven't seen before and in all fairness the gameplay feels very similar to something like Klonoa.

As far as the quality of the adventure itself, the game is good, but not great. There isn't an awful lot of variety and aside from the Dragon Ball motif it's not a very captivating, or lengthy experience. Let's just say that this game doesn't necessary reinvent the wheel, and that can be a polarizing thing. Some will appreciate the simplicity and nostalgic value of it all, while others will bash the game for lacking creativity. Keep that in mind when coming to a decision about whether or not to play the game.

The Tournament mode serves as little more than a fighting distraction for players that have tired of the adventure. Don't look for anything as robust as Budokai Tenkaichi because the gameplay is pulled from the Adventure mode. That means attacks are performed with basically one button and things get tiresome quickly due to repetition. Aside from playing through the game, there is also a shop that can be accessed to purchase various extras and whatnot. Fans will appreciate using their zeni to buy some trinkets and pictures to be viewed in the gallery, but this is more or less just busy work to keep kids occupied.

One key element to anime-themed games is the matter of how it all looks. Thankfully, Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo faithfully renders each of the characters. The graphics are very smooth and look precisely how fans would expect. There are times where it's almost impossible to discern that this is a video game and not an actual moment from the show. Kudos go to developer Media.Vision for creating such an authentic looking experience. The sound quality is very good as well with Japanese and English dubbing tracks being made available. The effects are solid overall and the music is exactly what one would expect from Dragon Ball. This isn't the most engrossing audible experience though, and there's not much in the way of a sense of immersion.

Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo is a nice change of pace for fans of the series that have grown tired of one fighting entry after another. The side-scrolling beat 'em up aspect is a throwback to games of yesteryear and I really appreciated that change in direction. However, the concepts backing the gameplay are too simplistic for their own good. The game winds up falling short on expectations and becomes repetitive after a short time. The tacked-on Tournament mode doesn't help matters either and it's anything but robust. Still, fans of the anime franchise will want to check this one if they own a Wii.

Maki Rating:

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