Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiya-Jin

LegendSaiyanTitleSometimes even a reasonably well-crafted game can be ruined by one major flaw. Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiya-Jin is such a game.

Plot: 8 out of 10

This game probably does the best of any I’ve played at telling the story of DBZ from the first episode to the battle with the galactic emperor, Frieza. As this is an RPG, dialogue boxes move the story along when the situation calls for them. The programmers seem to get this anime as everything fits. But as will be noted later this game is perhaps too true to the anime, hurting the gameplay.

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I once thought that having a weight problem would hamper my ability to get super powers. I am relieved.

There are a few major changes, though, as follows:

1.) So that your party doesn’t go from several characters to just two, only Piccolo necessarily dies in the battle with Vegeta.

2.) Vegeta doesn’t kill Cui and Dodoria. Gohan, Krillin, Tien, Yamcha, and Chiaotzu do.

3.) Goku’s landing on Namek happens a bit later than in the anime.

4.) If Vegeta is still alive when Frieza is killed and Goku becomes a super saiya-jin, Vegeta’s intense anger and jealousy make him a super saiya-jin, as well, and he attacks, setting up a bonus boss fight that doesn’t happen in the anime but gets fans wanking.

Graphics: 4 out of 10

For the Super Nin… sorry, since this wasn’t commercially released in America, I should say, “Super Famicom.” At any rate, its mugshots of the characters are excellent. They look just like promotional art. Same with the “mode 7” bits that sometimes show a character ramming an opponent during battle. Sadly, this is the only aspect of the graphics that impressed me.

While the landscape of the overworld, indoor areas, and battle backgrounds are fine, the character designs, save the mugshots, are very weak. The faces particularly leave something to be desired.

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Notice the contrast between these two Piccolos.

Sound: 8 out of 10

This game may not look very good, but it sounds great! There are not that many songs, but what songs there are sound fantastic! They project a feeling of excitement that fits the anime well.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10

This is not your conventional RPG. There are no weapons or armor. There are Battle Power (BP) ratings and battle cards. You can attack with up to five characters at a time (when you have more, you’ve gotta choose who fights and who doesn’t every round). Each of those five active characters picks a card from a randomly arranged set, each individual card having one of several symbols and up to six dots or a maximal “Z” for attack and defense rating. Each character has a favorite card that enables him to attack all enemies if he’s lucky enough to get it. Also, one of the symbols allows its user to use a ki attack (spell). As always, the attack rating partially determines the ki attack’s effectiveness.

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Why do they call their moves out? I think they do it so their opponents will know what will kill them (even though it often doesn’t).

BP determines a character’s attack and defense power. This is a major factor as the available characters vary widely in BP. Goku usually has the highest BP and Chiaotzu the lowest. And the gap is huge. Fortunately, of the three powerhouses most of game is without Goku or Piccolo, and Vegeta refuses to do anything 40% of the time to counterbalance his high BP, so character imbalance isn’t as big a problem as it ought to be. Plus, some of the weaker characters have special kinds of ki attacks that give them value beyond brute strength. For instance, Chiaotzu has a paralyzing attack that is more reliable than its Final Fantasy counterpart.

The unique, strategic battle system serves this game well and has a very DBZ feel to it. We’ve got ourselves a winner until…

Challenge: 1 out of 10

The first mission is remarkably difficult. At first, it’s possible to be killed even by the standard enemies. So you assume you need to level grind. Except that after a certain amount of experience, you automatically fight the first boss, Raditz. It gets better: if you didn’t find the place where Mr. Popo is under attack and rescue him, you won’t get the item you need to beat Raditz. So you may have to start a new game. The difficulty goes down quite a bit after that, except that you often have to look around to find shops and inn equivalents. They’re also often spread far apart. I realize that RPGs are partially puzzle games, but at least make the rest stops and stores easy to find!

But these are teeny complaints. To fully capture the show’s action that crosses Superman with karate, each action in battle has a demonstration lasting many seconds, making fights exponentially longer and more tedious than they should be. You’re not even allowed to skip them. So the battles are very, very long. And once the novelty wears off, they become extremely boring as the same lengthy sequences play out over and over again. The thrill is therefore sapped in a hurry.

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And it only took half an hour!

I honestly don’t see how anyone could have the patience for this game without an emulator’s fast forward function. If you’re a Japanese person who (presumably) used Google’s translate function to read this review and played through the real version, I don’t know whether to admire or feel sorry for you.

Overall: 4 out of 10

And the amazing thing is that of the 16-bit DBZ games, that makes it like the second best. Talk about a low standard. I’m not in any hurry to torture myself with those so I’ll just say that they’re fighting games in which it’s actually hard to connect with your jumping attacks because everybody just flies all over the place!

Back to Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiya-Jin, I have to admit that there’s potential. The battle system works, the story is translated well to this game, and the music is great, but the one little problem: the battles stall and stall and stall. After putting up with this for the entire game, you really never want to play it again. And even that may be too presumptuous of how much a gamer can take.

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