Reviews

Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu

Azmol Meah

Dragon Ball Z is known and loved for its over the top, action packed, fast paced, soap opera-esque drama. Why relegate all the drama to the random draw of cards?


Publisher: Atari
Genres: RPG
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Number of players: 1-4
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: BEC
US release date: 2007-06-05
Developer website

Wake me up when it's over.

Often, an outsider looking in can be far more impartial and honest, when one looks for advice regarding important life decisions. When buying videogames, especially those based on a hit franchise such as Dragon Ball Z with its legion of adoring fans ever ready to snap up anything with Goku's face slapped on it, it's even more essential. After all, $30 is a lot of money and it's all too easy to be swayed by the mob. In the case of Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu, however, even the most rabid, die hard fan will require some convincing to part with their hard earned cash.

As with any game I play, a quick read through of the tutorials is my first port of call, more important in this case as the Dragon Ball Z universe is a relative unknown for me. With any tutorial, all anyone really requires is a basic understanding of the ins and outs, a gentle hand-holding if you will. Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu, however, doesn't so much as choose to hold your hand, but instead amputates it and uses it to give you a John Cena you can't see me taunt for good measure.

Never before has a tutorial left me in such a state of utter bewilderment, scratching my head at the seemingly endless ramblings of some freaky, mutated green alien. What initially started out as a lesson on gameplay mechanics soon turned into a nightmare scarier than any three hour lecture I've endured on structuralism.

Now, if the tutorial left me a little dazed, then the genre that Harukanaru Desetsu falls into has left me wondering what type of smokes Atari marketing execs are on. DBZ is known and loved for its over the top, action packed, fast paced, soap opera-esque drama. This has been retained in the game's presentation, but has been completely eviscerated from the core combat -- yes, combat, which any fan will tell you is the spine of any Dragon Ball Z title. The genre here is a card-based RPG, which boasts turn-based duels, with incessant random battles thrown in just to rub the salt in some already deep wounds.

Imagine taking the Halo franchise and placing the Master Chief in a love simulator where he has to win over the affections of the Flood by buying them roses and chocolates and taking them to the pictures to watch the next vomit-inducing Hugh Grant romcom.

It makes no sense whatsoever, that a persistent action brawler in origin has been grinded down to a halt, with some levels taking up to 30 minutes to complete. Atari's desire to expand the horizons of the Dragon Ball Z universe beyond that of a beat-em-up is perfectly understandable, and you don't get more diverse than the demographic of the DS's. Still, who exactly do they hope to attract with a card-based, turn-based, random-battle-littered RPG outside of the Dragon Ball Z faithful?

In its favour, the presentation does remain faithful to its source material. The camp, overly dramatic teenage mood swings, interspersed with silly one-liners and general all-around wackiness, can only be admired and should raise a chuckle or two from even the most hardened soul. Complementing the humour is a truly delightful art style, which not only captures the look of the cartoons but also an elegant Japanese décor that one could easily imagine that most Dojos in the land of the rising sun are designed with.

Even so, a game could look like Angelina Jolie, and it still wouldn't make an ounce of difference if it plays like a broken bagpipe.

There are eight card types in total: 'strike' for attack, 'hide' cards to flee from battle, 'training' cards increase defence in all cards, 'reverse' cards trade stats with foes, the 'energy' card has the same effect as training cards only this time it benefits offence, 'event' cards calls in help from your buddies, 'use' cards allow you to access your inventory, and 'Z' cards do all of the above. All cards have a numerical rating between one and seven for attack and defence, but the 'Z' card trumps all and is equal in rating to an eight (why it's not just called eight I can't possibly say). At the start of a battle both player and foe draw cards; if the rating is higher for the player, then the payer takes the first turn. Any action, though, will be dependent on the card chosen.

Still with me? Good. What kills this aspect of the game is that all cards are dealt at random, so if you haven't got a 'use' card and your health is running low and you need a quick pick-me-up, you're basically screwed. Or, say you're saving a couple of 'Z' cards for the big boss battle up ahead only to have to use them during the constant random battles that stand between you and the big showdown. By the time you reach the boss, your deck has been completely wasted and any plans you had get flushed down the toilet.

With no customization options available in either the way you approach each level or the avatar you play as, the sense of mastery and control is nonexistent. In essence, all you do is tap the touchscreen; hope for the best and the ensuing cutscene informs you if you've succeeded or not. It's as if the interaction aspect of the game was cut during the Q&A process as some form of desperate cost cutting initiative. What makes matters worse is that the symbols used to describe the various options are just as confusing as the combat, which means that until you've memorized them all, you're just randomly stabbing at the screen, accompanied by the same combat scenes over and over again, which in turn only makes you cry out for a proper action title.

This is the biggest problem Harukanaru Densetsu poses for gamers; instead of the ability to enjoy what it has on offer, one craves something else while playing it. It's like eating a veggie burger, when all you really want is a big, fat, juicy steak. What possessed developers BEC to combine the two deadly sins of the RPG genre, cards and random battles in the same game is beyond me, but is even more baffling considering the license they are working with.

These factors haven't stopped Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu from flying of the shelves, which is not only expected but is also a slap in the face of decent games more worthy of your attention. Truth be told, the only accomplishment BEC has achieved is finding a cure to insomnia. Don't believe me? Just read the opening tutorial.

2

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image