December 28, 2015

[Game 055] Dragon Ball Z: Assault of the Saiyans (NES - 1990)

Translation by Twilight Translations

It's been so long since the first Dragon Ball RPG, I had almost forgotten that there are a good number of them in my list.  This one enters the 'Z' era of Dragon Ball, where precocious scamp Goku is now all grown up, having advanced greatly in all areas (except intelligence).  The odd card system from the first game is used again here but to greater effect.  In fact, everything has been improved upon.  The fight scenes are more animated and varied.  The linear path of the first game has been replaced with an open grid system.  The plot has followed the show without any glaring deviations (so far).  One of my prime complaints about the first game was that it was way too short.  Well, that has definitely been taken care of, though perhaps this game overcompensated somewhat (but I'll get into that).  A lengthy opening scene has Goku and his son, Gohan, visiting Master Roshi when they are suddenly confronted with a powerful opponent called Raditz.  Raditz informs Goku of his Saiyan heritage and that he was suppose to have conquered the Earth by now.  Goku, of course, has no idea what Raditz is talking about.

Hey!  He resembles that remark!

Raditz proceeds to take Gohan and issues Goku a challenge to come find him.  My main man, Piccolo, joins Goku and soon they are dealt five cards in which to get their quest on.  Each character moves independently and if they are adjacent to each other when a random encounter starts, they both participate in the battle.  Here in the early game, this is crucial as there is no way a single Z fighter can take on any foe by himself.

Much less one wearing battle armour.

Observe those cards.  The card power is determined by the ball in the upper-left corner; this number also drives movement (the Roman numeral in the lower-right is defense).  If Goku and Piccolo want to be able to handle themselves in combat and be able to stick together, then they'll have to burn low-powered cards for movement.  But this means that there are far more opportunities for random encounters.  One of them could risk being exposed for a turn using high movement while the other catches up, but then benefit from a much faster exploration rate.  I've been playing it pretty conservative due to the hefty amount of grinding that needs to be done.

Shit... hang tight, Gohan, we've still
got about 50 fights left to do.

I had already been playing for awhile before finding Raditz in his little hidey hole and figured I'd at least try to take him on, though I suspected that we'd probably lose.  What I really wanted to do was use a Scouter card I had to determine his power level.  The Scouter is one of the special cards that can be found after battles or won in mini-games.  The cards are all based off characters/items from the show and function like the consumables found in other games (e.g. healing potions).  Before engaging Raditz, Goku donned the Scouter and analyzed Raditz, who just stood there smirking.

Cue cartoonish jaw dropping to the ground.

Frame of reference: both Goku and Piccolo started at around 300 BP and get, on average, around 10 BP per fight.  I had both of them at around 700 BP and thought perhaps their combined might be able to handle him.

I thought wrong.

It wasn't even close either.  Raditz was hitting for ~50 damage per hit and my two guys were lucky to get even 5 points in a single hit.  I'm not blaming the game either; that's how I always thought it worked in the show as well.  Ten fighters at 100 BP each still won't be able to do much to a single 500 BP fighter (barring some special move or other plot device).  Speaking of which, I am very impressed with how true to its roots this game is so far, in all aspects.  The first game had odd side stories but this one is keeping the plot on the real tip.  Not only that, but every character has a selection of special moves faithful to the show, accurately animated as well.

Could have gone with Goku's Kamehameha,
but I like Pickles more.

The animations are one of the best features of the game and I'm not just talking about the special moves.  Even a regular attack shows the combatants flying about, dodging and feinting one another, before settling into some good ol' slugfest action.  I'm sure it'll get boring at some point, but hey, that's what the turbo button is for.  I'm just pleased as punch that a game based on a franchise has incorporated so many concepts from its source material, for good or bad.  Now for some bad.  Dragon Ball Z has a reputation for having episodes that are ridiculously long and drawn-out.  I whined about the first game being too short and that they should have padded it out with more fights to emulate the show better.  Welp, this game somehow heard my complaint and made sure to go waaaayyyy in the other direction.  Did any of you readers do the BP math when I scouted Raditz above?  For those that didn't, it works out to about 100 fights in order to get Goku and Piccolo to Raditz's level.  One hundred fights for the first chapter.

That's a helluva lot of groin kicks.

Thankfully, there are training mini-games to help break this monotony up.  Unthankfully, they are stingy with the BP rewards and certain ones will even take some if failed.  The games are based off the cards and success relies on luck although one can stack the deck in their favour, so to speak.  For example, one training game requires the player's current deck to successively beat five random cards, based off either the offensive or defensive values of the card (chosen by the player at the start).  Another one requires matching up either ball value or the middle symbol and can be completed easier if the current deck has a nice mix of cards.

Piccolo, being the (way) smarter of the two Z fighters,
has maximized his chances for success here.

The first chapter's map is pretty generous with the amount of training grounds it has, going so far as to have an entire 3x3 block of them with a rest spot in the middle.

Goku's in a state of pure bliss.

There's not eight unique games, mind you, a lot of them are just repeated, but there is one training game here that is actually kinda worth doing (20 BP reward).  It splits the character's HP and BP in half and creates a clone to battle against.  Since the fight always starts with the combatants being equal, the participant better be sure to have a lot of powerful cards on hand before attempting it.

This incredibly close match will be
won by whomever wins initiative.

In the end, the training exercises are a nice distraction but not a reliable enough source of BP, so the bulk of fighting experience was done through regular battles.  Once Goku and Piccolo got up to around 1500 BP, they had a much easier time with Raditz.  Defeating Raditz and rescuing Gohan closes the first chapter and the second opens with Goku heading to the spirit world to train with King Kai while the rest of the Z fighters look for some Dragon Balls.  The cool part here is that I had to make three teams of two out of the six characters available; each team going after a different ball.  I kept the teams true to the show and matched them in default order.

Just seems wrong to match Piccolo with, say, Chiaotzu.

Before the Z fighters go and do their individual quests, Goku needs my attention first as I help him travel through Snake Way, a million kilometre stretch of road that leads to King Kai's place.  There are no battles, just burning off cards for forward progress and doing some mini-games.  Failing a mini-game adds to the total time it'll take Goku to reach the end — if he ever does.

Ugh.  This is, like, 20 episodes worth.
I may be here awhile.