User login

'Dragonball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu' Review (Nintendo DS)


Perhaps it's just me, but I usually like my game titles to make sense, which is exactly what this Dragonball Z game fails to do. Harukanaru Densetsu? What does that even mean? However, in spite of its confusing name, it is an enjoyable RPG card battling system, much like the Baten Kaitos series has used. Sadly, the game is hampered by the fact you'll enjoy the game more if you're a fan of the series, and yet you'll also be disappointed with the game if you're a fan of the series. So, how could one group of people feel both ways while playing the game?

Though I haven't collected the manga of the series just yet, I've always been a fan of the anime, and have seen every episode of the Dragonball Z franchise, even many of the original Dragonball too, though I've never really cared for the Dragonball GT followup. If you're a fan of the series and are in the same boat as me, all I need to tell you about the story is that you play the series, and that can be a problem. Imagine watching a movie for the second time – you might still enjoy it and find yourself feeling emotions for the same scenes, but you'll know where everything is coming and when, and a part of you just has to be enjoying the movie slightly less. Much like that, the game plays the story of the franchise out to the letter, so every beat hits its mark and nothing will take you by surprise. It's strictly by the books and takes no liberties with the source material.

For the uninitiated gamers, you play as the Z Fighters, the designated name of all the regulars, lead by Saiyan warrior Goku, his son Gohan, rival Vegeta, and their many, many friends. The game starts from the Saiyan Saga, which had Vegeta, among others Saiyans, coming to Earth to find Goku, as he is really an alien and a descendant of their people. Once the Saiyan Saga is ended, you'll advance to the Frieza Saga and so on, taking you to various planets and running across strange and powerful fighters.

There are no cutscenes, so the story unfolds through a series of static text scenes, which has the characters of the game talking to each other, usually before a battle begins, and after, to give the game some story elements. It hits all its points in telling the adventures told in the manga and anime, but it's not as engaging as it could be.

If you've played your share of card-battling games, then good for you, but it won't help you at all here. Though the game uses cards to perform damage, move around, and use items and special abilities, none of it happens like you'd typically would expect. The card system is a bit confusing in the beginning, but soon it becomes rather intuitive, offering up the player to adopt some interesting strategies, and learning how to overcome odds when they're dealt a bad hand.

You'll be dealt a hand of five cards, which all have three different areas you need to be familiar with: 1) Power Value, 2) Action Icon, and 3) Guard Value. The Power Value and Guard Value are both numbers going from one to eight, with the eighth strength being represented by a Z instead of the number. If you're out on the isometric fields walking around paths, the combined number of your Power Value will indicate how many steps you'll take. If you only use a six Power Value card, you'll move exactly six spaces. Meanwhile in battle, the player who has the highest total Power Value on any played hand gets to use whatever the Action Icon was of the main card, whether it be for attacking, healing, or escaping. As for the Guard Value, it acts as the defensive power you have, so if you lose a hand and the enemy attacks with a six Power Value and you have a Guard Value of 8, you'll still be dealt damage, but not as much. If you had a lower Guard Value than the enemy's Power Value, then you'd have more damage dealt to you. Depending on the circumstance, after a certain point in the story you can even combine cards of the same Power or Guard Value, suddenly being able to have an attack of 13 or maybe even a defense of 20.

As for the Action Icon, you have several different ones, with one of the most important being the attack icon, that lets you perform, what else, attacks on your enemies. Other Action Icons include giving your Power or Guard Values higher numbers, allowing you to use items, run away, have a wild card and make it whatever you want, call on a friend for attack help, and reverse (lets you swap your Power Value for the one the enemy has that hand). When used out in the field, these same icons have different effects too, like letting you get the first hit in regardless of numbers, increased strength or defense for a turn, draw new hand of cards, use an item, etc.

Usually there is a turn limit, such as having to beat the level in under so many turns, which usually involves you beating one or multiple boss enemies. As you take steps walking towards your main level ending enemies, you'll run across smaller enemies, and if your Power Value is of equal or lesser value than the enemy's then you'll have to fight. You'll also find scattered around the maps joke books (used for unlocking voices in the extras), shops to buy items, and spots where you can heal yourself if you land on them. After enough battles and gaining enough experience points, you'll move up in levels like a standard RPG, helping you out in the long run.

One problem with the game is that if you don't choose to quit a level early, you'll have to start that whole level over if you lose, meaning a lot of time spent and wasted, cause these levels can be really long. It sucks that you have to quit a game, log out to main menu, and then log back in to have a save point, but it's a necessity given the hardness and random luck of the battles. Another problem is the turn limit system, which doesn’t usually cause a problem, but occasionally you'll have to traverse a great distance in only two or three turns, and if the game doesn't give you the cards, you have no hope of winning; you often need to save before these moments and keep trying and trying and restarting until things finally go your way.

You can play wireless DS play if you want with other players, and here you'll be able to do an aircar racing game, Dragonball collection, and tag with Bubbles; they aren't the greatest games to play, but the download play option of one-on-one battles between Goku and Vegetta using the rules of the regular single-player game works well though and can be quite fun.

The graphics of the map are perhaps the ugliest of the bunch, featuring too tiny characters and vast open areas of rigid pre-determined paths, but the 2D characters of the dialogue heavy cutscenes and look of the cards and action of the battles all represent the likenesses and style of the Dragonball Z characters perfectly. The graphics aren't the best on the DS, but it does an excellent job of bringing the world of Dragonball Z to the handheld.

Other than a few sound bytes when characters attack, there isn't really any voicework at all, especially during all the dialogue in the game. The sound of fighting and cards clashing together sound pretty good, but the same music plays way too often, and you'll find this is a game you play more with the sound down than cranked as high as you can get it.

Dragonball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu is a fun game, but it has a few glaring problems that keeps it from reaching levels of greatness. The gameplay is fun (though too random and luck based) and the world of Dragonball Z is done well by the little handheld, but turn limits and a story that fails to do anything new to entice fans to keep playing through to the end will find much to still be desired. As a card battling RPG the game is quite fun, but as a broad reaching product or game period, it has some issues.

Our Scoring System