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Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Monolith Soft
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

While the Dragon Ball Z license has claimed to have a couple of RPGs attached to its name previously (the Legacy of Goku series and Buu's Fury), none of them have fit into the genre quite as well as Namco/Bandai's new Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans title.

Attack of the Saiyans takes pretty much all of the elements to make a classic, standard RPG and puts them into a DBZ theme, right down to a party-system visible only as a short low-rez version of the lead guy in your team, invisible random-encounters and all from a top-down isometric perspective. If you've played any classic RPG, you know what to expect from the visuals department in this game. While not the best and highest definition by any means, it more than gets the job done and adds a ton of nostalgia to the package.

Attack of the Saiyans doesn't offer a whole lot in the way of audio either. The background music has that DBZ high-energy air to it, and the various attacks sound good. What I found both odd and interesting were the shouts that get yelled out by your characters during battle, mainly the fact that they sound more like the show's Japanese voice-actors than the American ones. In fact, I'm pretty sure their shouts are even in Japanese, meaning the only localization that probably happened when bringing this game to the American audience was the text translation, not necessarily a bad thing, just unusual when compared to other Dragon Ball related products (both games and shows alike).


Gameplay:

Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans starts off towards the end of the older Dragon Ball series and actually adds a bit of new content to the overall mythos by bridging a gap between the end of that series and the beginning of Dragon Ball Z with story arcs involving Krillin going back to his old temple and Yamcha having a rematch against Monster Carrot. It isn't that far into the game though before Raditz crashes on to Earth, faces off against Piccolo and gives his warning about a pair of super powerful Saiyans coming to Earth to destroy it. Of course, as DBZ fans already know, this herald also reveals himself to be Goku's brother and that Goku is also a Saiyan who was sent to Earth as a baby in order to destroy it long ago.

Attack of the Saiyans does a pretty solid job of covering the events from the first saga. Unfortunately, it does this with a lot of dialogue such that the bulk of most boss battles is actually reading as opposed to fighting, but at least it doesn't try to glaze over a lot of the details like most Dragon Ball Z-based games do ...most notably, the fighting games. I just wish it had found a cleaner and less tiresome way of doing it at times.

Anyway, as you would expect from the most basic of RPG titles (which Attack of the Saiyans can probably qualify as one of the most basic ones), you will have to manage your party as you troll through dungeon after dungeon, leveling up your characters and applying attribute points to help with everything from power and recovery, to strength and luck in order to make them better fighters. The game also offers quite a few towns to visit and items to purchase that will do everything from recover your health and Ki to revive fallen party members with a percentage of their life restored. If you work on completing all of the game's side quests, which you will want to do since that will reduce the amount of level grinding you will have to do (see the Difficulty section for more details), then Attack of the Saiyans will clock in around 16 or 17 hours, a nice respectable time for a hand-held RPG in my opinion.


Difficulty:

Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans's difficulty all comes down to how much you are willing to level grind because you will find yourself doing so more often then not. While there are plenty of random encounters to be had, many of the dungeons your party will have to go through aren't all that long, so most of the time you won't necessarily be quite up to snuff when a boss battle comes around. If the game had a wider range of equipment or other attribute adjusters, things might be different, but since the show/manga doesn't offer a lot of flexibility in this manner (short of taking off the really heavy clothing to increase speed), any real addition of this nature will more likely take the game further way from its DBZ nature and could cause more harm than the need to level grind does in the long run. With that in mind though, exploring every branched path and doubling back a few times in order to find a few extra random encounters should be all you really need to do in order to hold your own in most fights (though the battle against Vegeta is still a tough one ...as it should be).

There is one added mechanic that makes all fights, even the boss battles, a bit easier to manage though, and that is the Active Guard. When your enemy goes to strike one of your characters, they will get a brief flash above their head. If you press the button associated with their position on the screen at that time, then you won't take quite as much damage. This is especially handy during the World Martial Arts Tournaments when inventory items aren't allowed.


Game Mechanics:

Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans's fighting is all menu-based, and because of that, it will fit nicely into any RPGer's library. While there are a few added mechanics like the Active Guard, everything else stems from your selection of attacks, items, defenses and whatnot from the bottom screen and then subsequent selection of a target of your action. If you want to perform a standard attack, that is at the action wheel. To the left are the more powerful attacks that will take up Ki (or Mana for you regular RPGers out there), and beyond that is the uber-powerful ultimate attacks. To the top of the melee action is the items icon that lets you select potions or drinks to help you or your party members and to the bottom is the defend option that will reduce the amount of damage you will take. This isn't to be confused with Active Guard which can further reduce damage taken if your timing is right. Active Guard involves tapping (X), (Y) or (B), depending on which character is being attacked, at just the right time, while the Defend command is used more generally when you don't have enough Ki to perform strong attacks, or you are so low on health, you don't want to leave that character open.

While not the best RPG out there by any means, it is a solid licensed title that both fans of the genre and fans of the series should enjoy playing through. While it does cover one of the most rehashed DBZ sagas in the license's history, it isn't boring and even newcomers to the title will be able to understand most of what is going on, especially because of the very exhaustive dialogue that occurs.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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