By now, almost every gamer and/or anime fan is already familiar with Dragon Ball Z. At its height, it was as popular with anime fans as Naruto is today, maybe even more so considering how long it stayed on the air in Japan and the U.S. While the games didn't arrive until sometime after the series had left the air, they were highly acclaimed as examples of licensed fighting games. Almost anyone knows about Dragon Ball Z, but few people know about the original anime, Dragon Ball. The story of Goku's younger days on Earth wasn't very widespread in the U.S., usually airing at odd times on syndicated television instead of the choice time slots that the sequel got. As a result, the manga became the only way more people knew about the first series. Namco Bandai, eager to ensure that Dragon Ball fans still keep the entire series fresh in their minds, has decided to release a game based on the older anime series with Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo. Despite the Dragon Ball games of the past being pure fighting titles, this one is played differently but is no less fun.
There aren't as many people familiar with the overall story line of Dragon Ball as opposed to Dragon Ball Z. Luckily, the story is simple to grasp. A long time ago, a boy with a monkey tail, Goku, was found by an elderly man who lived in the mountains. After taking care of the boy and raising him as his own, the old man told him of the legend of the Dragon Balls, objects that, when found, would grant the person one wish. With the help of some friends he met along the way, Goku was able to find the Dragon Balls and stop the evil King Piccolo from using them to rule the world. As far as the game is concerned, it is one year after the Dragon Balls were found, and Goku is now on a quest to specifically find the Six-Star Dragon Ball, a memento of his grandfather.
The Adventure mode presents this quest for the Six-Star Dragon Ball as a side-scrolling platform brawler. As Goku, you traverse over 20 levels with various environments on your search for the Dragon Ball. You have the basic movements of a standard 2-D platformer (jumping up and down environments while moving left or right) but it is all presented in 2.5-D, much like Klonoa. What's different, though, is that Goku can move up and down on the same plane much like Streets of Rage, Battletoads, or any of the numerous brawling games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. The game spends an equal amount of time between platforming and combat. Platforming consists of jumping gaps and uncovering objects in crates or making timed switches when jumping between lock-on objects. Combat is contained to small sections where small groups of enemies converge on the player.
The end of each level offers a boss fight that, in classic platformer tradition, has a pattern that you must follow in order to find an opportunity to attack. At first glance, Adventure mode doesn't seem like anything special, but after you play one level, you find that it has a special charm that makes each level a pleasure to play instead of a chore. The platforming elements are forgiving enough, and the puzzles are rather simple. Combat is straightforward and while youngsters can appreciate the fact that they can bust out simple combos by just mashing one button, more skilled players will like the fact that combining the attack button with the lock-on button can produce nice combo chains. The overall experience isn't spectacular, but you will enjoy the mode from start to finish.
In Tournament mode, you can take on the computer or a friend in a one-on-one bout designed to emulate matches from the show's World Martial Arts Tournament. Players can select any of the characters featured in the series, though most have to be unlocked via fulfilled requirements in Adventure mode. The fighting engine is also taken from the game's Adventure mode, giving the player freedom to run in any direction around the area but limiting the fighting move list. With only one attack button being used and one special move at the player's disposal, the fighting can get pretty dull pretty quickly, especially if you're used to the more complicated, fleshed-out moves found in the other Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi fighting games on the Wii. This is especially disheartening for the intended audience, who has an increased likelihood of having played these titles, which were released much earlier in the console's lifespan.
The control scheme is varied but feels a bit off when the defaults are used. Utilizing the Nunchuk and Wii Remote, the analog stick is used for character movement. The A button attacks while the B button jumps. The Z button is used for a lock-on feature, down on the remote's d-pad is used for the character's special move, and the C button is used for blocks. There's no use of the IR sensors or motion controls at all, which is a relief since most developers feel the need to add them even if the game doesn't warrant it. Because there aren't Wii-specific motions that need to be done, the game also supports the Classic controller and GameCube controller, if you prefer to use those instead. Each of the three control methods has its own little quirks. With the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combination, getting to the special move is a bit difficult. Using the GameCube controller, the B button is made for jumping and the A button is for attacking, something that players aren't used to because the roles are usually reversed. Thankfully, the option to fully customize the controller is available, so any issues that might have arisen from the default scheme are quickly solved with a few tweaks in the options menu.
Whenever a video game version of an anime is made, all the fan wants is for that version to look as faithful to the source material as possible. To that end, Revenge of King Piccolo succeeds. Everything from the backgrounds to the characters feels like Akira Toriyama did all of the graphics by himself. To further preserve the look, it's all given a cel-shaded look, but with light lines instead of dark ones. There aren't too many particle effects happening, but what is there looks fine and not out of place. The animations are also smooth enough that they retain the anime motions without feeling like too many frames are in play, especially when you see characters talking. All of this is presented in 480p widescreen, making this a visual treat on any type of display.
The sound also delivers well on all fronts. The music matches the vibe of the original series quite well, and the score does a good job of placing the emphasis on action like early anime does, but not to the point of the heavy guitars and drum lines in Dragon Ball Z. Fans of the original anime will also get to hear the original Japanese title song playing whenever they boot up the game. Sound effects follow in a similar manner, as they sound fine but don't put too much emphasis on deep impact hits and hard hits. The voices are delivered well, with nothing sounding out of place. As expected from any anime game nowadays, both Japanese and English voices are included, but, for some reason, the English voices play at a louder volume than the Japanese ones. It's not significant enough that you'll want to lower the volume anytime an English voice comes on, but it is noticeable.
In short, Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo is a good, but not great, brawling platformer. A pure fighting mode is lacking, but the sizable Adventure mode more than makes up for this shortcoming. With good graphics and sound as well as a customizable control scheme, this title ranks just below Klonoa and The Munchables, which were two other strong Namco Bandai platforming games on the Wii. Even though this is being marketed as a children's game, both anime and platforming fans will get a kick out of the title and appreciate the care with which it was crafted. It's a very solid effort that Wii players will no doubt enjoy.
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