Review: Dragon Ball GT: Transformation (Game Boy Advance)

Review: Dragon Ball GT: Transformation (GBA)
Developer: Webfoot
Distributor: Atari
Genre: Action
Release Date: 8/9/05

I had actually never heard of Dragon Ball before until I got to college. While there, a few friends of mine who were completely obsessed introduced me to it. And while I never actually shared in their obsession, I did find the television show to be a fun enough waste of a half hour or so between classes.

Now it seems that Dragon Ball fever is everywhere and in every medium. From the original cartoons to feature length films, comic books, and toys. And let’s not forget video games. Lots and lots of video games.

To say that the majority of Dragon Ball games have been sub par at best is being polite. For the most part they’ve sucked. Even the more popular game review sites on the web with their jacked up rating scales have torn the Dragon Ball games a new one fairly regularly. And so have we, for that matter.

But odds are if you keep pumping out the games, sooner or later one of them has to be good. Right? Maybe? Ok… maybe not…


1. STORY

The game starts off the evil Emperor Pilaf taking control of the Black Dragon Balls and summoning the dragon Shenron who will grant any wish. However, when he’s discovered by Goku, he accidentally uses his wish to turn Goku back into a child.

The big problem is now that the wish has been used, the 7 Dragon Balls are scattered across the universe, and if they aren’t bought back together again, the Earth will explode in one year. Setting out on a space ship with Trunks and Goku’s grand-daughter Pan, Goku flies from planet to planet in search of the Dragon Balls, all the while battling famous villains from the television series.

While playing through the game, fans of the series will recognize that a good portion of the story covers the Black Star Dragon Ball Saga (sometimes referred to as the Child Saga) and the Baby Saga. Of course the developers tossed in a few new things and added some more from other areas of the Dragon Ball universe.

It’s a fairly standard plot overall; villain causes trouble, heroes must run around collecting shit, overcome various obstacles, and then fight the big bad guy at the end. Nothing special, but it works, and fans will probably be glad to get a chance to play through some of their favorite moments from the series.

Story Rating: 4/10


2. GRAPHICS

While not the best that the GBA can produce, the graphics are pretty solid overall. During actual gameplay, characters are easily identifiable and there is plenty of variety among the enemies between stages. Colors are bright and vibrant, and the overall appearances of the sprite based characters, objects, and backgrounds are quite good. Frame rate throughout the game is never an issue, and the action moves along at a brisk pace without any slowdown issues.

Cut scenes involve static images of the main characters that look exactly like those featured in the cartoons. Unfortunately, no movement or expression is included to show changes in mood. This has become a staple in a lot of games lately, not just those based on anime, and I’m always disappointed when I see it. Seriously, how much more effort would it take to include just a few more images of each character looking a little different. After all, it’s hard to take Goku seriously when he is threatening an adversary with a cheery smile on his face.

Overall the graphics are good, although nothing special. They aren’t the best I’ve ever seen on the system, but there’s nothing wrong with them either.

Graphics Rating: 6/10


3. SOUND

The sound, on the other hand, is terrible.

For starters, the music is bland, repetitive, and actually pretty static laden. The game’s main theme is a pseudo rock score which attempt to mimic the music from the TV series, but just comes off as annoying and noisy. Music during the actual fighting levels in the game is equally poor, consisting of various rock rhythms which might have accompanied the action much better if it was of a little higher quality. The variety of music is also a serious issue as the same few tracks are continually played throughout the game. Fortunately you can choose to lower the music volume, or turn it off entirely, which does make it a bit more tolerable.

The sound effects for the characters are equally repetitive. While each character does have a distinctive voice when making various attacks and performing combos, they also make the same noises over and over and over again with little to no change in tone. Hit something, make a noise. Get hit, make another noise. Use a special move or charge up, and make one more noise. And that’s about it. Sure, it’s a fighting game, but a more little variety would be nice. Enemies and bosses sometimes have their own sound effects, but these suffer from the same repetitive nature as the character noises. Though most of the time all you are hearing is the thunk thunk thunk of hitting something, followed by a sharp yell from whatever character you are using.

Yes, it’s a GBA game. I’m not expecting to hear the London Symphony Orchestra. But at the same time, I’ve heard much more vibrant and lively scores in other games on the system, and plenty with better sound effects.

Sound Rating: 3/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

The controls for Dragon Ball GT are pretty simple. The control pad moves around, A jumps, B attacks, R fires a bolt of energy, L charges your energy, and Select swaps out characters. No problem.

The game plays a lot like an old school side scrolling fighter, similar to Double Dragon or Final Fight. Every stage you will be required to wander along and defeat all enemies before eventually encountering a boss at the end. Defeat the boss, move to the next level, rinse and repeat. Several stages aren’t even this complicated, choosing instead to stick you on a moving platform while throwing enemies at you until you’ve beaten them all.

This actually leads in to the games one major bug that I was able to find. During the stages when you are on a moving platform, every now and then an enemy will appear off to the side and get stuck on the “floor” of the level. Sometimes you can see them, and sometimes you can’t. Basically what happens is the platform proceeds along as normal, but no new enemies appear and the stage never ends. If you are lucky, you can figure out where the missing baddie is and fire off a few bolts to kill it. And if not… well, looks like you’ll be needing to reset the stage. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon event, as I had it happen to me in roughly one out of every three automatically scrolling stages.

Defeating enemies earns you points, and most of the time they will also drop little balls that will give you extra points or charge your energy. Energy is expended anytime you fire off a bolt, or perform a special attack using R and B at the same time. The energy charge with the L button will also refill your energy pretty quickly, but this freezes you in place while you hold the button down, making you vulnerable to attacks.

At the start of the game you will have access to three different characters that you can swap in or out at almost any time during combat. As you progress throughout the game, you will be able to unlock more characters to use, although you can only ever have three on your team at the same time. Unlocking characters, or anything else for that matter, is done buy purchasing them from the main menu using Zenie. Zenie is earned by gaining points as you play, although it adds up fairly slowly. Each character has their own stats, with certain character doing more damage while others can take more. In the end all of the characters play pretty much identically, and there are no real major differences between them. There are a few that would be classified as unbalanced, however, and they can plow right through enemies, knocking most out in just a hit or two.

The biggest problem with the game is its repetitiveness. Sure, there are lots of different enemies to fight, but they require nothing in the way of strategy to defeat. Just get close and punch away, and when you get low on health, switch to a different character and continue. Even the boss fights are pretty mundane, and most will fall before you after only a few seconds. Even the most complicated fights only take a minute or two, and that’s only because enemies are summoned during the fight that you will have to deal with at the same time.

In the end, it’s pretty boring. There is no variety in controls between characters, no strategy to use when fighting enemies, no real difference between any of the stages. Just more of the same with a new appearance. And the annoying little bug on the auto scrolling stages sure doesn’t help matters.

Control and Gameplay Score: 4/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

Personally I didn’t want to play through the game more than once. But those of you who want to unlock all the extras, you’ll need to run through the main game at least two or three times to earn all the Zenie you need to get everything. Unless you happen to stumble upon the little infinite points trick which you don’t even need the web to find.

Even without point tricks, it won’t take you too much time to get enough Zenie to unlock everything. Points start off slow in the early stages, but by the last few levels you’ll be racking up quite a few. The game is also short. Really short. Your first run through will probably take you a little under three hours. Successive run throughs with more powerful characters will take even less than that.

Fortunately, for those who really like the game, there is a multiplayer option that allows you to play both a co-op mode and a competitive mode with up to three friends. But even with this, the overall replayability really isn’t that high. Start to finish, you can beat the game and find everything there is to do in about six to eight hours tops.

Replayability Score: 3/10


6. BALANCE

Dragon Ball GT is never hard. Ever. Part of this is because you have three different characters that you can always switch out. And what’s even better is that characters you are not using slowly regain health as you play. Easy mode is so simple to play through that even the most novice gamer should be able to finish it. Normal mode is pretty much more of the same, except the enemies tend to do more damage with their attacks.

Right from the get go you’ll be facing off against three and four enemies at a time, so the numbers game is never really an issue. The actual difficulty of the enemies is lowered based on the fact that, as mentioned earlier, they require no strategy to beat. Even the final boss is a pushover that can be toasted in no time at all. Just hop in there and button mash your way to victory. And once you start unlocking some of the more powerful characters, the game becomes so easy you could beat it in your sleep.

In a way, it’s nice to see a game that is rated E actually have a difficulty level that is easy enough for younger gamers to deal with. On the other hand, you’d have to be a five year old to find any challenge here what so ever.

Balance Score: 1/10


7. ORIGINALITY

How many Dragon Ball games are there again? I’m honestly not sure, but it has got to be around fifteen or so. And how many side scrolling fighting games are there? I can name a dozen off the top of my head, and probably come up with another twenty or thirty in a few more minutes.

This game is about as original as dirt. The subject matter, the control scheme, the genre… it’s all been done before, and done infinitely better.

On the bright side, you know exactly what you are getting ahead of time.

Originality Score: 1/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

This game is fun for about the first… oh, let me think… five minutes? That sounds about right. After that you are either going to get bored and quit, or force yourself to beat the game as a matter of pride.

There is really nothing here to get addicted to. As mentioned, there are a ton of side scrolling fighters out on the market, and plenty of them are far more entertaining and addictive than this one. Hell, just look at the original River City Ransom. Now that was a side scrolling fighter done right! And it was for the original Nintendo! You’d think that fifteen years later we’d be able to trump that game, but it still holds up today. And I can tell you now, Dragon Ball GT is not going to be the one to give it a run for its money.

Addictiveness: 1/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Even though this game is pretty poor, there are plenty of people out there who will pick it up. Let’s face it, Dragon Ball is a phenomenon. Not as big as Pokemon or some other game series, but it still has an insanely large following. Neither this review, nor any others, is going to stop the die hard fans from pulling this one off the shelves.

And people wonder why the quality of games has actually been diminishing lately. Could it be because of the lemmings that will buy games based on their titles alone instead of checking them for quality ahead of time? Nah… couldn’t be.

Personally, I don’t recommend this game to anyone, but that’s not going to stop a lot of you. At the very least, those of you who might enjoy Dragon Ball, but haven’t made a religion out of it, please avoid this one.

Appeal Factor Score: 6/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

What else is there to say? Dragon Ball GT isn’t exactly shit in a cartridge, but it’s not too far off. Only the decent graphics and story, along with it’s legions of fans whom it will appeal to, keep this one from hitting the bottom of the pit. And even though the gameplay in general is pretty poor and repetitive, it at least sports a decent set of controls.

You’d think by now that a solid Dragon Ball game would have hit the market, after numerous iterations on multiple different platforms. One could argue that there are a few decent titles, but this certainly isn’t one of them. Again, even if you are the most die hard Dragon Ball fan, I don’t recommend this game to you. Just let it sit on the store shelves for some more sap to come along and purchase. Only buy this if you are one of those kooky collectors that just has to get everything for your collection.

For anyone else who still has their doubts and wants to try the game, then go for a rental, but please don’t purchase. You’ll thank me for it later.

Miscellaneous Score: 1/10


THE SCORES

Story: 4
Graphics: 6
Sound: 3
Gameplay/Control: 4
Replayability: 3
Balance: 1
Originality: 1
Addictiveness: 1
Appeal Factor: 6
Miscellaneous: 1
Overall: 30
Final Score: 3.0 (Bad)