Dragonball is an uncontrollable storm of game releases, with a storyline that most fans now know better than their parents’ names, and an ease of entry for new anime fans. Its easy to see why its popularity has stretched on and on for so many years with most games simply rehashing the same story beats over and over. However, RPG’s are normally the weakest area for the franchise. DBZ lends itself more to the fighting game genre sure, but there should still be a bit of life in the story for an RPG that doesn’t make you want to pull your eyes out in boredom and despair, right?
The Legacy of Goku series on GBA gave it the old college try, but I could never shake the feeling that I was playing an action-adventure game or a beat em up with a few RPG elements stuck on later as an afterthought. Then they’re was the Xenoverse games, another experiment in RPG gaming that ended up boring and alienating almost everyone who played it thanks to poorly optimised “Raid events” and a storyline that was trying to be fresh while still telling the basic story of Dragonball again…
After much painstaking thought and late nights fuelled by coffee and a need for answers, I finally settled on the one that that Dragonball got an RPG right, the one game that gives me hope that the upcoming Dragonball: Kakarot, could work. Attack of the Saiyans.
Attack of the Sayians was a Nintendo DS exclusive title launched 2009, The title should really give the game away too that the entire game only covers the events of the anime’s opening Sayian saga where we are introduced to Vegeta. Straight away this was a great idea, picking a moment in the worlds history where there is plenty of time for the characters to explore around and fit in new encounters, Most of the Dragonball timeline is airtight with only the 6 months during this arc for training and the 3 years during the later android saga having the wiggle room needed to make something like this work effectively. Throughout the game you take control of the core Z fighters at the time, Goku, Gohan, Piccolo, Krillin, Tien and Yamcha. Without their later power boosts and transformations it makes levelling up each a more rewarding experience as none of them can really steam ahead of the other heroes, with the exception of Yamcha who famously has access to an exploit that makes him the fast thing in the universe (sorry Burter) and able to hit anything on screen before it even has a chance to register just who its messing with.
Using the tactical battle system most familiar to early Final fantasy players, each fight takes place on a separate plain from the overworld and you take turns wailing on your foes as they wait for their own chance to knock you back. However, unlike the old FF games and in fact most other sprite using turn-based battle games, Attack of the Sayians has some of the coolest looking sprite art I’ve ever seen. Each attack seems to lift animation cells direct from the source material as you watch Tien bombard the bad guys with Tri beam or lay up an enemy with Yamchas famous (and Luke Stones special favourite) Wolf Fang Fist. Some of the enemy designs are excellent too with the game reviving classic Dragonball villains alongside some new sci fi and supernatural foes, the only wildcard I noticed was with the standard RPG “Super boss” using the Dragonballs you can wish for a fight against the “strongest warrior in the universe”, this sets you up for an epic battle against fan favourite rage beast, Broly. We won’t ask how the Z fighters at this stage have any hope of beating him, just know that I once managed using Yamcha and no one else. Challenge mode!
As I touched on before, Attack of the Sayians only covers a single major arc of the story, but using that time frame it can feature a wide cast of characters while they were still all comparable in strength, before the Super Sayian form appeared and left the non Sayian character fighting over scraps of story relevance. In fact, the famous monkey tailed heroes and villains take a significant backseat to the overall experience. Tien, Yamcha, Piccolo and Krillin are the real stars of the game. Either working together or on their on individual adventures you will spend much more time with the also-rans than the usual leading man, lets face it though, at this time of the series, Goku was fairly dead…
If you have a DS sat in your home collecting dust, and you’re a fan of DBZ, I highly recommend going out and trying to pick up a copy of this game. It has aged phenomenally well and as I say is one of the very VERY few successes in a Dragonball RPG. I’m hoping that Bandai Namco have taken a look at this title and are going to learn a thing or two about slower paced storytelling and and world building, it’s not something a series based around supersonic warriors fighting at a fast pace is used to doing, but let’s not forget, Frieza said he would blow up a planet in 5 minutes, and took 6 hours…Become a Patron!