IGN Review of Dragon Ball: Origins
Dragon Ball has been in the world of gaming for a long, long time, but when you look at the franchise's track record most of the offerings have been based on the more recent, and more popular as far as most anime fans are concerned, Dragon Ball Z. With Dragon Ball: Origins, players have a chance to step into the original world of Dragon Ball – you know, the one where Goku runs around with a tail, acts like a feral beast-child, and is constantly in search for the legendary Dragon Balls – and see where the story all got started. A few creative liberties are taken to tell the story, but for the most part you've got a true-to-manga retelling of the first two sagas in Dragon Ball.
Origins isn't an RPG, as some people classify it. Rather it's an adventure game stemming in a big way from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass design. Players move the tiny Goku by pressing anywhere on the screen with a stylus, tapping enemies to attack, drawing lines to pull off dash attacks and long range thrwacks with their power pole, or hold on Goku to power up larger attacks. The entire game feels like it was pulled control-wise from Phantom Hourglass, though with Origins the player is allowed control with the d-pad if they so choose. No buttons for attack, but movement can be done without obstructing the view.
The entire game is very episodic in nature. You'll get intro for most areas (and a robust one for the beginning of the game) with characters running around and goofing off, all of which is done with in-game 3D models, and all of which looks very, very nice. The music is slick, though VO is kept to a minimum and used only in specific cases, and of course when Goku smashes larger attacks or gets knocked on his tiny butt.
Since each area is divided into episodes though, it's much easier to take a few levels in, save or spend some earned cash in an attempt to collect capsule toys (similar to the famous Gachapon toys in Japan, also a large part in the classic Shenmue series) which is actually an elaborate model viewer. Drop some cash on specific "series" of toys, and you'll get a random figure for your collection. Each has one main animation, as well as the ability to rotate it and watch it loop. Not bad.
The gameplay is well done, if not a little repetitive overall. You run around, kick the crap out of baddies (or pigs), and deal with some sketchy AI and touch recognition in the process, but for the most part it all feels very good. Where the game will really win fans (or newcomers) to the series though, is in its ridiculous amount of fan service. The skits we mentioned earlier? They're everywhere, and a lot of the time they parallel the original show very well, which was already hilarious and pretty edgy for the new American audience when it originally aired 15 or so years back. The game pulls out all the stops though. Goku is being washed by Bulma at the beginning of the game, and sure enough, he hops on up to show off a full on mini-tail in the front. Classic.
Shortly thereafter, players are introduced to Master Roshi on the beach after carrying Turtle in a needlessly slow (part of the humor) pig-battling level. Once to Roshi, the Flying Nimbus is awarded to Goku for escorting Turtle home, but when Bulma, Goku's hot-headed girlie friend wants a prize as well, Roshi goes into "dirty old man" mode and requests that she show him her underwear in order to score something for herself. For some reason she accepts, and the game cuts into super-action mode, showing multiple angles of her cranking up her dress for the old guy, each time having the DS gap used to conveniently block any offensive material. After some persuasion (and some more dress-lifting) Bulma gets a Dragon Ball from Roshi, and her and Goku head on home, only to find that her underwear is on the bed. Turns out Goku took a peek in the middle of the night, didn't put the underwear back on her, so she ended up flashing an old man full-on. Goku mentions that she "doesn't have anything down there anyways" and doesn't understand why she's pissed, so she grabs a machine gun and blasts the hell out of him in classic anime overreaction. If it sounds odd here, it's even better in full motion. This game gets away with a lot, and it's hilarious.
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