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Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo (Wii) artwork

Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo (Wii) review

"Dragonball: Revenge of King Piccolo has some potential as a side-scrolling adventure, but some unfortunate stumbles prevent it from serving as the enjoyable introduction to the game franchise that it so easily could have been."

Dragonball: Revenge of King Piccolo has some potential as a side-scrolling adventure, but some unfortunate stumbles prevent it from serving as the enjoyable introduction to the game franchise that it so easily could have been.

The game's primary attraction is unquestionably its adherence to the source material. Far too many anime-based video games serve as a spin-off or side story. Here, the player assumes control of Goku, the franchise hero, as he searches for his grandfather's Dragonball. That orb is one of seven that, when brought together, will summon a wish-granting dragon. Using a device called a "Dragon Radar," Goku is able to track down the Dragonballs much more quickly than he otherwise could. Naturally, the existence of such mystical items means that many other adventurers also are searching for them. Goku frequently runs into one such group, the Red Ribbon Army, and must fight them off as he races to find the complete set of Dragonballs.

Some of the chit-chat and side plots from the original story have been shortened or removed. The abridged result puts the narrative focus squarely on the Red Ribbon Army. The plot unfolds through cutscenes that place static character portraits over a motionless backdrop. Since things have been trimmed down a bit, you'll be able to get through the game and its story in fewer than ten hours. The effect feels cheap. One wonders why the developers didn't at least use the game's engine to produce some motion and to provide the illusion of high production values. On the up side, the developers have tracked down most--if not all--of the original voice actors for the game. From Emperor Pilaf to Yajirobe, all of the characters and even the narrator sound like they should. Too many games don't bother to keep the actors when they turn a television series into a game. I grew up watching the anime, so hearing the familiar voices and dialogue years later evoked welcome feelings of nostalgia. With that said, many of the people for whom this game was likely developed may be experiencing it all for the first time.

Revenge of King Piccolo is at its core a side-scrolling game, comparable to Streets of Rage or the TMNT arcade game. Movement takes place in what could be a considered a 2.5-dimensional environment. Characters move either up or down to appear closer to or further from the player. As you advance through the game world, you'll sometimes come across cracked stone walls along one end of a fork in the path. When you backtrack, you'll find a route that takes you around the wall or along a series of platforms. There, you'll leap across long gaps and grab floating orbs before finally being thrown down a slope and through the wall that previously blocked your path.

Between the platforming and side-scrolling sequences, there are combat segments where you must do battle with multiple enemies. This classic style of fighting has been given a modern touch in the form of a combo system. Unfortunately, that combo system is broken. Considering the platform, you'd probably expect motion detection to make an appearance, right? Here, the only time motion controls come into play at all is when you need to break from a grapple, "shake off" a near-unconscious stupor or charge up for an attack in a cutscene. In each instance, you'll only need to do one thing: shake the remote.

Instead of using the motion controls in an innovative manner, the game relegates all of your combos to a single attack button. The max combo you can perform is about five hits. You decide which combo is performed as you land the last blow, by pressing either 'Up' or 'Down' at that time. Luckily, the developers remembered that Goku has special attacks at his disposal as well, such as the iconic Kamehameha beam attack. Unfortunately, that beam is the only special attack that you'll be able to use. Your limited options leave no room to make your combat experience a varied one. Things do at least get changed up a bit when you have to fight "power suit" soldiers, but even those boss fights borrowed many elements from classic games rather than attempting to actually innovate. Like Mario facing Bowser, you just have to jump at the right time to avoid damage. You can cling to floating orbs to dodge massive attacks that cover half the screen, but that's about as far as any new elements go.

Despite its flaws, the side-scrolling action and combat are what make Revenge of King Piccolo a title that might be worth a look. As with other games that take place in the Dragonball universe, though, there's also a one-on-one combat system available. Give them a shot and they'll likely aggravate you to no end. Controls are the same as they are throughout the rest of the game. Unfortunately, changes to AI and the addition of some unblockable attacks mean that the controls don't translate as well as one might hope. If you miss your window of opportunity to dodge a given attack, you'll have to sit through an animation that sees around a third of your health bar removed. There's no way to break the ensuing chain of attacks that your enemy levels at you. The versus battles frustrated me to the point where I actually considered throwing my Wii across the room. Such segments wouldn't have been so bad if they were reserved for boss fights, but roughly half of the game is spent on them.

If you do play through the Story mode and reach its conclusion, you theoretically have reasons to keep playing. There are chests placed throughout the game that unlock numerous different extras, including voiceovers, music and items. You'll even find additional characters for use in the Versus mode. Sadly, the unblockable attacks mean that you probably won't enjoy one-on-one battles even when your opponent is your friend. It's just no fun when you can't break, block or roll out of the extended combo attacks.

Few games have ever managed to just plain infuriate me. Revenge of King Piccolo would have avoided that distinction if not for the last four hours or so, when it devolves to a series of versus battles. If Namco Bandai had focused more on the side-scrolling segments, I would have felt good about recommending the title to those who are looking for the chance to enjoy some nostalgia. Unfortunately, the broken versus combat is such a mess that I can barely recommend this even to the most hardcore fans, let alone those who wish to find a compelling way to introduce their children to the series.


TomatoMan's avatar
Freelance review by Brandon Thissell (July 02, 2010)

Brandon Thissell is an enthusiast and collector of video games from the 8-bit era through modern day.

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