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Dragon Ball Z: Sagas (PlayStation 2) artwork

Dragon Ball Z: Sagas (PlayStation 2) review

"Dragon Ball Z: Sagas is an uninteresting brawler made worse by a gaping hole in the gameplay. It was a novel idea turning DBZ into a brawler, but Avalanche would have been better off taking the expected route in creating an arcade style beat 'em up."

I have to commend Dragon Ball Z: Sagas for staying true to the source material. It doesn't pull a Legacy of Goku and pit you against squirrels and bears, enemies the characters wouldn't bother fighting. It follows the first few seasons of the series closely and only thrusts you into combat with villains from the program or enemies that at least look Toriyama-inspired.

But that's the best I can say about the game, as the rest of it is pretty banal.

Sagas attempts to do for DBZ what should have been done in the mid-90s by creating a brawler based on the series. When I first heard about this game, I imagined it as an arcade-style beat 'em up similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Double Dragon. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. The game plays like a generic 3D action title where you will roam various settings from the series and battle waves of enemies with your fists, feet and powerful Ki blasts. It seems the developers wanted to take a different route and make something that was more relevant. The ironic thing is they would have been better off taking the Double Dragon approach.

You know what to expect from any brawler: a group of unsavory types assail you and you respond by punching and kicking them to death. It's expected that you'll fight tons of clones of the same enemy, as if there's a factory nearby manufacturing these hoodlums. Sagas features a revolutionary system in which you fight the same four enemies over and over again. It doesn't matter that the enemies look different over time, they all act the same. You'll either face:

  • The weak one: The enemy you'll bump into the most. Fights like crap most of the time, and the least of your efforts can kill him.

  • The middle weight: Look exactly like the weak one, but a different color. Somewhat stronger, but still pretty easy to take out.

  • The sniper: Too much of a wuss to engage you head-on, so he stays in the background and takes pot shots at you. Can be dispatched with a single weak Ki shot.

  • The fatass: The abnormally large version of the enemies you've been fighting that takes a little extra effort to kill.

Enemy waves sport very little variety. You'll fight a group of maybe four weak ones and a middle weight, only to fight the same group right afterward. This happens pretty often. Adding challenge to the battles would have kept them from banality, but the AI stifles much of the challenge. When you engage an enemy, the others will sit back and gawk while you pummel their friend to jelly. Any brawler worth its salt will gleefully screw you over with a barrage of cheap shots and team ups.
Even some of the lame ones like WWF: Betrayal got that much right.

The real challenge doesn't come until halfway through the game when you have to fight Dr. Gero's robotic army. They still won't gang up on you, but they can break your combo attacks and block often. Unfortunately, these enemies only hang around for a few levels before you switch back to the old weak sauce enemies from before.

The only thing to clear the bad air caused by dull combat is dull collecting. Every level has coins and capsules to collect, many of which are hidden underneath rocks and other destructible pieces of terrain. Now not only do you have to beat the forces of repetition evil to a bloody pulp, but go back and scope out every little nook and cranny to make sure you've grabbed every item. You can exchange coins at stores positioned in key locations of every level to gain passive boosts and new special attacks. Capsules, on the other hand, can increase you maximum health and Ki if you find enough. What's irritating about the collecting aspect is that many of the items are floating up in the air. The only way to get to them is to jump off a high enough platform and fly over to them. In most cases, this platform doesn't appear until late in the level, forcing you to backtrack even as far as the beginning of the level.

I wanted to say this game is mediocre, especially by pointing out that challenging boss battles and snazzy purchasable combo attacks counterbalance for the ho-hum combat system and incessant collecting. Sadly, there's a huge hole that Avalanche didn't notice that sinks both of the positive traits. Every boss reacts in the same way. If you land a shot on one, you can continue to pummel him until you've completed a combo. At the end of the combo, he'll either parry, block or take the hit. In any case you'll be wide open and if you aren't swift to block or react, you'll be in a world of hurt. Bosses seem to wait for your combo to finish, as if that's the prompt they need to perform their next actions. When you first start the game, you can only do two combos: a punch combo and a kick combo. You can't mix up punches and kicks, switching from one to the other in mid-combo. Doing so will reset your count. Do the math here: if you never finish a combo, how will the boss know when to react?

There's a cheap strategy to winning boss battles, and it's 100% legal. All you have to do is hold down one of the shoulder buttons to lock onto him, tilt the analog stick towards him, and unleash a flurry of attacks while constantly breaking your combo--switching from punch to kick to punch and so on--and you can continually pummel the boss until he's dead. You won't take a lick of damage. New combo attacks available in the shop allow you to mix up punches and kicks, but doing so could potentially ruin the best strategy you have for surviving some incredibly tough boss battles. Basically, the game punishes you for buying new combos, something that was meant to be rewarding and add depth to the game. Later bosses can break your combos, but you can slip right back into the onslaught without any trouble. I was able to use this strategy against the final boss, and he only broke my combos about three or four times. Each time, I was still able to get right back into laying the smack down without trouble. And just like that, we've slipped below mediocrity.

Dragon Ball Z: Sagas is an uninteresting brawler made worse by a gaping hole in the gameplay. It was a novel idea turning DBZ into a brawler, but Avalanche would have been better off taking the expected route in creating an arcade style beat 'em up. Maybe that idea's old hat, but you seldom hear anyone complain about that style of gameplay as a whole. They should have considered which would have been a better choice: a generic done-to-death brawler or a generic done-to-death 3D action game. I'll take the former any day.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (August 06, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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