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Dragon Ball Z: Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu (Saturn) artwork

Dragon Ball Z: Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu (Saturn) review

"Beatdown: The Compendium"

What do space monkeys, a galactic dictator, androids, and a pink genie have in common? They eventually confront Earth's mightiest warriors, with the strongest of them, named Son Goku, often facing against the most dangerous opponents at the conclusion of a story arc. Originally intended as a quirky, comedic take on Journey to the West, Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball would transform into a series famously known for its chaotic battles. Fights involve people zipping around and flying at uncanny speeds, tons of energy blasts tossed every which way, and surrounding areas being completely ruined in the process. Dragon Ball Z: Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu, which translates to The Great Dragon Ball Legend, attempts to replicate such battles on the Sega Saturn.

Compiling most of Dragon Ball Z's main fights, Legend's May 1996 release couldn't have come at a better time. The original Japanese broadcast of Z concluded in January of that same year, leading this to serve as a "greatest hits" for those wanting to look back on and play these memorable conflicts. At this point in time, Dragon Ball games were either turn-based games or fighting games, rarely diverging into other genres; Legend did something different by being inspired by the beat'em up genre. This is interesting in itself, because the game has 2D character sprites within fully 3D environments. How will gameplay work in this setting?

Simple: movement is linear. Each "stage" in the game is essentially a boss fight, and it's very uncommon for you to face multiple enemies at once in story mode. Having said that, the character you're currently controlling is locked on to the boss. If you move forward, your character will automatically move in whatever direction the enemy is located, whether they're in a different plain or in the sky. A lot of the directional shift is out of your control, with the one real method being an afterthought, since it's a move that makes your character circle an opponent.

Defeating enemies also has an interesting take, because you can beat them down and throw tons of blasts, but it won't cause a single dent in their green health meter if you're doing it wrong. At the bottom of the screen is a ginormous Power Balance meter with a blue and red side. The goal is to have the blue, which is your side, completely engulf the meter. Once full, the character you are controlling will automatically launch one of their signature attacks, such as Goku's Kamehameha, Piccolo's Makankosappo, or Krillin's Kienzan. This will drain your opponent's health and vice versa. To even fill the meter, you'll need to perform a range of basic attacks and input commands, which is typical in most beat'em ups.

This is trickier than it sounds, because any "strenuous" action drains your yellow meter, whether it's unleashing blasts, speeding towards an enemy, or doing an input. When it's drained too much, you literally have to stop in order to power up, or you'll risk being in an exhausted state and give your foes a free hit, or worse, a chain combo. But, in many cases, you're not alone: two other AI-controlled allies often join the fight, and you're even allowed to switch to these characters. Though, if you prefer more of a challenge, you can simply remove backup and fend for yourself.

Legend's controls can feel a bit overwhelming at first, and if anything, simply understanding the gameplay structure is where most of the difficulty stems from; even after reading the manual or a guide, it's not something you immediately grasp in execution. The good news is that learning doesn't take too long, and once you get how to connect combos, especially connecting ones where you smack someone miles and miles away, then you're good to go for the rest of the journey. It may sound like an abstruse method for creating an action game, but those "safeguards" are in place in order for players to have a visceral Dragon Ball Z experience.

Story mode will guide you through fated encounters with the hulking Nappa and Vegeta, the goofy Ginyu Force and the tyrannical emperor Frieza, Dr. Gero's androids, and conclude with the unhinged Majin Buu. Lending their talent to the frenzied fighting are the VAs from the show; along with trees knocked over and mountains destroyed, you'll have characters yelling their trademark attacks and just screaming in general. Also, if you're knowledgeable about these battles from the series, the game rewards you for playing them that way. For instance, if "something" were to happen with Krillin against Frieza, Goku will be enraged, and if you have Goten and Trunks fight against Buu at one point, a fusion will occur. However, these are optional, meaning you can also have "what if" scenarios; ever wanted to defeat Frieza with Krillin, or have Vegeta take down Android 18?

Despite its unique status as a Dragon Ball Z game at the time of its release, it's still purely fan service. If you're just someone who only plays video games and know nothing about Dragon Ball Z, then you might be curious after seeing it in motion. Though, you're likely to be turned away when you learn what the controls are like, and possibly gawk at story mode's two hour completion time on default difficulty. However, there is a two-player versus mode and a bonus single-player survival mode, thus helping to prolong the product's length. But you shouldn't go in expecting a grand adventure with side quests and such, because at its heart, the game is very arcade-like in nature, and should be treated as such.

Idainaru Dragon Ball Densetsu my not be the greatest, but it's a fun, guilty pleasure for Dragon Ball Z fans who want to revel in the calamity.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (April 11, 2024)

Alternative header: Cruel Summer

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hastypixels posted April 13, 2024:

I havenít heard much about Dragonball games on the Saturn, and it was interesting to read about this one. The arcade approach makes sense, since as I understand it thatís what the Saturn was touted to be: A powerful home arcade unit.
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dementedhut posted April 14, 2024:

The Saturn received only two Dragon Ball games during its run, which I guess is better than the Mega Drive's lone game. The other Saturn game is a normal-style fighting game like the others that came before it on the Super Famicom. Though, this has an odd Fatal Fury-like mechanic where you can knock characters into the background, except here you literally knock them into a brand new screen. It's neat at first, but it really disrupts the flow of combat.

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