Much like death and taxes, combinations of anime franchises and digital card-battle games have joined life’s only certainties, with everything from high-school flavored melodrama to every type of digital monster you could think of (and then some). Now I’m not much of a card-battle type fan, having left that world many moons ago, but there’s no denying the popularity of the genre, which seems stronger than ever. The trend that really took off first on the Gameboy system has now claimed firm soil on the DS platform, and in year that saw the return of Pokemon dominance and several fighters-turned-card players, it was only a matter of time before the beloved Dragon Ball franchise had something to brag about.
Here comes Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu, the latest in the extremely popular franchise by creator Akira Toriyama. No stranger to nearly any school child in several countries, this card-battler from Atari arrives in an overly-crowded market of similar-based titles, but still manages to provide some entertainment and solid gameplay into the mix.
As with any other Dragon Ball game it closely follows the storyline of the entire series through character-specific scenarios, and every chapter has that familiar feel to it if you’re a fan of the series. Of course the card approach plays a major role with numerous types of offense, defense, and ability cards at your disposal whether it’s for better or worse. Each chapter plays like an overhead board game with you and your adversaries taking turns moving around the map with card functionality being a factor of what will happen after your turn. Beside getting from point A to point B on the map you’ll have to fight on occasion and as many of us know by now cards take the leading role when it comes to winning, this is the bread n’ butter of the package and makes up the near entirety of the game.
I can easily see most people having gripes with the game’s simplicity, and in truth the hardest part of the game was actually PRONOUNCING the title of the game itself! All jokes aside, it’s obvious from the get-go that this latest DGZ title was meant for the younger set, most likely those fans who are just starting to get themselves immersed in the elaborate world from creator Akira Toriyama, as the story deals with the beginnings of the Saiyan Saga all the way to the end of the Cell Saga. Did any of those blurbs ring a bell? If so than chances are this might be the card-game for you, just keep in the mind the reduced level of difficulty, and chances are you or a younger friend will find yourself entertained.
This simplicity really shows its weaknesses where it shouldn’t, namely the actual gameplay. With full touch-screen controls, nearly everything is handled via the lower DS touch screen, from choosing commands to playing the field. This is mostly a point ‘n tap affair, so if stylus games aren’t your thing, you won’t find much here to convince you otherwise. The actual gameplay starts to slow down a bit when the maps increase in size, but again this shouldn’t affect the card-emphasis play, which really isn’t that different from any other card battler out there.
Fans will find most of their favorite characters, with the playable cast including Son Goku, Son Gohan, Piccolo, and Vegeta. Other non-playable characters include Yamcha, Tenshinhan, among others. The artwork is detailed, with a nice hand-drawn feel that really brings the vivid style of Toriyama to the smaller screens. There’s a bit of a super-deformed look for most of the game, but still very polished and attractive. The game’s sound is likewise adequate, although the many voice-samples do sound a bit muffled and hard to understand clearly. Given the excellent sound from the DS, it’s sad to hear this happen to such familiar voice-characters.
The game does show its seams at points where maps are bigger, it tends to slow down the action to a extent. Admittedly card battles are rather simplistic when you get the hang of it and only on occasion do they require real thought, overall it’s a matter of who has the stronger deck per turn. The more experience gained fighting through the levels, the more powerful your character will become. Naturally this will increase the strength of your character, so make sure to choose your cards wisely. Although much of the strategic elements that other popular battlers seems to have vanished, it still bears repeating that this game would make a great starter for any series fan, provided they haven’t moved onto the more popular Pokemon franchise or otherwise.
Dragon Ball Z Harukanara Densetsu turns out to be a genuinely fun card RPG with a basic system to easily pick up, but it’s no Yu-Gi-Oh! or even Pokemon, with hardcore strategy taking a back seat in favor of instant gameplay. But that shouldn’t matter much to the series many, many fans, most of whom will eat this up faster than our own Mr. Universal on a classic game. There’s plenty of opportunity for AD-HOC multiplayer using just one card, so there’s plenty of opportunity to medium-level DBZ fans to check the game out before plunking down the cash. The story may have been done to death (and then some), but this probably won’t be the last we’ll see of Akira Toriyama’s troupe on a console, let alone the DS.