The Dragon Ball: Shenron no Nazo
guide is complete. Actually, it's been complete for a while, but I'm just getting around to reporting about it because I've been knee deep in Zanac, and preparing for that guide. Where to start with this one...
Many people believe that this was the first Dragon Ball game ever made for a home console. In fact it is the second. But the first one was an arcade style vertical shooter made for the Epoch Cassette Vision, a system that you have to be so Japanese to even remember. So for all intent purposes, it's definitely the first Dragon Ball game that American players have access to.
Many people (or at least many Dragon Ball fans) also know that this was one of the only Dragon Ball games to be released in the United States for many many years, even though it was horribly localized and transformed into Dragon Power. The "why" in the decision is fairly obvious; no one in the United States had any clue what Dragon Ball was in 1987. The "how" is another story. Taking a character like Son Goku, and making him resemble more of a monkey-boy might make a little sense to some people, but changing the appearance of Master Roshi from the turtle shell totting pervert he is to, well, Gandolf the Wizard, was questionable at best. One comparison between the box art tells all.
Japanese box art:
American box art:
(Ironically, Europe got the original game translated into French and unaltered graphically, but many years later when Dragon Ball had taken off).
Naturally, quite a bit of censorship took place, which is to be expected when the Japanese storyline involves bribing old men with a glimpse at a girl's panties, or touching a girl's chest (shirt on, of course). To prevent corrupting American children's youth, these bribes were changed to giving the old man a sandwich (which happened to be the panties graphic turned upside down), which of course made the whole joke about Bulma asking the shape-shifting pig Oolong to transform into her and fulfill the bribe make no sense.
Despite those criticisms, the game is... playable. As an early 80s license game, it does a surprisingly outstanding job capturing the spirit of the first set of episodes of the cartoon series. Although a few changes were made to the story for the sake of motivating the player to get through certain sections, character portrayals are amazingly accurate, and the graphics capture the emotions and attitudes that are typical of each personality.
The game plays a little similar to the Legend of Zelda in terms of the overhead fighting aspect, but it has a few flaws. The most serious flaw of all is the constantly depleting life force. Throughout the game, Goku is losing about one unit of health every two seconds. Normally, he will max out at 150 units, although you can upgrade to 250 if you choose the best wish for your first of two wish selections. But this creates a serious problem since you do not receive more health for completing a stage, which usually concludes with a boss battle (which is played from the side view perspective), and health restoring items are presented pretty much randomly.
The boss battle with the Ox King.
To make matters worse, normally you can continue where you left off, except for the last four stages. So if you manage to make it all the way to the final stage with only a few units of health left, you are inevitably going to have to repeat the last three stages over again just to make it back to the end. This has left a ton of players defeated and unmotivated to continue and beat the game. Emulators and save states can go a long way to making the game more playable, but it's a shame that you have to "cheat" in order to enjoy a single play through of the title.
All in all, the game will only appeal to die hard fans of the series. The official English translation is riddled with problems, but if you can't read Japanese, you only have one other choice: a ROM translation that converts the game into English, albeit just as poorly, if not worse than the official translation, but it does keep all of the original Dragon Ball references and context.
The next guide, as I mentioned, will be for the true hard-core NES shooter experience, Zanac.