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Dragon Ball: Shenron no Nazo (or Dragon Power)

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.
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About Procyonone of us since 10:16 AM on 12.08.2006

My name is Scott. I've been playing video games since my hands were big enough to hold a joystick. I started with the Atari 2600, and graduated to the Atari 800 computer where I taught myself how to program in BASIC. I eventually got a NES, and later a Game Boy. The first summer I ever worked, I was a CIT at the day camp I attended. I worked all summer long to save up enough money to buy the SNES the very day it came out.

I attended college at the University of Pennsylvania. I was introduced to the internet my freshman year in 1993, and I fast became a console pirate, purchasing a copier and downloading ROMs off of IRC channels. Good times. In my senior year, I purchased the N64 as soon as the street date was broken, and skipped classes for the next three days to play Mario 64. I also bought a used PSX the same year.

After I graduated with a degree in Computer Science and a degree in Psychology, I was accepted to Digipen. I was part of the very last class that attended the school in Vancouver, before they moved the campus to Nintendo of America's HQ in Redmond Washington (across the street from Microsoft). After completing the program, I got my very first job as a programmer at Ubisoft.

I lucked out with Ubisoft because they were actually opening a studio near my hometown in NYC, so I actually landed my dream job and got to live on the east coast near my family. I worked on Batman: Vengence. I met a number of cool people, but the only one I still keep in touch with happens to be a buddy of mine who was the lead designer on "Army of Two." He is without a doubt, the greatest game designer I have ever had the privilege of working with.

The studio in NYC didn't pan out for Ubisoft, and they decided to fold the team up to Montreal. After living in Vancouver for a year and a half, I decided I had enough of Canada, so I stayed in the NYC office, which transformed into GameLoft. I stayed there until me and the buddy I mentioned landed a job at 3DO. We both moved out to Redwood City and started working there.

3DO wasn't a great company, but it wasn't terrible, and I met a crew of people who became some of the greatest friends that I have ever had. I worked on Dragon Rage, which was being led by Kudo Tsunoda. He told the execs that it was going to be an Army Men game with an art asset swap, and it would take 6 months to complete. The truth was we were building a new engine from scratch, and it would really take a year to get it done right. When the six months were up, the execs asked for the game, and we weren't even close to finished, so we had to do 12 hours days, 6 days a week until the game was finished. 3 months later, nobody cared about it anymore, and it went straight to the budget bin.

3DO closed down very shortly after. While I was at 3DO, I got to know two people who amazed me: Howard Scott Warshaw and Tod Frye, two of the original Atari 2600 programmers. Getting to meet them and talk with them about "the good old days" at Atari was an amazing thing to me. (I totally recommend visiting Howard's site, Once Upon Atari and ordering his DVD about what those days were like.) I still run in to Howard infrequently at retrogaming conventions and it's always a delight.

After 3DO, I worked for a THQ studio that used to be called (oddly enough) Pacific Coast Power & Light. It's known as Locomotive games today. I was put on the WWE Crush Hour game, the game that was designed to mix the WWE up with Twisted Metal. I created the game's shell and character selection screen. It was actually a pretty cool game, but THQ's love for WWE had cooled down when the game was close to finishing (right after WWF became WWE, the ratings started to tank), so they rushed it and laid off the whole team.

Wishing to return to the east coast, I applied for jobs that I could find there, and actually lucked out with a job opening at Firaxis Games in Hunt Valley, Maryland, home to Sid Meier. When I got there, they were toying with the idea of remaking Pirates, and were prototyping a lot. The results were mixed, and Sid decided to get involved with the development personally. They knew they wanted to make a console version, and they put me on the small team responsible for porting the game to the Xbox. I had doubts about the game, and I wasn't enjoying the tasks I was being given (such as working on the in-game glossary), and things didn't work out. I made a lot of good friends there who I miss working with.

By this time, I had been with four companies in six years, and my girlfriend at the time was in the middle of going to school to get her degree, so I did something drastic: I grew up. I ended up looking for any available programming job, and accepted a position with a UPS owned software company as an algorithm designer. I've been there since 2005, I get paid more money, and work fewer hours than I ever did as a game programmer. But I really miss the creative environment and working with people that I have a lot in common with, i.e. a love and passion for video games.

I am currently own and operate StrategyWiki, which strives to become the best online source of video game guides and walkthroughs anywhere in the world. I am now living in northern Maryland. Welcome to my blog.
Xbox LIVE:ProcyonSJJ


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