[DragonBallZ.zip] - Dragon Ball Z:Saiyin and Namek Saga

Author
Blue*Ice
Released
May 11, 2003
Genre
Fighting
Company
None
Size
17.4 KB
Boards
12 / 20
Rating
0.50 / 5.00

Closer Look: Dragon Ball Z:Saiyin and Namek Saga

By: Dr. Dos
Date: July 31, 2019
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Dragon Ball Z:Saiyin and Namek Saga

By: Blue*Ice
Released: May 05, 2003
Download | Play Online | View Files

It's 2003 and the Toonami block on Cartoon Network just ended. Time to make a ZZT game.

I've discussed before how the anime boom of the early 2000s somehow managed to miss the ZZT community. ZZTers were certainly watching it, but as far as making these fan games go, you're pretty much limited to Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z here. I suspect this is mostly due to the lack of a fresh young audience by this point in ZZT's history. The big name ZZTers were wrapping up high school, and even the younger generation was just about to enter it. ZZT games based on existing IP are pretty typically the domain of a younger crowd (Yoshi, Final Fantasy, Chowder), while the older crowd was more interested in creating their own masterpieces (and instead just heavily taking inspiration from other IPs instead). So that makes Dragon Ball Z: Saiyan and Namek Saga an oddity for the era.

Unfortunately, while there is a greater understanding of ZZT-OOP here than some of the more notably poorly coded titles we've seen, DBZ is still pretty abysmal. Like, almost unplayably so.

So first there's Blue*Ice, the author. This individual has one other release to their name, Security, a series of three worlds with one gameplay board each that consists of elaborate security systems of blink walls and spinning guns very reminiscent of Town's jail. Despite this game being released right around the time I was most active in the ZZT community I have never heard of the author before, so I suspect they were on the fringe or not participating in the community's more social aspects at all.

Security is almost certainly the author publishing some of the very first things they ever made in the editor. I distinctly remember making the same sort of thing as a child (though unpublished). ZZT's default elements do a remarkably good job of providing tools for these sort of boards.

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But this is Dragon Ball Z, and it's clearly more refined. The game is engine based and consists of the player controlling Goku and defeating several of the series's iconic villains, starting with "Radits" whose name is spelled wrong. Now, my own knowledge of DBZ isn't all that deep. As a child there was maybe a month or two where I watched the show regularly, but I never stuck around. Though with the original Dragon Ball series I fairly recently saw the first arc and a little of the next with roommates before whatever streaming service we were watching it on stopped carrying it. So without consulting a wiki I can't tell you who Raditz is, or what he does in the series. Fortunately I'm going to be consulting the DBZ fan wiki a bunch. I believe the show also took awhile to fully come to the US via Toonami, so it's very possible that "Radits" is a fan's idea of how the name might be localized to English seeing as how the series was over and done with in 1996 in Japan. This is going to be a recurring thing throughout this game and I'm just calling them by their modern localized names rather than the ones provided by Blue.

Scroll
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
  █DragonBall█
                -Changes-
Gems:Supresed energy
Torches:power level
Score:energy
              -Instructions-
-First of all you need to build up some
energy. To do so you must press the top
gem. Every time you press it, it will take
one gem and give 10 energy.

-Now to dodge his bullets press the arrow
that is pointing in the direction you want
to move.

-To shoot an energy blast press the star.
Every shot takes 5 energy.

-To turn super saiyan press the big "S".
It costs 500 energy to use. The enemy will
freeze and you will shoot him 10 tymes.

              -Good Luck-
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

The game provides a scroll with how to play, starting with the information on what all of ZZT's counters mean. There are three stats, but the power level is entirely cosmetic, increasing after each fight to represent Goku getting stronger in a way that isn't demonstrated through gameplay. The combat itself consists of alternating between playing defense and offense. In order to attack, Goku needs to channel his energy, but that leaves him open to the enemy, so the player needs to move Goku out of danger and then begin charging. Once he has some energy available, he can then fire an energy blast. If you manage to get 500 energy, you can go Super Saiyan which locks the enemy in place and unleash a barrage of bullets to inflict major damage on your opponent.

Conceptually, this is perfectly fine. The need to channel energy and keep moving prevents the player from just firing endlessly, and playing well should be rewarded with the potential to go Super Saiyan (SSJ) for a devastating attack that the enemy can't do anything about.

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Almost immediately however, the problems begin. Firstly, the controls are awful. The ZZT player has to navigate a tiny room hitting buttons, constantly running back to the arrows to try and avoid the Goku object from being shot. This sort of layout is what you see in City of ZZT in 1991, not in an engine based game in 2003 with limited commands to issue. This could be solved pretty easily by simply surrounding the player, having up/down move Goku, left store energy, and right fire an energy blast. Pressing space to shoot could then activate the SSJ attack. If you pay close attention however, you'll note that there's a 6th object for the player labeled "se2", which... turns active energy back into stored energy. There is no reason to do this. I don't mean "It's a bad strategy", I mean there is no difference in terms of mechanics at all regardless of if energy is stored or active. It is a button to undo progress.

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Because the buttons are so poorly placed (the easiest button to get to from the movement controls is the undo progress button), Goku can't really play defense and offense. You're either standing still and getting shot, or dodging and not building energy at all. Even this first battle has a steady stream of bullets making it almost impossible to get anything done to be able to attack.

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Attacking, is also out of the question. ZZT bullets destroy each other on hit, (though because of stat oddities, they can fairly often result in one being destroyed and the other continuing alone), which without Raditz giving any openings, means you have to not only time your shot so Raditz moves into its path, but also win the duel between the opposing bullet that's always going to be in the way.

Each bullet inflicts one point of damage on the health meter above. You need to hit Raditz a good seventeen times this way. As an act of mercy, Goku only takes 5 damage from being hit himself, giving the player a health advantage.

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But Goku's health isn't the thing you'll worry about because in order to gain active energy, Goku needs to convert stored energy, which is a finite and non-replenishable resource. If you run out in the middle of a fight, you just have to take the loss. Your starting energy translates into 102 shots, which might sound reasonable, but it takes a lot of effort to get past the first fight. I finished it with about 30 shots remaining on a later attempt. Another issue to run into is that near misses with bullets will cause Raditz to be blocked and reverse direction, this makes it really difficult to maintain a rhythm as a small mistake will just completely break your firing pattern.

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I decided on my second attempt to just get enough energy to see the SSJ attack that mentions freezing an enemy in place. Blue*Ice doesn't lie, pressing the button causes the enemy to stop moving, but it's not some showy finishing move. You still have to aim the attack which I completely missed.

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But even if you land the attack, it's just not worth it. The Raditz object runs at cycle 2, meaning it doesn't send messages to the health meter fast enough to register all the bullets. Using nearly all the possible energy you get for the fight turns into 5 damage. So can you actually win at this game? Yeah, barely. Firing your energy blasts in pairs and getting into a rhythm lets you get through the fight, though even then it's a pretty close call. It was bad enough that I kind of just assumed the game was completely broken and cheated into the second fight on my first playthrough. Actually defeating Raditz increases Goku's power level, provides 50 health, and gives 25 gems to convert into more energy blasts in the next fight. The controls keep working when the fight is over, so you can safely convert the new energy without being attacked if you want. While the other fights aren't any better, the extra resources are enough that if you can beat the first fight you'll be able to get through the game most likely.

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Cheating my way to the second fight means I was going into it without any offensive ability. This one's on me. Fortunately, the next battle is against two Saibamen meaning I can rely on the age old ZZT tradition of making enemies shoot each other. It's a lot easier doing it this way even if you do have energy. The two saibamen share a health meter, which is important since Goku's attacks only go to the east. This fight is all about just dodging bullets for a bit.

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This game has no story. There's almost no dialog in the entire game. It's just this until it ends. I just noticed this board spells Earth wrong.

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Next up is Nappa, missing a "p". It's... more of the same. I guess there's technically strategy in these fights in that Goku has to attack from the rows where Nappa only fires are few bullets rather than a giant blast here that will block all of his own energy blasts. I'm really out of things to say here. You move to the right row, and shoot.

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Just be aggressive and don't die. Vegeta is a jump in difficulty by virtue of him moving at cycle 1. Actually playing the game properly, Goku will have plenty of health since a lot of damage can be prevented by hitting another input before the damage can register. I don't know why Vegeta is represented with a theta rather than a smiley face like all the other humanoid characters so far.

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There have been plenty of ZZT worlds which I've gotten bored with in the middle of capturing screenshots for an article, but this one may be a record for just how quickly. Everything is the same, and it's not fun or interesting! There are still six fights left.

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Guldo is next, and actually tries to mix thing up. This is why I had to say that this game has almost no dialog. "Tyme stop!" is the only thing a villain ever says to Goku. He says it a lot, constantly stopping Goku from moving for a few cycles with this ability, but it's not all that effective since once again, moving or attacking before the freeze actually occurs will skip over it entirely. The fight is supposed to be balanced around this so Guldo is extremely weak in comparison, firing significantly fewer bullets than any of the previous fights.
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Another double battle, which means just moving around and letting Jeice and Burter defeat themselves.

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Recoome is the last member of the Ginyu Force to be fought. If you're no more familiar with Dragon Ball Z than I am, then I'm sure you're equally as unaware as to who any of these guys are. If only this game told me literally anything. Although, even if one is super into the series, somehow I doubt saying a beta symbol is Reccoome is exactly winning anybody over.
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Lastly, is the captain of the Ginyu Force, Ginyu himself. Shoot him until he dies.

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Then it's time for the major villain, Frieza. Again it's nothing new as far as combat goes. The only thing new here is a sort of shield handled by making an object physically get in the way of the health meter so that the final hit on Frieza is more difficult to actually hit. Other games have done this sort of thing before, notably Jami's Undercity, but there the shields could block damage from any attack. Here it's just one last hit that it can make a difference for, and there's a 2/3 chance that it won't even make a difference.

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I suspect that in the anime or the manga or any other piece of Dragon Ball Z media, Frieza transforming into an ultimate form is probably, I don't know, announced, built-up, anything to get you invested in what this means for the plot of the series.

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Except this is the worst fight yet. Frieza's ultimate form is bugged, and as soon as he hits a typo in his code, he just stops. Goku just needs to line up his shot and fire an energy blast. It'll reset Frieza's position in code and he'll move for just a moment before locking up again. There's no way this game was tested with something like this getting through. I made sure to finish him off by going Super Saiyan. It seems proper.

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Whoa, this game had a story. It turns out Goku was getting those dragon balls. It actually tracks if you consider Goku fighting the Ginyu Force as a fight for a single Dragon Ball, then there'd be 7 fights for 7 Dragon Balls. With them in his possession, Everybody's revived. The end. Goku retires. OR DOES HE??? In ZZT, it sure looks like it.

Final Thoughts

Okay this one was just bad. It's just an incredibly poor representation of a popular series that just has nothing to redeem itself in any way. Every fight is either standing still and shooting three or so energy blasts, not shooting at all while the enemies defeat themselves, or bugged entirely. It's not pretty to look at. (I'm kind of surprised it got past the STK rule since the only usage of it is on three objects and the stars on the Dragon Balls.) The mechanics are poorly implemented. It's just a mess all around.

I get that for a lot of kids in their early teens the big appeal of the anime was these over the top fights with two extremely strong dudes blasting each other and flying around and raising power levels, but this game doesn't capture any of that. While adding in the storyline the game ignores entirely until the last board wouldn't have made it worthwhile, it would have given it some much needed grounding. There's no sense of stakes to the fights and characters are completely unintroduced, they just shoot bullets until they die.

What makes it so disappointing though is that while ZZT can't really capture the fights all that well (heck, it seems like prior to 2018's Dragon Ball FighterZ nobody really could), it can absolutely tell the story. There are tons of generic ZZT adventures about fighting off some big baddie and saving the world, and these early arcs of Dragon Ball Z would fit the bill quite nicely.

No, actually what's most disappointing is that conceptually this game sounds like fun. Have Goku channel energy automatically, reward not getting hit with healing or faster channeling, and replace the bullets with energy blasts done by chaining #put commands to produce a row of boulders (and change them into solids) and you might be able to make something that can be enjoyable. Waiting for an opening to strike or dodging a series of rapid attacks with quick movements could do a lot to make things feel more responsive than waiting a second and a half from launching your attack to finding out if it hits or misses. These fights are supposed to feel flashy, and watching a theta bounce up and down and calling it Vegeta doesn't cut it.

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