Saturday, March 4, 2017

Game 3 - Dragon Ball Z - Super Saiyan Legend

Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiyan Legend (ドラゴンボールzスーパーサイヤ伝説)

Released 1/25/1992, published by Bandai

I'm at a disadvantage here; unlike a lot of people of my generation, I have never seen Dragon Ball Z. It started on US TV when I was 16, and by then I had the idea that it was a mindless kiddy show with nothing but fighting and so didn't watch it. This game was clearly aimed at people who were fans of the show, and parts of it are hard to understand without some knowledge of the series. At some points you're meant to re-enact stuff that happened in the show, but the game's hints are a bit too vague to deal with this if you haven't. 

The game begins with a recap of the Dragon Ball storyline prior to Z, and then you control Goku. There's not much direction for what you're supposed to do, so you start flying around looking for houses, and talking to people. Meanwhile, enemies pop up:
The generic enemy that is in every random battle
The way random encounters work is interesting. The higher level you are, the more likely the enemies are to run away from you. If your level is high enough for a particular area, there are no more random encounters. This prevents grinding, but I rarely grind anyway so I like this feature a lot.

The battles try to graphically recreate the feel of the series, by having every attack animated:

Piccolo fighting an alien

I would find this much more annoying if I didn't have the emulator speedup key, since the animations can be rather long. The battle system is rather creative; I understand it's borrowed from the Famicom games:

Choosing battle cards
You are presented with 5 cards (I already used one in this image). The dots on the top of the card are the attack, and the kanji number on the bottom of the card is the defense. The kanji in the middle is the type -- if it matches the type of the character, they attack all the enemies and have a boost for that turn. If you use a card with the 必 kanji (on the right of the above image), you can use one of your Ki powers. The dots on the top of the card also determine the order of fighting. Sometimes when you attack you take damage from the enemy instead, but I'm not clear on why this happens.

In addition to those, there are "help cards" which are basically items. They can deal you a new hand of battle cards, heal HP or Ki, and there are some special ones that either have huge effects or are story related.

The houses on the map are card shops, healing, random people, and a training house where you can get gold or increase your Ki points. One problem with the game is that the map has no recognizable features like towns, countries, etc. I assume this is a feature of the original anime as well, but it makes it hard to find your way around or know where you're supposed to be going. But the explorable area is fairly small so I eventually found a cave where I'm supposed to face the first enemy Saiyan, Radditz. You fight a fake version of him and then the real one.
First boss battle
One complaint I have about the boss battles is that you mostly do little to no damage to the boss, and have to use 必 cards (which come up by luck), or some story gimmick. In this case it's a story gimmick -- you use several cards which I understand mimic what happened in the anime, but having never seen it I had to use a walkthrough to figure out what to do. Since the game has no equipment and raising your level has a limit, you have to know about these to win.

Goku dies after the fight, and then you actually play as him in heaven, doing an incomprehensible gravity minigame.
Goku with a halo
Afterwards you're back to Earth, this time as Gohan, After picking up a bunch of companions, it's time to fight the next boss, Nappa.
From 2 party members to 6

Nappa is not too bad as long as you can get some good 必 cards to come up. The problem comes next, when Goku has to fight Vegeta alone, and then Gohan and pals come to save him. I cannot beat this fight -- I've gotten about 9 game overs without even reducing him to half HP.  None of the walkthroughs I've consulted offer any advice, and the youtube video I saw somehow had a Goku that's about 4 times as powerful as the one I have. So I'm not sure what to do. Has anyone played this game? I wonder if I'm missing something about the system, because I've seen some people on Gamefaqs wondering how they can stop from killing Vegeta too quickly for him to use his transformation effect. Whereas when I just tried it another time, Goku died on the first round (game over).

I imagine this game is a lot more enjoyable for fans of the anime. I have all these characters on my team but I don't know who they are beyond their names.

(EDIT: I am not going to return to this game. It seems like I might have to start over in order to pass this point, and I'm not enjoying the game enough to do that. In general I don't intend to abandon games this quickly, but this game is fairly well known -- it has multiple translation patches and GameFAQs walkthroughs, so I don't feel as obligated to "document" it as I might with other games.)


  1. If I'm thinking of the right game (there are so many DBZ games it's hard to keep them straight) Goku's training in the afterlife should have taught him 界王拳(かいおうけん) which is a self-buff move, and 元気玉(げんきだま) which is his go-to boss finisher throughout the portion of the anime that this game covers. Youtube vids showing a much more powerful Goku than yours are probably showing him under the effect of 界王拳.

    1. And yeah, boss battles in these DBZ card RPGs are totally dependent on your stock of 必 cards. In the Famicom versions you discard one battle card and draw a new one every time you move on the world map (which is laid out like a board game) so you can fill your hand with 必 cards just by wandering around, but in the SFC version you can only change your battle cards by fighting or by using an item card, so you can get stuck with no way to get good battle cards if you're out of money to buy items and are so strong that random enemies won't fight you.

    2. I used Kaioken and that only brought me up to 12K, even with that and the genkidama I couldn't immediately kill him. From what I can tell the 37,000 BP people have exploited a bug.

      I'll try a few more times -- I was using Kaioken and then Genkidama. Part of the problem is that Vegeta often kills Goku in one turn by attacking 3 or 4 times.

    3. I think the size of the buff you get from Kaioken depends on the attack value of the 必 card you use it with (the top left stars). Also, how well you do in the "incomprehensible minigame" might affect Goku's strength (at least that's how it works in the Famicom versions, which are the ones I remember better) so you might end up having to reload a save from there if your Goku really is too weak.

      Note that Goku is *supposed* to be orders of magnitude stronger than everyone else for most of this game, thanks to the crazy training regimens he undergoes. That's how things were in this portion of the anime, and if there's one thing the card battle RPGs do well, it's faithfully simulating "Goku fights the big bads while everyone else desperately tries not to get killed".

    4. Thanks...I think that gravity minigame only affects when Goku returns. I tried again with a Z-strength 必 and still he only got up to 18K and did less than half of Vegeta's HP with the Genkidama. I might have to start over since I don't have any previous saves; I'm still not entirely sure how the other players manage to do so much damage with Goku but I must have messed up somewhere.

    5. OK it looks like the way they get their BP so high is to do the gravity minigame and Kaiou fight quickly so that Goku comes back right away, then you gain extra levels from the Nappa fight and the random encounters. If I want to do that I'll have to start over...sigh.

    6. Yeah, there's another example of where familiarity with the source material would have helped you. In the anime, Goku arrived after Nappa had killed about half of the good guys, and both Nappa and Vegeta were beaten by Goku. By beating Nappa without Goku you're kind of doing a challenge play without realizing it :)

      However, the Nappa/Vegeta battle is one place where diverging from the source material is actually a good idea. The characters who survive the battle are the ones you get to take into the next part of the game. The story requires Piccolo to die, and I think if Goku or Gohan ever dies it's Game Over, but out of Krillin, Yamcha, Tenshinhan and Chaozu, the more you can keep alive the more manpower you'll have for the rest of the game (in the anime, only Krillin survived out of those four)

    7. OK, I'll have to start over...I'm not up for doing that right now so I'm going to move on to Romancing SaGa and come back to this either after RS or while I'm playing it.

  2. One more thing I just thought of: Don't hoard your item cards! These DBZ games are balanced around the premise that you'll burn through them in boss fights--particularly the item cards that manipulate your battle cards (Chichi, Enma, Uranai Baba) Even with adequately leveled characters, you can't expect to win by waiting for the 必 cards to show up randomly. The cards' defence scores are also very important against bosses--all else being equal, a character playing a 1-defence card takes about three times as much damage as a character playing a Z-defence card.

    (And here's yet another way the games expect you to know the plot of the anime--the SFC version in particular is chock full of back-to-back battles with a middling boss followed by a super strong one. If you know which characters are flunkies of someone stronger or have multiple forms, you can guess whom to blow all your items on and whom to hold back against)

    I'm looking forward to Romancing SaGa! I'm afraid it's yet another poorly balanced and frustrating game with Famicom-like graphics, but at least it doesn't assume prior familiarity with some novel or anime or line of trading cards, and it's full of interesting ideas (which will be greatly refined in the sequels)

    1. Romancing SaGa is one of the few series I'm interested in checking out if I ever do take a step into the world of fan translations.