Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku - Solar Flare Simulator
The GBA was filled to the brim with fantastic RPGs, both from the East and the West. New titles like Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, Mother 3, Golden Sun… honestly, I think an argument that the GBA might have the best selection of RPGs of any system. How I wish I was playing one of those for this week's edition of The Game Boy Abyss. No, today we’re taking a look at a game I played for about twenty minutes as a kid, before realizing that it was not a very good game at all. And you know I’m saying something when twelve year old Mitch didn’t like something. I.. I liked some real crap back in the day. And without further ado, let’s take a good look at the original Dragon Ball game for the Game Boy Advance - Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku.
Dragon Ball Z was actually pretty well represented on the Game Boy Advance, having more then half a dozen titles spilling across various genres, but I’d say the ones people mostly look fondly back on are the action-RPG series The Legacy of Goku. And by look back fondly, I mean people look back fondly on the second and third entities of the game. The initial Legacy of Goku is kind of infamous amongst Dragon Ball Z fans as being a really, really *really* rough start to franchise. Whilst the later games had multiple characters to play, a more involved level-up and combat system, and actually more to do, the original game is one of the most stripped down non-shovelware games I’ve played in recent memory, feeling at times like more of a proof-of-concept then an actual full game, with only it’s somewhat harsh difficulty to draw out it’s scant length.
Legacy of Goku is an action RPG that covers the opening two sagas of Dragon Ball Z - the Saiyan Saga and the Frieza Saga. I say action-RPG, but the RPG part of that descriptor is the most scant and arguably unnecessary I’ve probably ever seen in a game. Whilst the game has a level-up system, it has almost no bearing on the overall game itself - it basically comes down leveling up doesn’t really feel impactful at all - there are no stats to level up, no abilities to unlock - it’s just this weird binary system of you get stronger, you do more damage. Thankfully grinding isn’t any real kind of issue in this game, but it’s such a boring, RPG-wise, system.
No element of Legacy of Goku contributes more to its poor reception than its combat. Simply put, it’s atrocious. Now, over the course of the game, Goku will have four major moves - a simple jab-punch, a normal KI (energy) blast, his iconic Kamehameha, and the Solar Flare. Now, I’m just going to tell you here and now to completely forget that Ki Blast and Kamehameha exist, because they are useless in the game. Low damage, small hitbox, just terrible. You see, Legacy of Goku is difficult. Stupidly, pathetically difficult. At the beginning of the game, you will be getting your ass kicked by wolves and dinosaurs alike, and thus the first section of the game leading up to Raditz will be the most difficult. This is mostly because there is really nothing you can do to mitigate your damage - your only real damage option is to get into your enemy’s face and punch them ‘till they die, and this is exacerbated by the simply pitiful hitboxes; enemies will half-clip inside Goku’s sprite, making it impossible to hit them, but they can still wail on you. Sure, you can use the Ki Blast to hurt them from afar, but it does such little damage it feels like killing anything takes an age and a half. It’s only when you near Raditz you unlock the Solar Flare, a move that I am convinced is the only reason anyone ever beat this jank fest. You see, by charging Solar Flare, you’ll temporarily ‘blind’ all the enemies in your range, essentially making them just stand there and take it.
Combat improves ever so slightly after you acquire Solar Flare and as your level rises, though the rate you go from getting your ass kicked by wolves to one-shotting them just because your level went from 1 to 4 is… kinda insane. Honestly, saying the combat gets better isn’t probably accurate, it’s just more entertaining using Solar Flare to make enemies inmobile, slap them around for a few seconds, run away, do it again until they die. As long as you give yourself the time to fly or move away before they wake up out of their blindness, literally every enemy is nothing more than a punching bag - though if you don’t get out of the way, they will still demolish you in a couple of hits. So, uh, stick to blinding them over and over again.
The other main ‘RPG-ism’ is how Legacy of Goku handles quests. I… I don’t know why this game has a quest system. You’ve got shite going on like Goku trying to save his goddamn son from his genocidal brother, and we’ve got GOKU PICKING FLOWERS FOR CHILDREN!??!!? Seriously, this game did not need the structure it has. Whilst they kind of *feel* like side quests, I’m pretty sure just about all the quests in Legacy of Goku are mandatory. For an example, you’ll be hunting for Raditz, who just kidnapped Gohan, but you’ll run into a weird old man who talks on how the forest is ‘out of balance’ and needs you to go and help its denizens with such wonderfully interactive tasks as: Picking flowers for a child, guiding a *different* child to safety, guiding a fucking *cat* back to its owner (who you really just have to ask everyone in town to actually work out *whose* cat it is), after which the old man will say ‘Oh I already know who you are Goku, Raditz when that way lol’ DESPITE THE FACT GOKU’S SON IS IN DANGER. It just kind of feels like the game is wasting your time, and this is doubled with the puzzle in the Namek Temple, near the end of the game - it’s basically a teleporting scavenger hunt for some artifacts, but the game gives you next to no indication that the way forward is hidden, and I’ve found more than a few remarks online from people who spent far too much time just wandering out pretty much the last area of the game, having no idea what to do - and that included me, until I looked up a guide to point me in the right direction.
This poor structure of the game is inhibited even more by just how slow everything is. Goku moves at a *crawl*, with no form of running to get you around faster. You do have a flight ability, but it requires you to collect orbs to keep it powered, and using it for movement, especially early on when you barely have any energy to actually fly, feels like a huge waste when you really need it to avoid getting your ass handed to you. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have hated how much the quest design wastes my time if I could just navigate the world to get around faster. At least when it comes to that quest design, the dialogue is generally pretty funny - especially when you take into account that entire episodes are basically being compressed into a single dialog box.
You see, whilst Legacy of Goku adapts the first two major arcs of Dragon Ball Z, it doesn’t remotely take the time to explore or really follow the storyline at all besides the bare necessity. The best example of this game’s blistering pace is when you finally visit King Kai’s planet - you’ll be doing what Goku did in the anime, catching Bubbles the Monkey and bopping Gregory the Cricket on the head with a hammer, but these tasks are so ridiculously easy I’d genuinely completed the entire King Kai section in two minutes flat. The fact is, Legacy of Goku is a very short game - I managed to plow through it in less than three hours, and a good third of that was probably getting my ass handed to me by animals, goons, or the Ginyu Force. As much as I loathe the side-quest design of this game, it was the only thing giving it any length - without that crap in the forest village, or the time wasting in Namek’s temple, one could probably blow through this game in less than an hour, which begs the question… why not actually adapt more of the actual events of the arcs? Don’t turn the lady of Snake Way into a single fight, stretch out King Kai’s training, I just don’t know, this game needs more actual content - I understand it’s the Legacy of *Goku*, but Goku really doesn’t do much in these early stages of Dragon Ball Z, and even the later games corrected on this by switching the focus to the other key members of the Z-Warriors. I understand this game was made on a budget, but… On the other hand, this relative short length does make this game’s shortcoming ever so slightly easier to bear, since I have to spend a whole less time dealing with this game’s BS. Not sure if that’s a defense or a criticism of the game, but it is what it is.
The main saving grace of Legacy of Goku is its audio-visual prowess. Considering this is 2002, this is a pretty good-looking game; the sprites and overall visual design look really clean, and it was a great foundation for the successive two games to build upon. Amazingly, this was also one of the first games to actually employ full motion videos within the game itself - sure, they look like they’re 144p at the very best, but it’s impressive all the same, and might I say, the definitive way to watch the ‘Rock the Dragon’ opening? Yes? Only me? Yes, probably me. Now, whilst the audio frequently doesn’t quite match what is going on in the actual game, Legacy of Goku’s soundtrack kinda slaps, having a very EDM-90’s vibe to it at times. It does blend together at times, but it does set a vibe at all points, even if that vibes doesn’t always match the situation. The UI, though, unfortunately feels extremely cheap, having a real ‘turn-of-the-century’ RPG vibe. Text boxes and menus look jank as all hell, and even the intro the game has nothing but a crunchy PNG of Goku to greet you. Honestly, if they’d spent a bit more time cleaning up the UI and just giving the game a cleaner UX, I think I’d look a bit more fondly back on Legacy of Goku.
Legacy of Goku is certainly, without a doubt, a game. It is horribly unbalanced, horrendously stunned, and has a quest design that does nothing but waste your time. Legacy of Goku is not a good game, but there is some dumb fun to be found - getting killed by wolves is hilariously stupid, but once you get Solar Flash, the game becomes a kind of hilarious punching bag situation. If it was any longer, I’d probably ward off anyone from playing this ever, but like I said - this game is short enough to mess around in. But at the end of the day, you’d probably be a lot happier spending your time and/or money on the later two games in the series - trust me, they’re way, way, waaaaay better than this weird little title.
Thank you for reading my review of Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku! I’m glad this game wasn’t as long as the other Legacy of Goku games… I think if it was any longer, it’d be rated a lot lower then other games I’ve played for this dumb website. Anyway, I’m off for the next week, but the week after I’ll be playing another short and sweet game… Dunno if it’ll be good or not. Guess it’ll depend on how much I like myself. As always, you can find me on Twitter @Lemmy7003, assuming it’s still there, or you can email me on email@example.com. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in my next review!