Aside from Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Dragonball series is quite possibly one of the most established franchises in the world. And with most successful things in life, there’s a guarantee that cash-ins are going to be an appearance every-so-often. In the case of the Dragonball series, there has been a fair share of worthless merchandise and video games that are less entertaining than watching that old guy in the city that pukes for money. Every so often, though, there’s one video-game adaptation that stands out above the rest and assures fans a ride of a lifetime. Dragonball GT: Transformation is this adaptation. Fun for fans, boring for the rest of us.
This latest instalment in the franchise takes off shortly after the events witnessed in last year’s Dragonball Z: Buu’s Fury. All is well on Earth, at long last, where Goku is busy training Uub, his apprentice. However, it isn’t long until a new adventure awaits our heroes/heroines after the notorious Pilaf gathers the mysterious black star dragon balls and mistakenly wishes that Goku were made into a child. And here begins our story of GT. Goku and friends must now retrieve all the black star dragon balls, which just so happen to be scattered across the universe.
The plot is continually explained from planet to planet in nicely presented 2D cut-scenes as to why our starring characters are where they are. While the plot will be familiar to most Dragonball GT fans, the rest of us are left scratching our heads from planet to planet, as it’s clear the developers forgot to include any sort of background information, character bios or any sort of in-depth detail. Despite having any ‘real’ idea of why you’re on planets, Goku and friends battle their way through the depths of each planet to retrieve the missing dragon balls.
As a series that is profound for it’s superb twists and story, it’s sad to see a game that fails so miserably in a series of emotionless, flavourless and overall boring dialogue sequences that neither explains the story or makes any sort of excitement when the next twist of events occurs. It would’ve been ideal to leave the dialogue and story out of the game completely, as the lack of detail and emotion in this game is ridiculous and makes new Dragonball GT fans wither in pain. There’s absolutely no direction as to what gamers are doing, or as to why they’re fighting certain creatures. On one occasion, gamers will come across two enemy characters that supposedly want to get rid of you. Why exactly? Who knows. Somewhere within this game gamers are following some sort of story that describes the events of the GT series, although in an extremely loose presentation. It’s laughable when you go to a planet and leave with a new dragon ball, even though the story never indicated that you acquired one.
While the story telling in this game destroys any sort of motivation to continue playing, the overall gameplay is somewhat more enjoyable and will be the only reason for gamers to return to this game again. In previous titles, the focus on fighting revolved around a more ‘free’ and open action/RPG experience that felt more like an adventure than a beat-em-up title. Transformation, however, introduces a completely new style of presentation and fighting style that not only irons out the problems with the previous design, but also introduces a much more thrilling and more difficult fighting system – something the Legacy of Goku series lacked. Dragonball GT: Transformation plays a lot similar to any of your old-school 2D beat-em-up titles such as Final Fight or Double Dragon. This title doesn’t present anything new to the genre, but its overall design and accuracy provides one of the most satisfying Dragonball experiences available for the console.
The game takes place on a 2.5D screen, which allows players to manoeuvre around enemies. Much like previous titles in the series, characters can jump, run (dash), punch, kick, charge, slide, float and perform a number of unique energy attacks with a combination of button presses. Combat is fast, fluid and surprisingly very responsive as players make their way through each scenario beating down dozens of goons, robots, rocks and everything you’d expect to see within the Dragonball universe. While there are some noteable flaws with the design, on the whole the design is pretty well rounded and offers a bit more excitement than previously seen.
Throughout each level the player will be meet by a number of enemies they must defeat to progress to the next area on the screen. Bosses litter the end of each level, and play some sort of role in your progression to the next planet in the story. A particularly interesting aspect of the game is its team-oriented gameplay. In the story mode players will begin their adventure with Goku, Pan, and Trunks and throughout the adventure players have the ability to swap teammates at any time during the game. The only downside of this feature is that once a character who has lost health has been put in reserve, they will gradually regain health when they’re out of action. While in some areas, and depending on your skill level, this can be vital, the idea of standing stationery to regain health for your reserved characters seems a little unfair.
After completion of the story mode, gamers can unlock a number of new modes by spending a bit of money acquired through your adventure. There’s a single player mode, where you can pick which three character you use in your adventure (these can vary from Uub all the way to Super-Saiyan Goku), and play through the same game over again – sparing the details of the story – one planet at a time. In addition, there’s also a multiplayer, where you and a buddy can team up and play the game together. Aside from these three traditional modes, there’s also a few secret modes that can be incorporated into the single and multiplayer modes that liven up the experience a bit (such as the endurance, fight until you die mode). There’s absolutely a ton of unlockable features to be found within this game, but the only way to acquire these is to earn money. And to do that, players will have to continuously replay the same levels over and over again with little or no change from playing them in the story-mode. And having certain items at ridiculous prices isn’t much of a motivation factor either.
Graphically, the game shines above most GBA titles available on the market. All of the characters are bright, detailed and, on the whole, well animated. The backdrops and art style is well suited to the series and are rich in colour. The only noteable downside is the fact that a tall character, such as Trunks, can punch at his shoulder height but still seems to attack enemies half his size without any movement from his torso.
Unfortunately, the audio side of the game doesn’t seem to ooze out flair like the game’s graphical side. The music and sound effects are overall very simple and typical of a game if this genre. The music neither packs emotion or excitement to motivate gamers throughout their adventure.
In the end, Dragonball GT: Transformation is a game suited for the fans. Any new fans of the series will be able to run through the game in less than three hours, and will find no motivation to continue thereafter. However, the fans may find something within this game that sparks their interest for many hours more. Overall though, this game doesn’t introduce anything new or exciting to the series, and y the action/rpg style of the Legacy of Goku series is a much more suited gameplay style for the franchise. The appalling story progression and audio presentation only hinders the game’s success.