A title that's part platformer, part beat 'em up, part fighter, and all Dragon Ball.
The Dragon Ball Z franchise has become so popular that fans are likely to forget that before this there was Dragon Ball, a series that followed Son Goku as a child. Even though it featured many action sequences, Dragon Ball was cartoonier and more lighthearted, envisioning the fantasy world as one viewed with the innocence of a child. Despite Dragon Ball's relegation to the background, the Dragon Ball Z franchise is so strong that games based on the original series are still being made. Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo is the newest iteration of the expansive saga, and it successfully combines several gaming genres to create one title that fans should enjoy.
The game starts off with Adventure Mode, which follows the storyline of the original series and recreates many important events using animated and still cutscenes. Each saga contains a series of stages, presented in a manner similar to the Super Mario Bros. games (1-1, 1-2 etc.). One half of the game is platforming-based, allowing Goku to explore the levels, jump to higher levels, and even discover hidden treasure. When enemies approach, the game then becomes a beat 'em up akin to arcade titles like Final Fight. Exploration is locked until you beat all the enemies, with Goku using his trademark moves to vanquish his foes.
Goku has a basic combo attack, but during certain moments he can lock onto his enemies and perform an air combo or dash. He can also block and evade enemy attacks. Finally, in true Dragon Ball fashion, Goku can unleash his trademark attack, the Kamehame wave, an energy beam blast that causes a lot of damage. Once all enemies are defeated the game returns to platforming. When the player reaches the end of the level, a boss fight begins. When the entire level is complete, your score is tallied and you are graded on your performance. The quicker you beat the level and the less continues you use, the better your grade will be.
In addition to Adventure Mode, there is a Tournament Mode that works like a 3D fighter, recreating the series' iconic one-on-one battles. The fighting aspect uses the same engine as the main adventure, but works very well despite being a secondary addition to the game. All of Dragon Ball's characters are present as playable characters, but since Dragon Ball takes place years before Dragon Ball Z many of the characters born in that era - such as Gohan, Vegeta, and Frieza - are not present.
Like in many of the Dragon Ball-based games, there are additional bonuses to unlock. During your adventure you will collect Zeni (Dragon Ball's currency), which can be used to purchase 3D character models, cutscenes, voices, and music. You can also collect power-ups that will help your character in the tournament mode, an element common in the Dragon Ball Z fighting games.
Revenge of King Piccolo achieves something very few multi-genre games can: it successfully combine genres that complement each other well. While both the platforming and the fighting are limited compared to other titles, both of them work tremendously, creating a title that truly captures the high-spirited energy of the Dragon Ball series. Despite the 2.5D plane, Goku has enough freedom to walk around each level. This is convenient when battling enemies and evading their attacks.
Revenge of King Piccolo does have a certain level of redundancy, but the battles are very balanced and the pace is great. You will spend equal time exploring the level and battling enemies, making the experience that much easier to enjoy.
The only flaws present are those related to the story. While it is understandable that it can be hard to sum up the entire Dragon Ball storyline in just a few hours, the story is brief and not as engaging as the original source material. In other words, the story is there to explain why Goku is fighting X and Y villain, not truly diving into the character development fans of the series have come to expect.
The visual presentation is a mixture of highs and lows. The entire Dragon Ball franchise is one that is very colorful thanks to the exuberant art style of Akira Toriyama, the series' creator, and Revenge of King Piccolo preserves this very well. The characters are cel-shaded, giving them an anime look while still being in 3D. It makes for gameplay that looks exactly like the series that inspired it.However, the enemy models are re-used constantly, and the environments lack the level of detail seen in the characters themselves.
The music is also clearly inspired by the series, even if the individual tunes aren't that memorable or even integral to the experience. All of the original voice actors return to voice the digital versions of their characters, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good because the whole package feels complete with the actors in place, but bad because not only are their voices very high pitched, but they also tend to narrate every option in the menu, which becomes grating.
Revenge of King Piccolo is a Dragon Ball title worth trying out, especially if you are a Dragon Ball fan that wants to take a break from all of the Dragon Ball Z fighting games. The combination of classic game genres make for a title that is balanced, engaging, and loyal to the franchise. Once more, if you are a fan, don't hesitate to try this one out.