Get ready for the second origin.
The story of the Dragon Ball franchise exists as a blurry childhood memory in my mind. Images of children with giant hair, glowing people screaming in the sky, and an evil pink blob fighting a green man are about the only scenes I can clearly recall. My experiences with Dragon Ball and gaming are slightly more robust, as for quite some time I enjoyed the Budokai series of fighting games.
How fortuitous then, that I was able to play a game focused on the origins of the series. Dragon Ball: Origins 2 opens as a young Goku embarks on his journey to obtain the seven Dragon Balls. The plot and characters are standard anime fare, but the game presents itself so well that you cannot help but get sucked into the Dragon Ball world.
Origins 2 strives to create the feeling that one is playing through a television series, so much so that levels are called episodes. Each level really does feel like an episode, and in the earlier "seasons," this structure pushes the player along at a brisk pace. Cut scenes are presented in-engine, so that they share the vibrant and cartoon-like graphical style of the game itself. This is said about many games, but Dragon Ball really is like playing a cartoon.
Dragon Ball is mechanically and visually similar to the DS Zelda games. The resemblance to Zelda is most apparent when Origins 2 throws puzzles at the player, but the puzzles rarely approach the complexity of a Zelda game. Instead, levels largely consist of extended segments of brawling that culminate in a battle with that episode's boss. Dragon Ball's combat system is built on simple button combinations to form attacks, dashes, blocks and a few other kinds of moves. While I found the fighting to be repetitive and far from challenging, there is satisfaction to be had in the nearly mindless brawling.
The combat only fails when it is stretched out across levels that are far too long. For the first hour or two of the game, Origins 2 strikes the perfect balance between each episode's length, combat, and story. It is only when levels start to stretch out that I found my patience wearing thin. The game's monotony does not hold up well during long sequences of pure combat.
Longer levels also expose the frustrating save system that often requires players to redo 10 minute chunks of game after an unexpected death. Most bosses lack a save point before them, so if you cannot pick up on a boss' patterns the first time around, you are simply out of luck.
It is a shame that the game quickly loses sight of its quirky and engaging presentation in favor of its less inspiring combat. Ultimately, it was this loss of focus that lowered my opinion on what was at first an exciting romp through the Dragon Ball fiction. Those with more patience than me, or those who cannot get enough Dragon Ball may be able to squeeze more fun out of Origins 2 with the unlockable bonus episodes and multiplayer compatible boss-rush mode.
After being so disappointed by the poorly paced episodes, it is easy to forget all of the good things about Dragon Ball: Origins 2. The presentation is top-notch, and the combat is entertaining in bursts. The game has a simplistic leveling system that does add to the sense of progression, and there are places in Origins 2 where the developers mix things up with a visiting character or separate mode. The good does outshine the bad in Origins 2, just not enough to make it worth most people's while.