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Dragon Ball Origins DS Review

27/05/2010 Thinking Story Gamer Review
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Dragon Ball Origins DS

Dragon Ball Origins




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Dragon Ball: Origins DS doesn't make a great case for the legendary manga/anime franchise, with tepid storytelling and creepy visuals.

Dragon Ball is a big deal, a franchise over 25 years old that encompasses manga, anime, live action movies and, yes, games.

Although the manga began in 1984, it took the best part of a couple of decades for the series to break the west in a major way, only making a splash in the US and UK in the last decade.

However, once it did hit, it hit big. For a lot of British kids growing up in the last ten years, Dragon Ball is the equivalent of Power Rangers or Pokemon - a J-pop phenomenon they could take wholly to heart, but which proves almost impenetrable for most adults.

I'm thirty four years old. I don't understand a word of it.

Dragonball: Origins would, I hoped, be a suitable point of introduction for a cultural phenomenon which had completely passed me by.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

But it's a charmless game, with un-engaging characters and a flat storyline.

Origins is a technically competent game: it uses the DS well, with an exceptional degree of graphical, 3D oomph squeezed on to those two screens.

But it's a charmless game, with un-engaging characters and a flat storyline. Boy meets girl, who tells him about a famous treasure: they go on a quest to find it. It's a simple story, and one which could easily work, but the quest itself seems to be mainly a matter of running around the woods, punching lizards and pigs.

The character models don't help: authentic designs from the flat page are bent around 3D models, resulting in weird puppet-people with painted on expressions. The mouths don't move, as such, but alternate between stock manga expressions, including broad, grins.

They all look terribly sinister, which I'm fairly sure is not supposed to be the case: these are the heroes. Their dialogue is flat, witless and, when it tries to be funny or coy, downright creepy.

I wanted to be charmed by Goku, and engaged by his search, but the game didn't give me anything to hook on to.

It may be that, to the initiated, it is simply enough to portray these characters authentically, and refer to the quest for the Dragon Balls, and the player is supposed to be lathered up into a fannish excitement.

However, as a newcomer, I needed to be persuaded of why this was all so interesting and exciting. I wanted to be charmed by Goku, and engaged by his search, but the game didn't give me anything to hook on to. All I got was a kid walking out of a shed to wander through the woods with a girl he's only just met, to gather some amazingly powerful artefacts the point of which were never really explained.

For the converted, Dragon Ball: Origins may well provide some authentic thrills. For the unconverted, like myself, the wait for an entrypoint into a story that already has millions of enthralled devotees continues.

Written by Mark Clapham

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Mark Clapham writes the Story Gamer column.

"I love a good story. Games tell many different stories: the stories told through cut scenes and dialogue, but also the stories that emerge through gameplay, the stories players make for themselves."

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