The Dragon Ball license seems to be a popular one on the Game Boy Advance. It seems to me that these days all I am playing is Dragon Ball, which would not be a bad thing except for the fact that I was not particularly a fan of the series beforehand, and I really cannot say that I am any more of a fan now. However, I did get a good chance to learn who the major players are with respect to the characters of this series, and I also had more than enough time to learn the very basics of some of the storylines. The first two games were Dragon Ball Z based, including Buu's Fury (an action adventure game) and Supersonic Warriors (a traditional 2D fighter).
Now we have a game based on Dragon Ball GT that is mainly an action game with some RPG-like elements added to the mix. I cannot help but get the feeling that this game follows the three-steps-to-game-creation formula as follows: step one pick a genre (action-RPG), step two license a popular series (Dragon Ball GT), step three copy a classic game that was created in this genre before. Rinse and repeat for sequels. Before I pass all of my judgment maybe we should take a look at all of the details of the game instead of making a harsh critique and conclusion at this point.
Dragon Ball GT: Transformation is developed by Webfoot Technologies who also developed the Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku series of games for the Game Boy Advance. Published by Atari, it is best described as mainly an action game with some RPG elements. As the first of two planned Dragon Ball GT games, Transformation follows the storyline from the Child Goku Saga to the Baby Saga and offers the ability to play as Goku, Trunks, Pan and Uub.
The basic premise of the game is to fight through various stages in order to recover the Blackstar Dragon Balls to ultimately save the planet Earth. The levels themselves are different planets on which the Dragon Balls may be located. Each stage is a traditional left-to-right running level whereby players encounter many enemies of different varieties, a sub-boss and finally a main boss at the end. In my opinion, and at the risk of making yet another old-school type comparison, this game seems much like the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles based games that were found on the NES back in the day. Personally, although the premise was simple even back then when most games were not as complex as they are today, those games were a lot of fun to play. However, this is not really the case with Dragon Ball GT: Transformation.
First, the idea of the game is to choose a character to play in a level based on different strengths and weaknesses. The more a specific character is played, the stronger he or she becomes (leveling up as players progress through the game). If one character dies in a stage, another can be selected to continue from where the last one left off, until all of the characters are terminated or the stage is completed. At this point any dead characters are resurrected to continue on with the next part of the storyline. Any middle of the road gamer will be able to complete most stages with any single character (regardless of level), and those of us who may be less-skilled will not find much trouble completing the stages with three characters the first time around. Each stage can be replayed to collect more Zenie (awarded for time spent in levels, combos, and other similar goals) which are then used to unlock the game's secrets.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of variety in the enemies encountered throughout the stages, making the game excessively repetitive as players must destroy the same type of enemy repeatedly to the point of boredom before moving to the final boss of each level. It seems as though there was a lack of time or inspiration in level design in this game; as though the developers had a good idea, but not enough time or creativity to exploit it to its fullest extent. Another example of this is the lack of interactive objects found in the game's environment. There are only a handful of these objects to be found in each level and although goodies such as extra health are not really required because the game's difficulty level is quite easy, a few other pickups or even items to throw or launch at enemies would have been appreciated (remember the parking meters and fire hydrants anyone?).
This is precisely the main problem with the game; the levels themselves seem all too repetitive and simple. With the aforementioned issues, each level basically boils down to a different background from the last and possibly (if you're lucky) different enemies. Every now and then there is the level whereby players do not even move at all because the stage is a fixed size and a certain predetermined number of enemies keep appearing until eventually the boss does. The graphics themselves are nothing to get excited about either, the backgrounds are different, but each is repetitive within its stage and extremely basic.
Dragon Ball GT: Transformation is a mediocre game that would be much better with more polish in the gameplay department. If the levels had some variety, the backgrounds were a little more inspired and there were simply more interactive objects and enemies, this game would score much higher, it would play much better, and overall be a lot more fun. However, as it stands, the game is a little too repetitive and the only reply value is for those dedicated gamers who will collect enough Zenie to unlock all of the secrets. For the average gamer looking for simple fun or the hardcore Dragon Ball fan, this game will be a hit. For the rest of us, we can only hope that the sequel sees some improvements.