WARNING: If you don’t know anything about Dragon Ball Z, you won’t understand one ***damned word of this review. I know that’s par for the course in my reviews anyway, but this is product-relevant.
What bothers me the most about Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiya Densetsu—Or Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiyan if you prefer English—is not the almost amateur-quality job they did in porting the Vegeta and Freeza sagas to a quasi-turn based RPG, it’s the fact that the almost amateur-quality job they did in porting the Vegeta and Freeza sagas is the BEST version of the first 50% of Dragon Ball Z, to date.
In fact, today, I’d say I’ve never played a game quite like Legend of the Super Saiyan and the game is definitely a lot better and more fun than it deserves to be.
Back in the day, I was one of those DBZ fanatics. Even today, certain scenes will genuinely get me emotional, which is an incredible feat for a show as mythical in critical assessment as it is in popularity. I don’t think I can go out on a limb saying that DBZ always focused on characters instead of brains, the incredible characters and their even more amazing fighting powers are iconic, but not long into DBZ‘s vast story, Toriyama made the mistake of slowly but surely phasing almost every character right out of the picture. It was a huge plot device in the first half of DBZ for Goku to be gone and then spend every moment of the rest of the story, up until his insane fight with Freeza, trying to reunite with everyone. In that period, his son and his friends had to take over protecting Earth. Then, in one horrifying battle, most of them died under the hands of invaders so powerful, the story could have easily ended right there. Gohan, Krillin, Yajirobe of all people, and a finally-arrived Goku just BARELY saved the day, but lost the Dragon Balls in the process. They spent the remaining 25% of the story trying to find a way to get their four friends back.
And for what? Just so NONE OF THEM COULD BE RELEVANT AGAIN. Piccolo was at least instrumental in trying to stay one step ahead of the threats, but Yamcha, Tien, Chaozu, and then Krillin just faded right out of relevance. What was the point in even reviving them?
Well, and easily the best part of Legend of Super-Saiyan, they address this problem head-on by saying, “Ok, we know Piccolo had to die, but why the others? Hey, I got an idea…” and now the bone-crushing defeat of the Earthlings to the Saiyans is completely OPTIONAL.
That’s right, LoSS only keeps a loose association with the first half of DBZ and the results are surprisingly stellar. The main points, A. Rescue Gohan from Raditz, B. Train and defeat the Saiyans, C. Go to Namek to retrieve Dragon Balls, D. Defeat Freeza’s army and then Freeza himself, are all there in succession, but the way they get there is almost completely uprooted—for the better.
To make this game work as a weird Dragon Quest (meta) or Phantasy Star kinda RPG, a lot of contrived elements had to come in. Now you have to go through caves to get to places you should be able to fly to, but now can’t for no reason. To make random encounters, you now fight about a million different kinds of Saibamen and clones of Freeza’s henchmen (because apparently he had even stronger versions of the Ginyu force in fat numbers just flying around Namek waiting for you). That part is really weird, but the way the game portrays it, it really doesn’t seem like a huge bother.
I mentioned earlier the game is almost amateur-quality, and that part also remains true. You can kinda tell in the graphics and the (admittingly catchy) limited number of music cues that they didn’t feel like going too many extra miles here. There aren’t really any side quests or much of a point in even WALKING the main map most of the time. There are occasional houses you can go to for some extra information and shops to buy items and practice raising your KI, but there’s almost no RPG in this RPG at all—everything goes to the plot progression and the fighting system.
And the fighting system, I must add, does an EXTREMELY good job of pretty much explaining all that wacky power level and logistics that the supermen of DBZ use during their fights. It’s actually a card-based fighting system with a variety of attack cards, most of which are the pugilist kind with emblems on them that can match certain characters’ emblems for a free kick-everyone-in-the-ass hit, and one which is a KI card—allowing you to use the Kamehameha, Special Beam Cannon, Spirit Bomb, Tri-Beam, Garlic Gun, etc. Each card you play has a rating for attack and subsequent defense (because the enemies are going to hit you back) and they range from 1 (worst attack/defense) to Z (best attack/defense). Getting the right number can make all the difference in how well you fare against a boss 2-3x your power level—especially the Ki attacks.
Honestly, the fighting is a lot of fun. Fighting Recoome and Guido with the full Z-fighter group while Goku is due to arrive literally any second is killer. A long, drawn-out RPG fight with beams and surprise flying attacks becomes a lot more rewarding this way. Items you use in battle are also extremely useful —ranging from full heals to items that increase your power level for the duration of the fight 25%-50%. Some add a Z offensively or defensively while another turns any card into a KI card.
And the other secret weapon to this game? Easter Eggs. There’s a lot of surprises in store for you in this game. You can immediately level up a Saiyan by giving them a full heal item when they’re only a few HP away from death. If you gain too many levels on your way to Raditz, you can actually skip the cave altogether, you can fight Kui a lot earlier, and, if you play your cards right (pun not intended this time), you can even super charge your human characters to EASILY outpower Freeza. Hell, even becoming a Super Saiyan is optional in this game!
This is just a great little title—it is completely unassuming yet really packs a punch where it needs to. If you’ve even occasionally glanced at DBZ, I recommend trying this game out. Bring some badly needed balance to DBZ and make Yamcha, Tien and Chaozu useful again!