Released exclusively for the PlayStation 2 last month, Super Dragon Ball Z is an anime-inspired fighting game that originally appeared in Japanese arcades. Shortly before the game's release, we caught up with its chief producer Daisuke Uchiyama and Crafts & Meister studio head Noritaka Funamizu, who answered some questions for us.
GameSpot: How will the gameplay in this game differ from past DBZ games?
Daisuke Uchiyama: We've developed Super Dragon Ball Z as an all-new fighting style with the creative talent behind the now-legendary arcade game Street Fighter II. We strongly believe that we can successfully bring the deepest DBZ fighter ever. The other DBZ fighting games have always offered really rich fighting experiences, but we feel like this one will appeal more to people who are fans of games like Street Fighter, because it really takes skill to master the game and do well. Each character has its own unique fighting moves and controls, giving fighting-game and DBZ fans alike more skills and moves to master. A player will individualize each character and connect deeply with each character, to the point where they can say, "I am the ultimate Gohan master!" or "I have confidence when it comes to using Piccolo in the Namek stage!"
GS: Can we look for any characters we haven't seen in previous games?
DU: Even though there are only 18 characters in this game, we are still offering up new characters for DBZ fans. Cyborg Frieza is an all-new character that has never been seen in the DBZ world before, which is a very big deal. Videl, King Piccolo, and Chi-Chi have been around, but they have not appeared in the games before.
GS: There have been many Dragon Ball Z games over the years. What makes this one different?
DU: The game creator is the most different. Having Noritaka Funamizu bring his talent to the game really helped us to accomplish what we were trying to do--bringing a different DBZ fighting experience to our fans. Every day of our lives pass us by ever so quickly. In the gaming industry, there are a lot of innovations and technologies brought to our attention every single day, and as a game producer, we really need to be aware of these changes. However, I strongly believe that creating games mostly relies on the creator, and we could bring a different kind of DBZ play style to Super Dragon Ball Z this time because of the synergy between Namco Bandai Games and Crafts & Meister.
GS: Can you discuss what you wanted to achieve with the game (for example, a more hardcore fighting game)?
DU: When bringing the Dragon Ball Z universe to life with a full-fledged fighting-game concept, the most difficult problem we encountered was handling DBZ characters' special abilities like, for example, flying around the sky while shooting energy blasts.
Most fighting games consist of a three-dimensional battle stage where a two-dimensional positional axis exists between the two players. However, because in Super Dragon Ball Z characters are able to fly freely around the stages, a homing-attack system has been implemented to create a game that harmoniously blends together the skill and tactical elements of a fighting game while staying true to the DBZ franchise and what its fans have come to expect from it. I'm very excited about gamers experiencing the freedom of flying, the exhilaration of actually performing each combo themselves, and unmatched battle excitement.
GS: Can you talk about what it was like to work with Mr. Funamizu and with Akira Toriyama on this game and what makes their involvement so special?
DU: It was a beautiful experience for me to work with two excellent creators. I should not talk much about them personally, but my biggest challenge was how to introduce Mr. Funamizu's game talent to the Dragon Ball Z universe.
GS: How did you use your experience with past fighting games to guide your work on this latest DBZ game?
Noritaka Funamizu: I have tried to balance everything out well to bring out unique moves from each of Dragon Ball Z's characters. I strongly believe that uniqueness of each character is something we cannot experience in other regular fighting games! I have obviously worked on other fighting games before where characters have had unique fighting styles, but I think this is so unique because fans feel such a strong identity to DBZ characters like Goku, Vegeta, and Gohan. I wanted to make sure that I was being true to the style of each of the characters that fans have come to expect, while also giving fans the ability to do things like steal their enemies' moves to use for their characters within the game.
GS: Have you been a longtime fan of Dragon Ball?
NF: Of course, yes. I have been a big fan of Dragon Ball from a long time ago. I prefer comics than TV animation.
GS: Who's your favorite character?
NF: That's Krillin! He is the best fighter than any other earthman! Many DBZ fans are fans of Goku and Vegeta, but I love Krillin because he is a very hard worker and always puts all his efforts to catching up with Goku.
GS: You were a producer on one of the most successful fighting franchises ever, Street Fighter. What made you want to work on Super DBZ?
NF: That's because I have been impressed with Mr. Akira Toriyama, original author of all Dragon Ball series. Especially his unique touch on arts is very fascinating.
I really wanted to challenge my experience on Dragon Ball, which everybody in the world loves. Like I said previously, working on this DBZ game also required me to be more careful in how I was treating each of the characters to make sure that I was staying true to Toriyama's vision and also what fans have come to expect from the characters. This is different than other games I have worked on where people have not identified as closely with individual characters.
GS: Can you give us an overview of the fighting system and what players can do?
NF: I want players to experience the game for themselves, but they can expect exciting and exclusive features for Super DBZ, which are to learn a variety of skills (moves), to exchange skills between characters, and also to develop your favorite character in your favorite way!
GS: Can you talk about the characters and what the best fighting moves are for Goku, Vegeta, Cell, and Frieza?
Goku is well balanced for both close and long-range fighting situations. Goku is perfect for the beginners. Once he learns the super cancel move, he is able to use a very powerful chained combo attack.
Vegeta is Goku's rival and is well balanced overall, as well, but his specialty is long-range attacks. A good choice on his skill tree would be the super cancel move, which will make him even more powerful.
A balanced character that has strong close and long-range attacks. He also has many ki attacks and no blind spots. The many skills available for him to learn make him a fun character to develop.
Frieza can use tricky attacks such as warping and ki attacks that change trajectory in flight. His red-sphere throw is easy to use and should definitely be one of your choices.
GS: Thanks for your time.