A Wonderful DBZ Adventure
First of all, this is a Monolith game. You know, the guys who did Super Robot Taisen OG Saga, among other notable titles. So, you expect to see at least a handful of unique nuances, and Attack of the Saiyans definitely has its share of cool features. Battles aren't active in the same way as OG Saga or the Mario & Luigi RPGs, but you do interact by way of something called Active Guard. When a party member is about to be attacked, you press a corresponding face button at just the right time to activate the Active Guard, which allows you to take less damage than normal. It's a nice, little extra that keeps you involved without convoluting battles. Had they gone the route of OG Saga, requiring players to input commands each time you're about to make contact with an enemy, I think it might have been too much for the type of attacks Goku and the gang generally execute.
And the attacks are really flashy, satisfying, and fun to watch. What's more, you get to assign stats to each character in the way you see fit. It's nice to be able to, once again, mold characters in an RPG. So many games today give you only minute control over how the gameplay is shaped. Here, each character can have a specific focus, determined in part by how you invest AP. You spend AP to unlock and level up special attacks (that use Ki, the equivalent of mana in most other RPGs) and skills, and since specials are reliant on either your characters' Power or Tech stat, that really plays heavily into how you build up each party member. It's a fun system, but nothing terribly complicated.
For me, what wraps Attack of the Saiyans up so nice and tightly is the pacing. I never, ever had to grind for levels, something completely uncommon in most RPGs, and both the gameplay and story have such a great ebb and flow. Like the manga series, the story is broken up into chapters, and the dialogue is excellent…well, for what it is. If the kid inside you is locked up in a closet somewhere within your memory's horde, then you might not "get it." Otherwise, this game offers a great story, both fans and newcomers will have fun with.
The gameplay is balanced really well, but you will still be dealing with random encounters. I'm pretty old school, and this type of approach doesn't bother me. I think DQIX achieved the perfect medium when it comes to monster agro in an RPG, but I don't mind random battles so long as I don't have to endlessly grind. I wouldn't say Attack of the Saiyans is too easy, either. Monolith merely manages to trim away most of the unnecessary and frustrating bits, allowing you to just kick back and enjoy the ride. If you play sensibly, you can explore each dungeon fully without focusing on leveling up, yet you'll still be challenged.
The presentation is also excellent, though I won't lie – I'm partial to polygons. However, you're not going to see many here. There are a few, very subtle effects tossed into the mix, but everything else is 2D fare. With that said, it's still a detailed and pretty world. The sprites look good, and the backgrounds are authentic to the Dragon Ball universe. Character stills are expressive, offering a polished representation of the Akira Toriyama art style. Oh yeah, and Bulma is still hot!
The sound effects, music, and voice blurbs are all great additions to the game. If you've watched the animated series or played other DBZ games, you should recognize quite a handful of the themes in this game, and when you mix the crazy visual style with the thumping music and attack sounds during battle, combat is pretty exciting. There are no actual voice-overs during cutscenes, but each character has a cool selection of utterances they yell out during battle. It's a complete presentation that makes smart use of the respective hardware.
Again, I'm only a casual fan of this franchise, but I had a lot of fun with the game. Attack of the Saiyans is a meaty adventure with solid, entertaining gameplay. If I have one gripe, it's that there's no mini-map when exploring dungeon areas. That one complaint aside, the presentation is brilliant. Attack of the Saiyans has a great story, delightful characters, and the game is well worth the asking price.