Dragon Ball is a popular Japanese anime series currently making headway in the US. The series' content makes for a perfect fighting game: lots of flying guys, all of whom have the ability to shoot fireballs. Several Dragon Ball fighting games are already on the Super Famicom, Mega Drive, and PlayStation, none of which have seen the light of day here. Dragon Ball Final Bout is out in Japan, and it's likely that it will be the first DB game to be released stateside. While Dragon Ball Final Bout is probably among the best DB games around, that still doesn't make it a good game - and it is not a good game.
The graphics in DBFB are a mixed bag. The characters themselves look decent and remain faithful to the animated series' artwork, but the backgrounds are absolutely horrible. In some cases, the playing field is nothing more than a flat, green plane with nothing in the distance. The characters animate decently, although the entire game moves at a fairly slow pace. The only saving grace of the game's appearance are the great looking projectile attacks, which, unlike Street Fighter's contained blasts, are huge beam-like blasts that stretch all the way across the screen. Also, when the other player counters with a huge blast of his own, the two projectiles collide, and the camera spins around as the beams battle for dominance. The characters aren't very diverse, due in part to the series' rather convoluted timeline, and results in Final Bout containing four different incarnations of some characters, each from a different part of the series. So while you can choose between 17 characters (see the codes section for info on how to get more than the original eight characters), most of them are nearly identical.
The gameplay in this title is truly atrocious. There is a real lack of variety in the game's moves, with each character having a punch, kick, block, fireball, a few special fireballs, and some normal specials, like dragon punches and the like. The game comes to a complete stop whenever a special energy blast is used and gives the opponent a chance to counter the attack with an energy blast of his own, but the system is totally flawed. During the first player's warm-up motions, the word counter flashes on the screen for a split second. When it appears, the opponent has a chance to hit different buttons. Depending on what he hits, the opponent can block the blast, absorb the blast, or counter with a blast of his own, resulting in the impressive projectile battle mentioned above. The characters in the world of Dragon Ball can fly at will, but when you stop flying, the character simply takes his standing position in midair. This, well, just looks silly.
Dragon Ball Final Bout is a poor excuse for a fighting game. It relies too heavily on the license, tossing interesting gameplay right out the window. If you have to import a fighting game, just pick up Tobal 2. You'll be much happier in the long run.