About twenty-eight years ago hardly any fan of the series would have had the courage and sincerity to admit it, but with the exception of the unforgettable Dragon Ball Z: The Legend, the PlayStation One titles based on Akira Toriyama’s hugely popular manga really left something to be desired. After the recent special dedicated to the aforementioned Dragon Ball Z: The Legend, which in Europe saw the light only on Sega Saturn, we decided to unlock another memory dating back to the PS1 era and examine Dragon Ball: Final Bout, a fighting game with extremely woody gameplay.
Dragon Ball GT, we are (almost) all here
Developed by Tose Software, a Japanese studio that had previously made numerous Dragon Ball video games for NES and SNES, Dragon Ball: Final Bout was the third and last tie-in of the work to land on PlayStation One.
Released all over the world between the months of August and November 1997, the product – which in North America only is also known as Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout – holds at least three firsts: not only is the fighting game packaged by Tose’s boys it was the first title in the series to be inspired by Dragon Ball GT (an animated series not taken from the original manga which had not yet ended when the game was released on the Japanese market), but it was, among other things, the first tie-in of the franchise to boast three-dimensional graphics and receive an official localization in English.
From Dragon Ball: Shenlong no nazo to Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension, passing through the three Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden, all the previous iterations of the brand that arrived on our side of the globe had in fact only been translated into French and Spanish, also because Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22, which the Japanese and European audiences were able to play already between 1995 and 1996, would only arrive in America in late 2003.
On the other hand, it must be said that, of the three Dragon Ball titles that have become part of the PlayStation One playground, Final Bout was the poorest in terms of content, as the game only featured 17 playable characters , of which seven are unlockable by completing the main mode on any difficulty level.
If the basic roster included only adult and child Goku, Pan, Trunks, Vegeta Super Saiyan 2 and Ultimate Gohan in the DBZ version, Piccolo, Freeza, Perfect Cell and Kid Buu, by overcoming the various challenges proposed by the arcade mode it was also possible to obtain Adult Goku Super Saiyan from GT and Super Saiyan 2 from DBZ, Child Goku Super Saiyan, Future Trunks Super Saiyan, Vegetto Super Saiyan and the iconic Goku Super Saiyan 4, whose unlock conditions were a little special. In order to challenge and therefore get your hands on the warrior with a thick, hairy red coat, which alternatively could also be unlocked through a trick to be performed on the initial screen, it was in fact necessary to defeat the final boss of the arcade mode on maximum difficulty and without reporting no damage. A far from impossible feat, which however could require more than one attempt, also because the opponent in question was a gigantic beast that occupied a large part of the screen.
As longtime fans will certainly remember, we are talking about Super Baby (or Baby Vegeta Golden Oozaru, if you prefer), a wrestler who, despite the imaginative and completely unfounded urban legends circulating at the time, could not be added to the roster playable if not using the Game Shark (a peripheral that allowed the insertion of particular tricks).
We still don’t know if the non-insertion among the selectable characters was intentional or if instead it was simply due to a lack of time on the part of the developer, however if the player used the Game Shark to impersonate the ape in arcade mode, at the time of facing the final boss was faced with a recolored version of Super Baby afflicted with an incomplete and very strange polygonal model to see.
Little joys and big pains
Without detracting from the poverty of content, the main reason why Dragon Ball: Final Bout is not remembered as a purely successful tie-in, however, must be sought in the woody and superficial combat system, as well as far from the frenetic pace reached by the clashes of the franchise. Moreover, the game was penalized by inaccurate controls, often embarrassing reaction times and a truly trivial combo system, which with a few well-aimed hits allowed the opponent to be knocked out immediately.
If as a result boredom knocked on the door after a few meetings, it should be specified that the longevity of Dragon Ball: Final Bout was around two to three hours, also because the Tose Software creature didn’t have the story mode that only the year before he had instead sanctioned the fortune of Dragon Ball Z: The Legend.
In short, if from a playful point of view Dragon Ball: Final Bout was a half-disaster, the same cannot be said for the musical accompaniment, which presented rearrangements of the melodies used in the DBZ titles for NES and SNES, instrumental versions of the songs included in the feature films, and even some theme songs such as the amazing “Hikari No Will Power” dedicated to Future Trunks (by the way, if you want to try your hand at an excellent game from the franchise, we recommend reading our review of Dragon Ball Z Kakarot).
If nothing else, of Dragon Ball: Final Bout we will also be able to continue to remember with pleasure the fantastic opening video shot by the Japanese director Mitsuo Hashimoto (former director of Dragon Ball Z: The origin of the myth, The challenge of the invincible warriors and The destiny of the Saiyan) and the song “The Biggest Fight” by the legendary Hironobu Kageyama, who after the timeless “Cha-La Head-Cha-La” and “We Gotta Power” would sing, in the years to come, also the intros of various Budokai, Budokai Tenkaichi and the two Raging Blasts. Not a small sop, for a game that unfortunately didn’t work properly.
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