Saturday, April 18, 2009

AdVantage Point: Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Give an idiot a scanner and a comic book, and let him to pick out all the advertisements for video games. This is AdVantage Point -- a chance to document the winding timeline of comics/gaming history as it was canonized by the adverts. Musings, rantings, observations.

A non-descript dictionary defines "evolution" as; Any gradual process of growth or development.
You and I, without any predilection toward polite accuracy, would probably refer to those "developments" as improvements over the last generation. In this respect, the long awaited foray into live-action for Akira Toriyama's popular manga/anime series, Dragonball, has been unfortunately named.

Without a shred of discernible irony, Namco-Bandai wheel out the latest revision to their long running Dragonball [Z] fighting spin-offs, suffering two-fold for the Evolution title.
The PSP exclusive deserves perspective for the limitations of the device, but inevitably suffers the same ironies as the film. One can't help but think back to the farcical digitized era of the mid-nineties, where incestuous cross-promotion like this might've at least been in the company of similarly stupid stunts, ala; Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game.

As the 2000's reach their conclusion, Dragonball fanboys have a multitude of iterations on the Budokai series to satisfy all their fighting fanboy needs. Only the clinically obsessed of fanboy completists will feel compelled to round out their collection with this release. Paling in comparison to any of it's more canonically faithful predecessors, DB Evolution appears to be a moderately decent PSP fighter without even the quantifying trimmings that make each Budokai revision vaguely plausible. Also absent, of course, is the simple stylistic flair of the Toriyama style, or the variations of flashing energy and lights that made the fighter unique.

Obviously, the target of any movie tie-in game is to capitalize on the success of the film.
Kids in particular are likely to want to jump deep into their realm of familiarity. However, in the case of Dragonball Evolution, one wonders if marrying the contractual obligations with something more familiar to the hardcore audience, might not have been a wise move.
A contemporary reference might be the popular X-Men and Wolverine games that spun out of that movie dynasty, capitalizing on decades of continuity to attract nugget-seeking fans.

Of course, when it comes to the less narratively driven exploits of fighting games, those fan luring easter eggs leave you with a predicament similar to the Budokai franchise.
The comics franchises have done well to progress their instalments with what resembles a new plot for each game, but in the fiercely dedicated arena of Dragonball fandom, the Budokai series has embarked on a periodical process of refinement, releasing much the same game each time, albeit with incrementalized additions of obscure characters, and tweaked skills.

Street Fighter IV inspired a resurgence of interest in the classic franchise, but in it's execution, it largely reverted alterations made in the 1997 SFIII, returning to a more classic approach. Sure, it's an effective and intelligent decision, but lives or dies by the decade gap between the last version of SFIII (Third Strike in 1999), and the excitement of rediscovering a tweaked classic.

DBE might be the first substantial deviation for the fight franchise in quite some time, but I'm not sure there's reason to care. After yesterday's lamenting upon the death of Midway and the poor reputation of Mortal Kombat, I think we can all agree, this is something much worse. Even with the lure of playing as a Hawaiian shirted Chow Yun Fat!

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