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Dragon Ball Z: Bu Yuu Retsuden


A couple days ago, the news broke that Akira Toriyama had suddenly passed away at the age of 68. Like literally everyone else on Earth, I was heartbroken. While I have more or less only ever talked about Astro Boy and some lesser-known anime titles on this site, of fucking course I love me some Dragon Ball. I distinctly remember being a little third grader, having to wake up super early on Sunday mornings (I think 8 AM?), turn on the TV to Fox 31, and gambling on the 50/50 chance that an episode of Dragon Ball would air. There was an even lower chance that it would be a new episode! I remember the series constantly restarting from episode 1 after Goku and friends stopped Emperor Pilaf from taking over the world, and thinking that was the entirety of the show. Then one day, a new series called Dragon Ball Z was announced. Once again, waking up early and risking the gamble that I would actually see Dragon Ball Z and not, God Forbid, some sort of educational bullshit. Much like the original Dragon Ball, the TV station did not have more than the first arc. Actually, the station had less episodes this time; it was always right around the time Tien would his shit kicked in by Nappa that the next episode would be Raditz landing on Earth again. Then Fox stopped airing the shows at all, and I was bummed.

Then a few years later, Cartoon Network and Toonami would come along and actually air both shows in their entirety. Kind of. See, new (new to the US) episodes were still actively being localized while older episodes were being aired, and since it takes a lot more time and effort to translate dialogue, edit footage, and record new lines, I would still have to sit through series resets. At least this time, this was after I got home from school, and not having to wake up early in order to be disappointed (I was a child, I did not understand how hard it is to create a show, especially an animated one). This happened for years, up until I was in high school. I think my freshman year was the last year I was a Dragon Ball superfan. By this point, I was growing tired of watching a show that would never end. I was tired of seeing filler episodes all the time. I was getting older, while the fanbase was getting younger, and at 14 years old, I didn’t need to be hanging around on forums and fansites full of 8 year olds, I needed to be around weebs my age. On top of all that, this was when the anime floodgates finally broke, and we were spoiled for shows to watch. Is my moody teenage self going to rewatch all of Dragon Ball again, sometimes the same episode two or three weeks in a row, where all of my favorite characters get immediately murdered by Dabura, or I am going to start watching Cowboy Bebop? So while I still love me some Dragon Ball, I didn’t get to see the end of the Buu Saga until much later in life. I still haven’t seen Dragon Ball GT (though I am told I haven’t missed anything with that), or Dragon Ball Super.

Before I felt like I was getting too old for DBZ, I was fucking obsessed with it. I had so many fansites bookmarked, I was posting in a whole bunch of MSN and Yahoo groups, and I’m not too embarrassed to admit I was in more than a few roleplay boards too. I liked roleplaying as Vegeta, or an Original Character a lot like Vegeta, because of course I did, I was an edgy teen, and Vegeta is the perfect character for edgy teens to be into. For the zero of you that are curious, my favorite characters as an adult fan are Krillin and Piccolo, with Cell being my favorite villain.

The thing about all these fan resources becoming available is that my interest in anime crossed over with my interest in games. This was the digital age, when I no longer had to just sit and read about Dragon Ball games in the back of issues of Gamefan, believing that Ultimate Battle 22 was anything other than complete and utter dogshit. Emulation was getting better, ROMs were getting easier to find, and you had better believe that I was using my 56k modem to download every Dragon Ball game I could get my digital hands on, language barrier be damned. This was a fantastic period of discovery, because I got to discover something my Japanese contemporaries had already known for years: most Dragon Ball games are absolute garbage. Bad fighting games, bad RPGs, even more bad fighting games, and bad fighting games that go Kaio-ken x10 and clear the low standards set by the previous bad games. Holy shit, there was a mountain of bad Dragon Ball games for my young self to climb.

I think you know where I’m going with this piece. After about 800 words, I have to actually talk about Dragon Z: Bu Yuu Retsuden. This is the lone Mega Drive Dragon Ball game, as DBZ spent the rest of its time on the Super Famicom during the 16-bit era. Much like DBZ as a show, I have a lot of fond memories playing this game. I had to open up this post with a long bit of nostalgic masturbation, because nostalgia is going to be doing a lot of heavy lifting here.

The thing about Dragon Ball, is that when the action does happen, it’s intense. Characters fighting with such power and speed that they can become invisible to the human eye. Vicious hand to hand combat punctuated by large blasts of energy and even larger explosions. There would be entire episodes dedicated to parts of a fight, as if they were rounds in a boxing match. The developers of DBZ fighting games during this period saw these fast and frenetic battles, and decided that the best way to replicate this in video game format was to have fights be slow, plodding, poorly animated affairs. So many of these games had bad controls, massive input delay, and ridiculously long start up times for special moves. The lone exception to this is DBZ Hyper Dimension of the Super Famicom. You should play that one.

Bu Yuu Retsuden is no different. I need to make this clear: this is a bad game. It plays like shit. Like every other DBZ fighting game, it’s slow and sluggish and doing any kind of special move is harder than it needs to be. Combos are non-existent. Move inputs themselves are fucking weird, too; I think by now everyone knows what a Hadouken motion is, rolling your thumb from the down position on the d-pad to the right or left followed by a button press. Now how about doing that in reverse order, from forward to down? How about having to do it after holding down for two seconds, as if you were doing a charge motion? Okay, now how about doing that, but the game’s poor input detection doesn’t register your movements? The music is mostly forgettable. Graphically, I had spent so many years thinking that this had been released very early in the Mega Drive’s life, like ’90 or ’91. No, this came out in 1994. To put that in perspective, this came out the same year as Streets of Rage 3, Mega Turrican, Pulseman, Monster World IV, Dynamite Headdy, and Sonic The Hedgehog 3. 1994 was the technological peak of the console, and here was this game that looked and ran like it began development in 1989. A telltale sign is the dull color palette that Mega Drive games of that era used.

The funny thing is, even back then, I didn’t think Bu Yuu Retsuden was all that good. That did not stop me from playing it all the damn time, though. This was a ROM that I had on the Saturday night rotation. The same rotation that had other Mega Drive anime games like Yu Yu Hakusho and Sailor Moon. I was loading this up right along with stuff like Castlevania: Bloodlines, while taking quick breaks to watch Toonami and Adult Swim on the TV next to me, or to browse some more fansites on Geocities or Angelfire while downloading Visual-kei albums and anime OSTs (also various Parents Videos) off of Kazaa. Maybe it was just the power of being a Dragon Ball Z game on the Genesis appealing to me being a Sega kid? Or maybe there are worse things in the world to be than a mediocre fighter with a graphical style from half a decade before? I mean, it’s not like I hate the way 1989 Mega Drive games look; hell, I wrote a whole thing about how much I love that art style! I think, ultimately, Bu Yuu Retsuden is a “comfort” game for me. The kind of thing I can load up for an hour or so and enjoy, in spite of its many flaws. If I have that choice paralysis that comes from having an entire ROM set on my PC, I can play a bit of Dragon Ball Z, do a little rewriting of history and have Krillin or Piccolo be the man to save the universe time and time again instead of Goku.

All that being said, if you’re in the market for Dragon Ball games that are actually good, you can check out the aforementioned Hyper Dimension. Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure on the GBA is a fantastic side-scrolling brawler, especially if you’re like me and prefer the original series to DBZ. I have not played any of the Budokai games, but I have been told that they’re pretty fun. Of course, Arc System Works’ Dragon Ball Fighter Z is absolutely fantastic, and while there are some bugs and issues that have sprung up in its recent rollback netcode update, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before those are fixed.

RIP Akira Toriyama.