The Dragon Ball Z franchise has countless video games in almost every generation of consoles. These games dip into many genres, such as fighting games, role-playing games, and even board games. Many of them are okay or bad to play. Ultimate Battle 22 was terrible but Dragon Ball FighterZ was the best fighting game of 2018 and arguably the best game based on the franchise. When I consider good games based on Dragon Ball Z, the first one that pops into my head is Legacy of Goku 2 for the Game Boy Advance. I played the game years ago and remember enjoying the experience. Was it actually good?
The first Legacy of Goku didn’t make a strong impression judging by the many negative reviews. Goku’s slow movements and the amount of time it took to defeat a single enemy made the game feel slow. As a result, the combat didn’t feel fun or satisfying. Enemies were capable of defeating you after a few hits, making the game difficult to complete. This required you to grind for experience points so you could stand a chance against the bosses. Perhaps one of the biggest issues with the game was Goku being the only playable character. For fans of the series, being unable to play as characters such as Krillin or Piccolo and experience their stories and battles must’ve been disappointing.
Speaking of which, Legacy of Goku is an odd title. The definition of legacy is to leave something of value behind. When I think of the title I imagine a game where Goku isn’t a playable character. This rings true for most of Legacy of Goku 2. The game begins in the future where two androids named Android 17 and Android 18 have killed most of humanity. The first area serves as a brief tutorial of the game’s combat system. The A button strikes and the B button shoots projectiles in the form of ki blasts. Each of the game’s five playable characters also has a charge attack performed by holding and releasing the A button. This attack does more damage and adds variety to the combat. The game doesn’t feature the ability to block or dodge so you avoid damage by retreating from enemies. Another way to avoid damage is to continuously attack an enemy so they don’t have an opportunity to counter back. Attacking them causes them to move an inch or two backward. I refer to this as an “offensive stride.” An offensive stride is attacking enemies, causing them to move backward, and closing the distance to attack them again. Being proficient at an offensive stride is satisfying and fun because you can defeat enemies without ever giving them a chance to counter. What makes it more enjoyable is alternating between projectiles, standard attacks, and charge attacks.
The first area also introduces you to a flying mechanic, which has been significantly changed from the first game. In the first game, you flew for a limited amount of time by pressing the R button. This allowed you to reach inaccessible areas and flee from enemies. In Legacy of Goku 2, you can fly by using flight pads and signs that let you access the world map. After using the first flight pad, Trunks witnesses the androids kill Gohan. The game shifts to the present to Goku’s home and the player controls his son, Gohan. An interesting moment in this sequence occurs when Gohan falls asleep while doing his homework. In a dream sequence, he wanders into a forest and discovers his father. Goku turns into Frieza and you’re now unexpectedly thrown into the first boss fight. This moment is like a passing of the torch between Legacy of Goku and its sequel. This form of Frieza was the final boss of the previous game and is the first boss of this one. The fact that he’s pretty easy to defeat tells you that foes stronger than Frieza’s perfect form await in this newest adventure.
You reach West City and discover a parade for Hercule is blocking the path to Piccolo. One of the quests rewards you with a scouter that allows you to scan characters and enemies to get their stats and a description of them. The scouter gives you a map of the current area you’re in. I had forgotten this was in the game and found it to be a nice addition. After causing the parade to move, Gohan reaches Piccolo and the player receives his first new playable character. Each character has their own specific doors they can destroy by reaching a specific level. These doors give you an incentive to revisit areas. Once you recruit Piccolo, you must save a village from a triceratops. This area is a good example of the graphical improvement Legacy of Goku 2 has over the previous game. The environments and characters are more detailed and there are many locations for the player to explore. Likewise, the roster of enemies isn’t limited to crabs and snakes, which were humorously capable of defeating Goku.
Later in the game, you unlock the ability to turn Super Saiyan. This is a great concept for a Dragon Ball Z game because it lends itself to the power fantasy that most games entail. The ability to turn into a Super Saiyan was only used in the first game at the final boss. In this game, it’s an ability that can be used anytime, but it depletes ki during activation. It’s perhaps the most useful move in the game because it allows you to dish out extra damage and move faster.
The game’s first real boss is Android 19. The boss battles are a bit unceremonious because they occur in uninteresting areas and play out exactly like an encounter with normal enemies. The boss battles also reveal the downside of performing an offensive stride. Attacking an enemy relentlessly so it can’t counter works well when it doesn’t have that many health points. However, bosses have significantly more health. As a result, this continuous assault on them lasts too long, gets repetitive, and is rarely challenging.
The last major quest before the end game is to collect the seven dragon balls. Goku becomes a playable character and you can pick up a useful upgrade for the scouter that reveals untraversed areas on the map. This new addition to the scouter gave me a strong incentive to find areas I had missed. Collecting the dragon balls is perfect for a DBZ game featuring combat and exploration. The seven dragon balls can act as a goal and can be placed in an area complete with enemies and puzzles to overcome. The significance of the balls makes it appropriate as an overarching goal for an entire game or its finale. The result is a smart and appropriate way to extend the game’s playtime while simultaneously incorporating the most important aspect of the anime. However, this quest feels a bit underutilized. The game could’ve extended its playtime if each ball were in a new area. Instead, most of the balls are in areas the player already visited. Likewise, most of them are not blocked by a boss fight or a puzzle that must be overcome. You pick them up like you just stumbled upon another item.
After obtaining all seven dragon balls, the player reaches the end of the game. It consists of a series of boss fights against Cell and his minions. Afterwards, Goku sacrifices himself by teleporting Cell before he explodes. It ends up being futile though because Cell reappears. Gohan and Cell trade Kamehamehas and, with some help, Gohan destroys Cell for good. The heroes try to wish Goku back to life, but he refuses to return. I thought this was a surprisingly poignant moment. Goku’s death no longer makes him a playable character. This must have had an effect on players since some have asked if there’s a way to get him back. Since Goku becomes playable so late in the game, it feels like he just came and went too soon.
After completing the game, you’re free to explore the world and finish the remaining quests in your journal. While most of the side quests aren’t memorable, there are some noteworthy ones. The most fun quest is finding 7 Namekians scattered around the world. Your reward for collecting them all is a boss fight with Cooler, Frieza’s brother. Another sidequest involves collecting 25 golden capsules. The reward for completing this one is rather interesting. You receive a golden capsule that allows you to exit the map at any time without having to backtrack and access a sign. The most time-consuming quest is unlocking Hercule as a playable character. You must get (except for Goku) every character to level 50. This turns into a grind because many enemies offer only a small amount of experience points. Perhaps an area that opens after completing the main story could’ve offered tougher enemies that would’ve given more experience points and would be a better incentive to complete this quest.
So is Legacy of Goku 2 actually good? Definitely. I believe the reason why is because of how much of an improvement it is compared to the previous game. Granted, the first game was so underwhelming that even a slightly better sequel would’ve seemed far more impressive. However, Legacy of Goku 2 has many good qualities that combine to make it the best handheld Dragon Ball Z game. Performing an offensive stride makes combat fun. Additionally, there are more characters, quests, and powers for fans of the anime. Perhaps another quality that makes the game good is that it was made by fans of the show. A short behind-the-scenes video of the game’s creation reveals how far Webfoot Technologies went to make the game as authentic to the show as possible. For example, Andrew Meyers, the art designer, took sketches from a Dragon Ball Z encyclopedia and combined them with the in-game map to create a world accurate to the one seen in the anime. Paul Carmody and Yannis Brown wrote down the anime’s music note-for-note and used that as a reference to create new tracks that sounded similar to the source material. Dialogue was taken from the anime and edited so that the game’s script wouldn’t be too long and inaccurate. It’s clear the developers of Legacy of Goku 2 had a love for the anime and wanted to create something that was both an accurate adaption of the source material and a good video game. Legacy of Goku 2 is one of the best Dragon Ball Z games I’ve ever played.