Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Game 456: Dragon Ball: Daimaō Fukkatsu (1988)

     
Dragon Ball: Daimaō Fukkatsu
"Dragon Ball: Revival of the Dark Lord"
Japan
d&d Corp. and Tose Co. (developers); Bandai Co. (publisher)
Released 1988 for NES in Japan
English translation courtesy of Stardust Crusaders, 2011
Date Started: 2 April 2022
Date Ended: 11 April 2022
Total Hours: 6
Difficulty: Easy (2.0/5)
Final Rating: 17
Ranking at Time of Posting: 104/460 (23%)
      
When Dragon Ball came up in a random sort of games, I groaned. It feels like I have been remaining willfully ignorant of the franchise my entire life. I've usually seen it with a Z on the end, and until this week, I thought the Ball and Z were all one word, pronounced "balls." Beyond silly things like that, however, there is a host of foundational stuff that I don't understand, including various tropes found in anime and manga. I wasn't much interested in researching it, but I sighed and did my best.
     
I now know that the sprawling franchise started in 1984, with a set of serialized stories by Akira Toriyama. They spawned several additional manga series, anime television series, a live-action film, and close to 100 video games for various platforms. My understanding is that the franchise is set in a weird alternate Earth, where flying cars and characters with guns exist alongside dragons and dinosaurs and animals that can talk. The stories concern (at least in part) quests to find legendary Dragon Balls, which can summon ancient wish-granting dragons. One of the Dragon Ball seekers, Goku, becomes the ultimate defender of the Earth from various criminals, megalomaniacs, and demons. One of the latter is named Piccolo, the "Daimaō" of this game's title.
   
With uniforms, too, with a shiny gold braid on the coat.
     
If I have readers who enjoy the franchise, I'll be curious to hear what you think its strengths are. I watched some summary videos, and even putting aside my normal dislike of anime (and the animation style used in Dragon Ball is somehow worse than just regular anime) and child protagonists, it just felt to me that the setting and characters were a bit chaotic. I'm a firm believer in Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic in which limitations are more important than powers. In addition to magic systems, these limitations, in most stories, extend to things like technology and, well, gravity. Dragon Ball seems to be immune to these considerations, which makes me wonder how you possibly create tension in the storytelling.
  
In 1988, the original Dragon Ball show was in its eighth season despite only having premiered two years earlier. The premiere on 24 February 1988 had launched the "King Piccolo Saga." Goku's friend Krillin (a bald kid who looks like a Buddhist monk) is murdered by the demon King Piccolo, who was recently released from eternal imprisonment by the evil Emperor Pilaf. Piccolo hopes to find the Dragon Balls to restore his own youth and conquer the world, or maybe the universe. Goku now wants to collect the Dragon Balls to wish for Krillin's resurrection. The game picks up from here and apparently tells a story different from what the show depicted during the same period.
       
Goku's reaction to finding his friend's dead body.
    
This game is the third video game based on the franchise. The first was released in early 1986 for the Super Cassette Vision. It's a top-down shooter called Dragon Ball: Dragon Daihikyō ("Dragon's Great Exploration"). The second, released in late 1986 for the NES, was called Dragon Ball: Shenron no Nazo ("Mystery of Shenron") in Japan and Dragon Power in the U.S. It's a pure action-platformer. With this title (sometimes called Dragon Ball 2, as it was the second in the Bandai NES series), the developers introduced a new set of mechanics that have come to characterize the video games, all the way through the modern era. 
    
A few things differentiate Dragon Ball from other NES RPGs of the time. The most obvious is the combat system, in which victory is resolved through a War-like card game. The player has a constant hand of five cards on which three variables appear: the level of the card (represented by the number of dots at the top), the speed of the card (represented by the number at the bottom), and a symbol in the middle indicating the type of attack, and thus the resulting damage. (The middle symbols were Japanese characters in the original and were updated to more visual clues for the English translation.) Each played card is immediately replaced by another. Levels go up to 6 and speeds to 9.
     
 I execute a combo attack using a card with a strength of 4 and a speed of 7. If this doesn't kill the enemy, my next card has a strength of 5 and does a random attack.
     
In combat, you and the enemy play a multi-round game of War, each turning over one card at a time and comparing the results. The character with the higher power gets to perform the action on the middle (with the one exception that a one-star card played by Goku beats a 7-star card played by the enemy). The other character may dodge the attack, with the chances based on his card's speed value.
       
At the beginning of combat, the game asks how many cards (rounds) you want to do. I have no idea why it matters, since if you choose too few, combat continues anyway, and if it ends before whatever number you choose, the extra cards are just returned to your hand.
    
There are seven types of card: punch, kick, combination, bo staff, special attack, flee, and random. Except for the last two, their power is in roughly that order. If you use a special attack, the game has you pick from among five cards to determine the nature of the attack. (The "five cards" thing is just an illusion; I verified with save states that the game chooses a result at random before you even pick, and you get it no matter what card you choose). The results include some kind of punch combo called janken, a double-fisted punch called hasshuken, and a ray of power called kamehameha. They are all significantly more powerful than regular physical attacks. Am I correct that the notion of special attacks with multi-syllabic Japanese-sound names goes back to Street Fighter (1987), or is there an earlier source?
     
Fighting some kind of double-headed robot. We both pulled a "special attack" card with the same speed, but mine (bottom) has a higher level.
     
You may wonder how such a combat system qualifies the game as an RPG. Experience and leveling, it turns out, play a subtle role in the types of cards you draw to replenish your deck. Higher levels increase both the strength and speed of the average card, the likelihood of a special attack, and the power of special attacks when played. Levels also increase Goku's maximum hit points.
   
I imagine that the system was meant to be an in-game representation of the Carddass collectible card game issued by Bandai the same year. As I say, it's not that much more complex than the old card game War. It actually made me remember an episode from third-grade in which our teacher caught me and another student playing War during what was supposed to be an educational period. Card games were fine in general, but they had to teach us something. The teacher balked that there was nothing educational about War, to which I replied, "It teaches us to tell what number is higher." She rolled her eyes and said, "Chet, I'm going to pretend you didn't say that." The next day, the other student and I returned with the rules to a new game that we called War Plus. It had a bunch of different conditions, probabilities, and wagers that required multiple draws and a bunch of math. We successfully lobbied for its acceptability as an educational game. I don't remember what the rules we invented were, but I'm sure it was more complex than the system used by Dragon Ball. The system had enormous staying power, appearing in Dragon Ball RPGs well into the 2000s, so I can only assume that it similarly gets more complex.
    
I'm not entirely sure what kind of attack this actually is.
         
Dragon Ball's combats occur during and in between adventure game-style episodes in which Goku explores various cities and fortresses, trying to find the seven Dragon Balls or otherwise find the next step in his quest. Each area has multiple screens, and each offers some menu combination of moving, searching, using items, or talking to NPCs, those both attached to the location and in Goku's party. The game starts in adventure mode in a place called "Turtle House," where Goku was relaxing with friends after a recent martial arts tournament. They come home from a shopping trip to find Krillin dead upstairs and a scrap of paper with Piccolo's symbol in a kitchen drawer.
 
Goku sets off in pursuit of Piccolo and ends up fighting a henchman, a winged demon called Tambourine. I reloaded multiple times trying to win this combat before I figured that Goku's loss is scripted (fortunately, this is the only place in the game where that's true). Tambourine breaks Goku's "dragon radar" and steals his bo staff, sending Goku back to Turtle House. His loss is attributed to exhaustion following the recent tournament (and represented by half-health). Goku rests and heals, and then the game begins properly.
      
Moving between areas. I have no idea who the guy in the upper-left is.
    
It is extremely linear, going from episode to episode in a fixed order. To get from one place to another, the player has to maneuver Goku along paths on a world map. Each path has a number of nodes along the way. To move, the player chooses a card and then travels a number of stops equal to the power of the card. Upon reaching the final stop, Goku gets a new card and then has to play a little minigame in which he chooses from among five cards presented by his master, Kamesennin. As with the special attack cards, the "choice" is irrelevant because the game rolls the outcome before the player has even made it. Results include:
   
  • Piccolo's Card: Goku must fight an immediate battle with one of Piccolo's minions, almost always a giant bird called Ukelele, but in the late game also Tambourine and a couple of others.
  • Sheng Long Card: The dragon god's card will either give you some kind of hint and restore health or allow you to trade one card for another. (Healing is otherwise accomplished by occasionally finding food on slain enemies.)
      
A tip from Sheng Leng.
     
  • Lady's Card: Has three potential outcomes: 1) all your cards are swapped for new ones; 2) Kamesennin walks you through "training" which is basically just combat with Kamesennin; and 3) You pick another card.
  • "Bust" Card: Nothing happens. This is accompanied by what I first interpreted as a "golliwog" image, but I guess it's just a character from the show named "Mr. Popo."
          
Both this image and "Mr. Popo" have different connotations across the Pacific.
      
The game requires a fair amount of backtracking, and moving along the pathways is maddeningly slow. If you're in a hurry to get from one place to another, you naturally want to play the card with the highest level, but most of the time, you want to save such cards for combat. Thus, the better strategy is to play cards with the lowest level, even though you mince along and have to screw around with Kamesennin's games so many times you want to scream. This method also ensures that you fight plenty of random battles and thus level up between fixed combats.
        
This was a cool graphic from some point in the game.
     
I'll try to recount the story, but it's so nonsensical to me that I don't know how to string it into a comprehensive narrative. Either a lot is lost in translation or the game requires knowledge of the series or both. In broad strokes, Goku and his friend Lunch first set out for the Western Capital to find his friend Bulma, who can fix his dragon radar, which helps to find Dragon Balls. He rescues her from Ukelele and she fixes the device. The party then goes to the Henshin School looking for two additional friends, Oolong and Puar. They have been taken prisoner by Ukelele who is impersonating Oolong, but you fight him and free them.
   
Goku then heads for a place called Jingle Village for reasons I can't remember, where he frees yet another friend named Hatchan who has been taken over by some kind of machine. Here, Emperor Pilaf makes his first appearance in a suit of armor called the Pilaf Machine. At the end of the episode, the village elder teaches Goku how to summon something called a Nimbus Cloud, which I guess is how Goku gets around for most of the anime series.
 
Looks like that snowman is struggling, too.
      
Goku then goes to Pilaf's castle, where he has to fight and defeat Ukelele twice more before he can encounter and fight Tambourine and find the second Dragon Ball. (Yeah, he got the first one somewhere in there.) Lacking any intelligence on the rest of them, he goes to a fortune teller named Baba, who wants him to bring her a treasure. Goku decides to steal the treasure from pirates in an under-sea cavern. While searching for it, he fights a henchman named Banjo and gets the third Dragon Ball. Back at Baba's, she reveals that the fourth Dragon Ball is back in Pilaf's castle, hidden in a way that somehow requires Goku to blow a saxophone in the right room. He finds it on a second visit.
  
Dragon Ball five is found in a tower called Karin and the last two are in Penguin Village. For some reason, finding all seven Dragon Balls isn't enough, though. Goku then has to retrieve an enchanted hammer, ring, and glasses from the realm of an elephant god named Konpei, who fights Goku repeatedly. 
     
I get the last Dragon Ball.
      
Goku finally goes to Piccolo's mansion, the headquarters of the Evil Clan, where he uses the enchanted hammer to smash the Root of Evil and free the souls of the people killed by the clan, including Krillin. He then heads to the Dark Castle, where a long maze brings him to the final showdown with Piccolo.
      
Nonsense. This game has no economy.
    
If all of that seemed somewhat nonsensical, it's nothing compared to trying to solve the "puzzles" in adventure mode. You basically just have to try every option in every location, stringing together a series of illogical actions and outcomes until you finally complete the quest and can move on to the next place. There are a lot of ways to meet instant death during this process.
     
But he can breathe in space.
   
Sometimes, you have to do the same action multiple times before you get a result, and it was these times that I was most likely to have to turn to a walkthrough. For instance, there's an early screen where you have to talk to Lunch four times in a row to get her to sneeze, which causes her to switch to an alternate personality who notices something that Goku doesn't.
      
"This must be the solution to a puzzle!" -- an adventure gamer.
     
Even with help, there were a lot of things I didn't understand, such as whether the NPCs accompanying me really did anything (except the couple of times they were necessary to a puzzle), how something called a "hoi-poloi capsule" seemed capable of creating whatever the character needed at the time (including an airplane and a submarine), why Goku has a monkey's tail, and why Bulma insists on calling Goku "son." 
  
Don't question it.
    
The combats in the game aren't very hard. I wasted a lot of time in the beginning thinking about strategy, trying to save the best cards for more difficult combats, but eventually I got bored and just started using the cards in the order that they appeared in my deck, and I found I was rarely in danger of low health. Only for the final combat with Piccolo did I need to make sure I had a decent deck (by burning low cards in earlier combats), and even then I won the first try with a couple of hadoukens or whatever.
   
And I had two more after that.
    
The final animation shows Goku bursting through Piccolo's chest. Piccolo then has a villain's speech worthy of Malcolm Trandle: "How!? How could this be!? Me? The Dark Lord Piccolo? Defeated? I am in awe . . . but I must warn you . . . Don't think you've seen the last of the Evil Clan!"
       
Gruesome.
     
I give the game an 18 on the GIMLET. It does best in "game world" for at least having a detailed backstory, even if I think it's silly. It gets 0s in "equipment" and "economy," as the only inventory is of the puzzle-solving variety, and finding it is scripted. Everything else gets 2s. I wish I could give more for the combat system, which is at least original, but there just aren't enough tactics. It got boring and repetitive fast, particularly where you have to fight the same enemies repeatedly. (Honestly, how many times do I have to thrash Ukelele before he gets the hint?) It's also far too linear, and the puzzles are so nonsensical that I can't give much credit for encounter design.
       
I played the game, didn't I? Do you have to twist the knife?
     
If I continue dipping occasionally into console games, I guess it's inevitable that we'll encounter Dragon Ball again. I guess the Z series, depicting Goku as an adult, is more popular than the original. I watched videos of some of the later games but couldn't get much of a sense of the evolution of the card approach; I wouldn't mind hearing from readers who have played later games if it gets more advanced or interesting.

134 comments:

  1. About the main character's tail, stick and cloud, you might want to read the Wikipedia page

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_King

    The manga was a comedy rendition of a chinese old story "Journey to the West" (西遊記/西游记)


    After a few manga volumes, it become a fighting comics, with characters dying after struggling against an overly strong enemy, training in the afterdeath, and getting back to fight again (typically in a martial tournament).

    To my eyes of teenager reader, it became old pretty soon (after the second enemy-death-tournament cycle). Each big enemy saga, though, took a few manga volumes to complete which was tolerable... it's the anime series that stretches fights for hundreds of episodes (they were creating the anime in parallel with the manga, and I guess sometimes they were awaiting for the new material to be available)

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    1. Son Goku is based on Sun Wukong the Monkey King, but later stories do a retcon and explain his tail by "he's an alien and so is Piccolo".

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    2. I gave up watching "Dragon Ball" when in one episode Son Goku started a fight with an extremely powerful opponent (whose name I don't remember)... and six episodes later the fight was still not over! After that I watched many more Anime series (many of which had interesting stories and were well drawn) but "Dragon Ball" never again!!!

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    3. My introduction to anime was a Dragon Ball series of episodes in which it flipped back and forth between one guy doing an overly long monologue, and another guy screaming and looking constipated. After the third episode of this, I quit, and that colored my view of anime for a number of years (though there is much MUCH better manga/anime series out there. All of them are better than Dragon Ball, probably).

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    4. Welcome to filler, it is a bit overblown in the anime, though the Kai version cuts a lot, the Dragon Ball manga is generally much more beloved for making things much faster and at no point implying characters spend minutes yelling or charging moves, it was done in the anime to waste time and give more time for manga chapters to be done.

      ...Though some DB filler ended up being pretty good but that was slice of life stuff.

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  2. Another surreal console RPG choice, always enjoy reading these out-of-left-fielders. DBZ has definitely eclipsed DB in popularity; the latter is largely based on Journey to the West and Asian folklore, while the former starts introducing aliens and gets even weirder from there.

    I think they did persist with the card system for a while, at least into the SNES era. Eventually almost all DB/DBZ games became fighters though the more recent Xenoverse games have RPG flourishes. It is a truly immense franchise though, video games and anime both, and I'm nowhere near enough of a fan to want to parse it all.

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    1. Chiming in on the weirdness of the choice, I feel like most DB fans haven't really heard of this game. Like if they're aware of the NES titles, its the one that got translated as Dragon Power, where it got heavily mangled in translation, because there was no way in hell Nintendo was letting some random anime game get through unscathed, especially with Roshi's antics.

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    2. As I've said repeatedly, it is not a "choice." I roll a random number to determine what console games I play when I play them.

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    3. To choose not to decide is still a choice.

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    4. Maybe he doesn't want to be lambasted for playing the "wrong" console games and not giving the "good" ones a chance? Even if that is mostly what he's ended up doing in practice, at least it isn't *his* fault.

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    5. For what it's worth, I think picking them at random is absolutely a better idea - especially when you're unfamiliar with the console canon - than relying on outside recommendations which might introduce bias.

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    6. Random choice is probably a better way to get a representative sample than relying on recommendations (which, for obvious reasons, will skew toward games that somebody thought were best) without trying to be exhaustive.

      After all, it doesn't prevent deliberate choice if the Addict feels a particular game is relevant (so it should be played) and he needs to play other games to build some context (the way he did for the GB Wizardry game).

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  3. The naming conventions in this series are pretty bizarre. Enemies named after some of the least intimidating possible musical instruments, just needs a xylophone in there somewhere, a couple friends named after varieties of tea, the ultimate evil is a preparation of rice....

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    1. Almost every name is a thing, though translation did ruin the joke in many cases. The briefly mentioned in this entry character "Bulma" is supposed to be named "Bloomers" and later has a kid named "Trunks".

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    2. Themed naming is one of Toriyama's trademarks in general. Even made it into Chrono Trigger with a set of bosses named after either condiments or musicians.

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    3. In addition to the silly naming, the janken is an attack that involves playing rock/paper/scissors. I'm sure some people would find that kneeslappingly hilarious.

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    4. Janken(pon) means rock-paper-scissors, so its an accurate name! It's called the same thing in Alex Kidd.

      Oolong might be a tea, but it means 'Black dragon', so its both silly and not.

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    5. It may *mean* Black Dragon, but it's definitely referencing the tea; his companion, Pu-erh (romanized here as Puar), is another kind of Chinese tea.

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    6. Sure, but Puar (Pu'er tea) establishes that the intent was just a silly connection to tea rather than dragons.

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    7. There's also the third buddy Yamcha, which can be translated as "drink tea"

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    8. And then when DBZ starts up and the Saiyans appear they get named after vegetables. Raditz (radish), Kakarot (Carrot), Nappa (the cabbage), Vegeta (vegetable).

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    9. The term "Saiyan" ("saiyajin" in the original Japanese) is itself a play on words, as it is derived from an anagram of the Japanese word for vegetable ("yasai"). It's no wonder that their home planet was called Sadala (from "salad", obviously).

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  4. I suspect that nearly everything you were mystified by was something that fans of the series would have recognized.

    At least this bit you didn't understand ("and why Bulma insists on calling Goku "son." ") is easy enough to explain. His full name is "Son Goku", which is what you get when you read the characters for "Sun Wukong" in Japanese instead of Chinese. As etabata explains above, the series begins as an adaptation of Journey To The West, in which Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, is a main character.

    Dragon Ball games have a reputation for being quite bad, as I understand it. The manga and anime series are extremely popular among young boys - to the point where a lot of mockery of anime is assuming that everything in the medium is a DBZ clone - and the games have a pretty major tendency to be rather phoned-in.

    As for the style, Akira Toriyama does have an extremely distinct style, and I am kind of surprised that you didn't recognize it because you've encountered him before. He is also the lead artist for the Dragon Quest series, and the monster graphics even in Dragon Quest/Warrior 1 have all his trademarks. Compare the "It turns out he's kind of racist." screenshot from your entry on that game to the blue dragon thing in the "A tip from Sheng Leng" screenshot in this one.

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  5. Oh - something I forgot to address.

    "Am I correct that the notion of special attacks with multi-syllabic Japanese-sound names goes back to Street Fighter (1987), or is there an earlier source?"

    I suspect that there is an earlier source, but it is completely impossible for Street Fighter being the innovator here, because the Kamehame attack first shows up in a 1985 issue of the manga - a full two years before the first Street Fighter game. Though technically "Kamehame" is not Japanese - Toriyama named the attack after the first King of Hawaii.

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    1. This is just off of recollection so I might be wrong, but my understanding is that it originally comes from martial arts films. The idea's that it's a bunch of Chinese characters read as Japanese ones, and for the most part it's just because it sounds cool.

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    2. The visuals of Hadouken's energy swirling were inspired by the Hadouho attack from the Space Battleship Yamato anime series.

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    3. I believe that it was popularized by 1920s wuxia novels, though there might technically be an earlier originator. That sort of stuff got really popular around that time owing anti-western sentiment from around the turn of the 19th century.

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    4. It goes back at least as far as Edo-period Kabuki. Almost every basic trope in popular shonen manga like Dragon Ball can be found in Kabuki, and often has its source in the 15th century Chinese novel Water Margin (水滸伝).

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  6. Personally the appeal of Dragon Ball is the same as action movies: it's stupid, rarely makes sense, and it can still be fun anyway. It's definately the sort of thing that breaks down if you think about it too much, especially considering most of it was made up on the fly, but if you're the sort that can just enjoy stuff without thinking too much about it it can be pretty enjoyable.

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    1. I think the best way to experience Dragon Ball Z is via the Team Four Star abridged series. Brilliant work.

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    2. Yeah, it starts out weak but avoids the pitfall that a lot of abridged series fell into by actually doing a good job of abridging it instead of just chopping up the footage and redubbing it with a bunch of jokes.

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    3. Yes, this is a good way to put it. Dragon Ball is there to give you a big dumb good time involving martial arts (broadly defined) and absurdly ever-escalating levels of consequence and threat. The silliness is part of the point for most people, although there are folks who get invested and take it super-seriously.

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    4. I think it's also worth pointing out that manga like Dragon Ball were originally written to be read on the train in less than 5 minutes per chapter and not really thought about too much beyond that.

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  7. That storyline is comparable to what you get in the manga and anime. I'd say about 95% of the plots of years of DB and DBZ can be summarized as "go to random places to find dragon balls", "martial arts training and tournaments", and "the evil guy kills all the good guys one by one until Goku defeats him". And usually, all characters except Goku either accomplish nothing or make things worse.

    Well, there's a reason why there are OH. SO. MANY. parodies of DBZ all over the internet. I recommend DBZ Abridged on youtube, it's a fan rewrite that keeps the same plot but is much funnier than the original, and has better character development. But it's probably a nostalgia thing.

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    1. The storyline's comperable in the sense that they're both about the evil Piccolo returning and Goku having to stop him, but from the looks of it virtually everything else was changed, from major things like Piccolo being the one to use the dragon balls and promptly destroying them, to minor ones like Krillin having been killed just after a tournament instead of while hanging out at Kame House. It definately just sounds like they took a synopsis of the Piccolo arc and made a game around it, which makes me wonder if this was made when that's all they would have had to work off of.

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  8. Never got into Dragon Ball too, albait both the original and "Z" series aired here and were quite popular.
    The only thing which stands out for me is the old pervy master who reminds me on my old karate teacher (who looks exactly like him)

    | Oolong and Puar

    fun fact, these ar both tea variants (I really like Oolong tea on cold winter days)

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  9. Akira Toriyama is also well known for his work in many popular CRPGs, mainly the Dragon Quest series but also Chrono Trigger, Blue Dragon.

    I know next to nothing about manga or anime, but having played sone of those games I must say his style is very recognizable.

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    1. Of course, I meant JRPGs.

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    2. Nah, you meant CRPG, that is Console Role-Playing Games, as opposed to ARPG (American Role-Playing Games).

      Just kidding about the ambiguity of abbreviations!

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  10. I grew up loving NES. When I years later learned that the Japanese market had far more games released, that never made it to the rest of the world, it made me boiling mad.

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  11. Very interesting; is this the first card-battler RPG? It's quite a popular genre these days.

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    1. Is it? I've never encountered it. What are some modern titles that use this mechanic?

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    2. Mmm.... it depends on how liberally you want to match mechanic.
      CardHunter uses cards to move/attack/block/cast spells - but also has figures on the board. I would definitely classify this as an RPG - your power comes from equipment with a little bit of levelling up(more HP, and ability to use better equipment)

      SlayTheSpire/Roguebook use cards to have your hero(s) attack/block the enemies (MonsterTrain feels much less RPG, although I actually like it the best of those 3) Both of these use decks as "equipment" - the levelling up outside of that is best approximated by artifacts that provide overall buffs - Roguebook lets you pick perks as your deck reaches various sizes.

      Inscryption(parts of it - don't want to spoil more)

      The upcoming Firaxis game Marvel's Midnight Suns will use cards (But that's likely more tactical combat than RPG)

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    3. I got a good deal of fun out of 'Card Hunter' when my older PC was on his last legs and I couldn't run more demanding programs. It's browser-based, I believe.

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    4. Tainted Grail:Avalon was the most recent I played through

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    5. Adding to the examples above:

      Thronebreaker - Set in the world of the Witcher and solving battles and puzzles by playing 'Gwent'.

      Griftlands - Like Slay the Spire but leans more into characters and story.

      Guild of Dungeoneering - Uses cards to create the dungeon, and card-battles to fight the monsters

      Thea - Sort of like HoMM, but more of an RPG and your villagers are cards which level up.

      Children of Zodiarcs & Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech - JRPG-style card-battlers.

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    6. I love this subgenre. The Metal Gear Ac!d games were fantastic. A like playing Ring of Pain more than Slay the Spire. The first act of Inscryption was one of my biggest game-related joys of 2021. Calculords is my favourite phone game.

      But there are many more: Kingdom Hearts CoM, Baten Kaitos 1-2, the Culdcept series, Nowhere Prophet, many of the YuGiOh games.

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    7. Forgot about Steamworld Quest, which I have played (haven't played the others you mentioned Tristan, and hadn't even heard of Thea/Guild/Zodiarcs)

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  12. So what does Fukkatsu mean? Is it a word "constructed" in the same way as "waifu"?

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    1. It means resurrection or rebirth. It's in the Japanese word for Easter for example.

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    2. Wait a minute! Isn't that "Tensei" instead?

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    3. I see "tensei" (転生) more commonly translated as "reincarnation", which makes sense as it is composed of the characters for "turn" (転) and "life" (生).

      "Fukkatsu" (復活) I believe refers specifically to resurrection or rebirth. As Laszlo stated above, the Japanese word for Easter is "復活祭".

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    4. Oh, so "New Goddess Rebirth" series is actually more like "New Goddess Reincarnation" then =) Thanks for clearing this up!

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  13. Dragonball Z is sometimes called "Drag On Ball Z" because of its lethargic pacing; so that the game requires a lot of slow-paced backtracking too is rather fitting.

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    1. DBZ is certainly not known for it's lack of filler, although a good chunk of that was from the anime trying to avoid catching up to the manga. There are recuts of both the official and fanmade variety to try and fix that, and from what I remember they generally manage to knock triple digit amounts of episodes off the series.

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    2. Thing is, if you're reading the original manga it actually moves at fine pace. The Goku vs. Freiza fight is only a handful of chapters. There's no need for extended beatdown sequences and posturing to pad things out; one character will demonstrate that they are better than the other in a page or two and then either the fight resolves or the other character pulls out their hidden reserve.

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    3. And then the first character pulls out THEIR hidden reserve, and the other character pulls out their SECOND hidden reserve, and the first character pulls out their NEXT hidden reserve, and so on.

      (according to Wikipedia, the Goku vs. Frieza battle takes TWENTY chapters in the manga)

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    4. 20 chapters for a manga isn't as long as it sounds. It's very possible to get through that in a couple of hours, depending on your reading speed.

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    5. You can always watch Kai instead or just look up what episodes are filler. Kai doesn't have the American soundtrack though.

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    6. Or DBZ Kai Abridged, which goes through an entire season in five minutes :D

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    7. You can find versions of Kai with the American soundtrack, although they're fanmade

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    8. The DBZ Abridged has too many unfunny jokes in a row to be watchable. It doesn't help that none of the jokes are funny as well.

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  14. It doesn't get its tension from the world, but from pitting fighters of differing power levels against each other. How will power level 100,000 Goku beat power level 500,000 Frieza? Tune in next week to find out.

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    1. Also, constant countdown timers.

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    2. Vegeta! What does the scouter say about his power level?

      It's over NINE-THOUSAAAAAND!

      What nine-thousand?! That can't be right!

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  15. As someone slightly older than Chet, I too have utterly no familiarity with Dragon Ball Z. (Indeed, the last time I watched anime was in the early-1980s.) I appreciated the plot summary.

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    1. The plot summary has all the hallmarks of a bad acid trip, just saying ;)

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    2. As someone about a decade younger than Chet, I also have no idea about Dragon Ballz... I was just a little too old to care about cartoons when it became popular, and the anime artstyle and over the top power creep never appealed to me.

      At some point, when the characters just keep pulling more and more powerful moves out of their ass only to encounter someone who's EVEN MORE powerful next week, it all loses its meaning.

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  16. Just wanted to pipe in here to say I am with you; this franchise and most anime/manga have always seemed too 'chaotic' for me -- that is the perfect word. Of course, I do not intend to disparage any fans! I wonder if this isn't somewhat generational (I am old enough that my first console was an Atari 2600). I strongly recall my nerd buddies making me watch Akira and Vampire Hunter D probably around 1990, and while I didn't mind them, they just never grabbed me. Despite all that, glad to see you wading in here so I don't have to! Cheers.

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  17. Wow, aside from starting with Krillin's death and ending with Piccolo's, the story is almost nothing like in the manga. Most of the locations and characters do appear in earlier story arcs though. I can't really blame the developers for altering the story however, as this particular saga told solely through Goku's perspective would make for a very short game.

    Where I'm from Dragon Ball was quite popular when I was a kid (mostly the original, I think we barely got half of Z on TV), but I never watched that much of it. Later, during high school or so, I read the manga and found it quite enjoyable; I happened to re-read it this winter and I still like it. It starts as a wacky martial arts comedy and then gets increasingly more action focused as the story progresses, with the exception of the final saga. Contrary to the reputation its adaptation garnered, it's super fast paced. World building is barely existent however (due to, in no small part, Toriyama's haphazard, improv-heavy writing style); you're mostly there for the jokes and the fights.

    As other commenters have mentioned, the attack names in Dragon Ball predate Street Fighter and I'm pretty sure there are earlier examples still. "Janken" is a rock-paper-scissors inspired combo move, "Hasshuken" (eight-arm fist) is a technique in which the user moves his arms so fast as to create an illusion of having eight arms, and the "Kamehameha", the energy attack, is a pun (named after the king of Hawaii, and is a signature move of the turtle school of martial arts - "Kame" means turtle, and IIRC "Ha" means wave).

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  18. Not a Dragon Ball expert by any means, but I think by now the other comments have made the appeal clear: its extremely juvenile humor, mixed with its equally juvenile storytelling. Its plots basically amount to two kids one-upping each other with ridiculous developments. Add in the fact that Goku's rivals tend to end up becoming his new buddies, and I think that accounts for some of the appeal to little boys and young men (aside from Bulma, girls don't have much to do in Dragon Ball, and she gets shuffled to the side in Dragon Ball Z.)

    I played one of the later entries in this series, based on the first couple of storylines of Dragon Ball Z, so I recognized the card-game based combat. I do NOT remember the need to travel between areas on nodes, or the adventure-game mechanics--those must have gotten dropped. I remember the game being playable but not great.

    The DBZ game also has a full party of characters involved, allowing you to control all of the 'Z Fighters.' The game lets you deviate from the plot of the anime and manga--by the end of the storyline most of those dudes are dead, but you can keep them alive until the end. Just like in the anime, most of them are fairly useless to Goku!

    But yeah, Dragon Ball aside, Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger make Toriyama a prominent figure in RPGs.

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  19. Thank you for your sacrifice.
    I have a feeling like these JRPGs are a bit like going to school where the game is your teacher telling you exactly what to do to progress, i.e. there is no strategy.
    Also, here's another big theory: Pokemon, Dragonball Z...is Japanese Polytheism the reason for their kind of world-building? Endless tasks to collect them all? Western RPGs are more about "the one" instead of "them all". Monotheism vs Polytheism (which can also include endless numbers of spirits, demons, and so on). Even in Western Polytheism, Rome and Greece, the Pantheon is mostly closed and so eventually limited. Anyway, that's my grotesquely simplifying idea, you know, Eastern collectivism vs. Western individualism...
    I wonder what the closest western counterpart is to one of these endless Japanese franchises.

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    1. I'm afraid your religious comparison doesn't hold water. Dragonball is very much about "the one" because Goku is the only character that can accomplish anything; whereas there are plenty of western games where you have to collect "them all" (e.g. find eight runes in Ultima games, find eleven power orbs in Might and Magic, and so on and so forth).

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    2. From what I remember Pokemon's main insperation was the creator's bug catching hobby when he was younger.

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    3. Oh, I have no problem with being wrong here.

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    4. Maybe? In Japanese mythology a lot of the god figures just did a few things and then basically ignore the mortal world. That does describe a lot of what happens in Dragon Ball, at least through its original run.

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    5. Years ago, I thought I noticed the opposite: Western fantasy franchises (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance) were polytheistic in regions that were mainly monotheistic, while the Japanese franchises I knew did the opposite: fictional monotheism for polytheistic readers/players. I thought it was a form of evasion.

      Then I played Ultima 4-5-6 and my theory went out of the window. The monotheism is so tight that there is only one copy of the sacred book, and it is actually the incarnation of the only deity for two civilisations!

      And once again, later Ultima games confuted this, too.

      Well, all this just shows that fiction is varied.

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    6. Yeah, it's a trope on its own, McGuffin made of several parts; in addition to Ultima runes and mantras and M&M stones there is, as well, parts of Sceptre in TES:Arena. It's even in movies - Thanatos glove comes to mind, for example.

      What this seems to suggest, rather than mono/polytheism or individualism/collectivism - is the power of technology and/or dismemberment of the process of creation into several steps and several parts, just like a Ford car is assembled out of different parts made by different people - and you have to, well, yeah, "collect them all" for your device to function!

      This "collectivism vs individualism" theme is better reflected in different aspects of stories: you can compare western classic myth of Odysseus with Journey to the West, for example. Odysseus is the only hero who matters in his story, he loses a lot of companions and seems none the sadder, they are as if unnamed pawns to him, and his enemies are a kind of pure antagonistic force that cannot be reasoned with. The monk Tripitaka of Journey to the West, though, gains a lot of friend - so-called "nakama" - in his journey, having a meaningful human connections with every one of them, some of them also being his former-enemies-reforged-to-friends. The only Western story of the same kind that comes to mind is "The Wizard of Oz", where Dorothy has her own "nakama", with one of them even being (briefly) a "kind-of-enemy" figure.

      That being said, though, Journey to the West is a buddhist (not polytheist) story, and in buddhism there is a concept of bodhisattva, one who helps fellow sentient beings to be saved from ignorance and sin; as opposed to Christianity where there is an individual battle against forces of devil and corruption that you have to fight for the most part alone, no one can really help you, in Buddhism it is suggested that neither you should be alone, nor even you CAN succeed ONLY on your own, without the help of other, benevolent and all-loving, force; so one stuff pushes you to individualism, other to collectivism.

      Yet "Macguffin of X parts" still smells of technology and its peculiarities to me =)

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    7. I don´t agree with your explanations of Buddhism entirely. Buddhism is many things. Being in a buddhist community means differently to say going to a temple. Buddhism embraces a lot. It can very much be a choice to go alone, or be with other people. There´s no obligation to join this or that sect or be with some local group. Buddhism is about finding your own way, and if desired, you find like-minded people, or not. The concept of good and evil is different in Buddhism. It still exists but it is worded and lived differently. Rebirth is an evil, in the sense that we must seek to stop it. The noble 8 fold path is clearly about virtue and that´s a guide to living in a good way. So it´s not true to try and say Buddhism doesn´t see good or evil.

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    8. Interesting observation, Unknown, but I disagree on the "Christianity = individualism" conclusion. The Christian sacred books encourage altruism above all, but also communal life (separating from the "temptations of the world" and creating a "community of Saints").

      Back to video games, Ultima (again) provides good examples. The philosophy and virtues in Ultima 4 are all about altruism and relationship with others, while the Gargish principles in Ultima 6 are all about the individual. (We have to pass on Ultimas still to come on this blog: no spoilers!)

      I always thank this blog for turning my C(onsole)RPG addiction into Computer-Ultima addiction!

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    9. Western polytheistic pantheons weren't as 'closed' as the original post suggests. They all included nature spirit's (dryads, sidhe, alfar, etc) plus local deities and regional variations of 'official' deities. Even the 'folk' versions of Abrahamic religions in some rural areas retain some of these features.

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    10. I heard that even the One God of Israel was at some time a kind of polytheistic deity, which then turned first in the monolatristic deity (Yes, there ARE other gods, but do NOT bow to them!), and later into a monotheistic one (There are NO other deities, only demons masquerading as them!).

      Maybe it's true, or maybe it's just a hypothesis.

      Concerning buddhism, sure, there are a lot of Buddhist schools, there is "bodhisattva-buddhism" of Mahayana and then there is "arhat-buddhism" of Theravada, where there are no bodhisattvas striving to free all the souls and for this very reason staying in the jail of suffering for much longer than they would personally like to; kinda like all those god-like savior figures who descend into hell to save the souls there. As for there being "no good and evil" in buddhism, technically there rather is no evil, as in "no creatures of evil alignment", at least for bodhisattvas, since they strive to ultimately save absoultely every soul - bad guys included, complete monsters included, even demons themselves included! This contrasts with Christianity where your main concern is saving YOUR OWN soul and that's it; souls of others are ultimately not your responsibility; souls of demons are no one's responsibility, since they are not intended to be saved. Why there is no need to compassion for demons and souls of people destined for hell? Because they are "evil", it seems; well, there is no "evil" of such kind in Mahayana buddhism, since there compassion has no limits and is not withheld from ANY ONE.

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  20. Hirohiko Araki, the creator of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, wrote a book on how to be a successful manga creator that's a fascinating read even for someone like me who has never loved the genre. One of the things he says is that the natural arc of a story is that it should always be going upwards - the hero should always get more and more powerful, and there should never be an obstacle he can't overcome. All setbacks are temporary illusions before the inevitable triumph, after which a new challenge appears which the character must become more powerful to defeat. Reading this made me think about Aristotle rolling over in his grave. This is a kind of storytelling designed to create a series that can go on forever with increasingly high stakes, and is very different than traditional storytelling with beginnings, middles, and ends, and even from western superhero comics, in which the characters are essentially static and everything is usually reset to a status quo. Dragonball absolutely follows this structure. They are still making new episodes of the anime, and my understanding is that Goku is still getting stronger to beat stronger enemies.

    It occurs to me that this story structure is very similar to what we see in most rpgs - the characters get stronger and stronger as the story continues, until they defeat a final challenge. This is true for western and jrpgs, but jrpgs almost always acknowledge the heroes getting stronger in the story (you're fighting god at the end), while in some Western rpgs the power-scaling happens mechanically but isn't really a part of the narrative (the Witcher 3 comes to mind as ones in which there's no real reason why Geralt gets stronger as the game goes on. The original Witcher had an amnesia plot to try to deal with this problem.) It would be interesting to classify all rpgs into those in which the character growth is part of the narrative, those in which it happens totally outside the narrative, and those in which it's part of the story but there is some dissonance - the total change in the level of the character's power seems to be larger mechanically than it is narratively. I would put most D&D games into this last category, for example.

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    1. Without being intimately familiar with the particular book you're referencing, I suspect that to a large degree it stems from the fact that much like Western superhero comics, serial manga (such as Dragonball) is an inherently commercial format, such that to the extent traditional storytelling's beginnings, middles, and ends exist, they exist in the scope of a story arc rather than that of the overarching story. (For example, the Piccolo arc depicted in this game, despite the game's variations from the source material.)

      This happens, of course, because as a commercial manga writer, unless you are extremely famous and command a legion of fans and name recognition (as Akira Toriyama or Hirohiko Araki both now do), you *cannot* know when your story is going to end - it ends when the executives at Shonen Jump don't want to market it anymore. (Of course, fans of science fiction television are probably intimately familiar with this concept of things being canceled suddenly.)

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    2. I think you're probably right that this narrative structure ultimately stems from a commercial limitation. At this point, however, it's metastasized into an aesthetic preference. Western superhero comics dealt with the structure of serial publication through soap opera plotting and endless repetition. The solution mangakas came up with is something quite different, not necessarily better or worse.

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    3. Pulp fiction was also serialized and had its protagonists encounter new adventures every month or even week. But you don't see Conan the Barbarian become ever more powerful with each story. He goes on an adventure, prevails against the odds, and leaves with a couple of treasures in his pockets. No massive power gain. And if he faces enemies more powerful than him, he defeats them through cunning rather than "leveling up".

      Some pulp genres, such as hard boiled detective stories, even tend to leave the protagonist battered and bloodied at the end so he has to take a break and nurse his wounds between stories.

      The American pulps of the 30s and 40s were just as commercialized as manga, yet they don't follow that structure. Here in Germany we also had some sci-fi pulps where Aryan heroes fought against various villains, and they didn't get more powerful with each episode, either. Unlike the American pulps, which usually collected standalone short stories by various authors, the German pulps were serialized magazines following the adventures of one protagonist, and were usually written by one author or a small group of authors. A good example would be Sun-Koh, heir of Atlantis.

      These pulp writers also didn't know when their series would end (especially the German writers in the 40s who had to worry about paper rationing during the war), but they used different techniques to keep readers invested than showering their heroes with ever more powerful abilities.

      I prefer the pulps to manga, because pulp fiction usually pits an underdog protagonist against a powerful foe: the barbarian against an ancient wizard, the spy infiltrating a heavily guarded enemy stronghold, the private eye investigating a powerful mafia family... the protagonist is usually underpowered compared to what he's up against and the excitement of the story comes from wondering how he'll manage to prevail against the odds.

      If you go with a steady power escalation where the protagonist leaves each story stronger than before, you're pretty much forced to escalate with each subsequent story, and at some point it inevitably becomes silly.

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    4. I kind of think any serialized storytelling where the goal is to just keep telling stories rather than tell a self-contained story, things are going to get formulaic and preposterous; mostly I think we just have to evaluate whether they execute their formula well.

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    5. There were some American pulp fiction series with power escalation, at least in space opera. E.E. Smith's Lensman is a good example. The main hero Kimball Kinnison kept discovering new psychic powers in almost every new installment (after the initial ones) and the Galactic Patrol and their enemies, the Boskone, kept discovering new superweapons. The series did have a definite ending, though.

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    6. It does seem like anime based on manga tends to follow its source material much more closely than western comic adaptations. It's a very teachable moment about how different media work; in a comic or manga or other form of serial graphic art, things take up space in proportion to how important and visually complex they are. You might indicate a 10-minute fight with just three or four panels, but anything where we actually need to see details will take pages. But in video, ultimately things have to occupy as much space, more-or-less, as they actually take to occur (If they stray too much, you've become an art film doing interesting tricks with time, which is great but not necessarily your goal). So the manga will tend to spend a much larger proportion of its length on the lead-up, which takes very little clock-time, than on the action itself, but adapting this to video means that you've got six episodes between Goku declaring his intent to throw a punch and him actually throwing it.

      (By contrast, video can do a very wonderful form of subtlty which literature can barely do at all and serial art has a much harder time with: showing you something without letting you know it's doing it. The written word doesn't have a great analogue for a panning shot across a room that happens to pass by the key clue hidden in plain sight without calling attention to it.)

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    7. The "Conan doesn't get stronger from book to book" thread put me in mind of a pulp fiction guilty pleasure a high school friend had, being bequeathed a well-nigh complete collection of The Destroyer paperbacks (remembered in popular culture through the Remo Williams movie) dumped on him... over the books he gradually achieves mastery of Sinanju, the "sun source" of martial arts, and develops various powers of mastery -- over his body, his movements through physical space and his ability to persuade or manipulate those around him. My friend recounted that about halfway through the series a book opened with Remo in a serious malaise, in an existential rut about being powerful enough to do anything he can imagine, but so what? When you can foil any villain, bed any woman... the thrill, the excitement, the suspense is gone, and it all becomes rote and meaningless.

      Note that the point here where the hero feels they have gotten so overpowered as to be narratively exhausted is only midway through the series of books -- of which there are over 150 8)

      This also brings to mind the challenge comics writers have making compelling stories for Superman, after first establishing that he has no weaknesses.

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    8. A case study in what happens when the protagonist becomes too strong is the anime/manga One Punch Man, where (yes) the titular hero STARTS with being strong enough to defeat any enemy in one punch (hence the name). It's a pretty funny deconstruction.

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    9. "The written word doesn't have a great analogue for a panning shot across a room that happens to pass by the key clue hidden in plain sight without calling attention to it." Nabokov's Pale Fire, which just came up elsewhere in the blog, is one great example of a text doing exactly this.

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    10. "remembered in popular culture through the Remo Williams movie"
      That's not a sentence I expected to read today or ever.

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    11. Although Araki himself solved the issue by making each arc of his story about a new protagonist, so that the power level could reset (or even be based on different ideas). This is part of why Jojo has lasted for so long. But then sometimes you get a genius like Oda Eiichiro who is able to somehow make One Piece still feel fresh after 100+ volumes; I honestly don't know what his secret is but it works (for me at least).

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    12. I am more familiar with the opposite: good series that drag on and on until they get awful (X-Files, Sliders, Lost, Twin Peaks). I can imagine the following dialogue:

      Series author: "The next season will be the great, final one."
      TV executive: "No. Leave the ending open for many further seasons."
      Author: "But... Please, let me do the amazing ending I have in mind !"
      Executive: "No. Five more seasons. It is an order."
      Author: "Pleeeease !!!"
      Executive: "No."

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    13. I'll give you 3/4 of those, but I can't believe that the writers of Lost ever had any idea where they were going.

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    14. Those examples are also all from the era when TV series with complicated plot arcs were not encouraged by executives, because it was highly desirable to be able to watch the episodes in any order in syndication. There was also great fear of "continuity lockout" - that people wouldn't start watching the show after it began because they wouldn't know what was going on.

      This is a uniquely American phenomenon, and one of the reasons that anime (to bring this discussion back to the game it is nominally about) became as popular as it did. Even infamously drawn-out series like Dragon Ball has clearly defined plot arcs instead of spinning in endless stasis the way most American shows before the 21st century did.

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  21. Hilarious 'Music Man' reference especially since he does appear to be wearing a uniform with a gold braid.

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  22. Krillin actually was a Buddhist monk, or at least DB's version of Buddhism before he was introduced into the story.

    Lunch is sort of a minor character, and I don't really remember her being much of a character at this point in the story. She was introduced because Goku and Krillin's master, Roshi, was a pervert and wanted his students to get him a chick. Lunch's gimmick is that she shifts between a really nice person and a psychopath whenever she sneezes. Her being helpful in psychopath form seems really out of character for her.

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  23. "Moving between areas. I have no idea who the guy in the upper-left is."

    Yes, we have the tendency to see faces in everything, but since every other image on the map depicts some sort of landmark, I'd read that as a waterfall from a top-down perspective.

    Other interpretations are welcome, of course...

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    1. I was going to argue with you, but I guess maybe you're right. To me, it looks like a guy facing towards the bottom right. There's a lock of curly hair on his forehead, just on the edge of the image. He's gritting his teeth in an angry way. But now I see your interpretation, too.

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    2. I read that as a picture of Piccolo. But it's admittedly weird to put him on the map, unless that's the location of his lair or something.

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    3. Without context, it's obviously hard to tell; however, I agree that it appears to be Piccolo's face—which means that it could also be Kami's. Kami is Piccolo's "other half", who is pure good because he divested himself of all his evil; thus, he looks just like Piccolo.

      You can probably tell just how well that worked out for everyone.

      No idea just why he'd be showing up there. At this point in the story, I believe he would have been living at the top of Karin Tower, which Chet mentioned was one of the locations.

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    4. That's obviously Piccolo. Was that the location of his Dark Castle or something?

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    5. I think BESTIEunlmt is right. What we're taking for a face is actually a top-down scene of a waterfall. What I originally perceived as eyes and teeth are rocks at the bottom.

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    6. I can only ever see Piccolo. Here's my colorized interpretation:

      https://imgur.com/ZkWzFjR

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    7. I mean, did you ever get there? I know these early NES titles like to do a lot of abstraction, but do the locations stand in any correlation to their map image?

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    8. That graphic, unlike the others, does not appear to indicate an in-game location. I watched a gameplay video and it doesn't do anything. I think it really is just a random graphic of angry Piccolo.

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    9. That is very, very obviously a picture of Piccolo.

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  24. Thank you for the Malcom Trandle reference.

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  25. Yet another baffling choice of console game, but at least it's an interesting one that I'd garner most people haven't played. Good to see that fan translations are on the table now, too.

    Given your luck with console entries, you are bound to play Final Fantasy II (the one from 1988) sooner rather than later, so I'd like to recommend that you avoid the Neo Demiforce translation, which wasn't meant to be particularly accurate. The newer Chaos Rush translation is far more faithful to the orginal script and doesn't go out of its way to be "funny" the way the older one does.

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  26. I watched one episode of DBZ with some friends who were really into it when I was in college in the late 1990s. All I remember is that there was a character named 'Mr. Satan' who had apparently done something heroic, so there was a whole stadium full of people chanting 'SATAN! SATAN! SATAN!'over and over again. That's pretty much all I got out of it.

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    1. Bear in mind that, when DB was written, the average Japanese didn't know much about christianity; so "satan" is just as much of a silly reference as naming a major villain "cabbage" or the female lead "underpants". Those are actual examples, too.

      In most translations he goes by "Hercule" instead.

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    2. Oh yeah, I'm well aware that the character has nothing to do with the Judeo-Christian Satan. I just thought the situation was funny.

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    3. I think the basic idea is that to a Japanese audience, the name lacks the religious angle and comes off as a very generic "Tough Bad-Ass" name - not unlike, say, "the Undertaker".

      I remember when Yu-Gi-Oh was translated, a lot of people got upset that a dragon translated as "Helmos" in the manga was instead called "Hermos" in the anime,. they assumed it was censorship to remove a reference to hell. In fact, the name was meant to be a reference to the character of Hermocrites from Plato's Republic (This is obvious in context if you've read Republic), so the manga translation was just less accurate.

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    4. There was a popular NHL player named Satan (well, Šatan), so this might conceivably have happened in real life.

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    5. Please tell me he played for the NJ Devils.

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  27. I agree with you regarding magic or superpowers that are not clearly defined, and their ill effect on a story's ability to create tension. The same goes for future tech. Another example would be those exaggerated fight scenes in so many films with "normal" human characters taking repeated blows to the head and ribs and then getting right back up as if they'd only been grazed. The viewer comes to realize he can't reliably assess the danger faced by the characters in the film because he has no point of reference.

    On the flip side, there's an anime series (based on a manga) called Death Note that lays out the rules of its supernatural element very precisely, in way that is basically just expository. I remember it feeling a little artificial to me, as if someone had designed a game and was explaining exactly how it worked, but, as you might expect, these rules are what drive the story. The clear communication of them to the audience is what allows the audience to feel tension and suspense at the appropriate moments. It's a good series, by the way. As someone who doesn't like much anime, I recommend it!

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  28. I've played this one, it's a short fun game with it's card system and pseudo-adventure game gameplay. I remember you needed to stack as many super cards as you could to defeat some of the bosses. The hardest puzzle for me was searching through that jungle for that fruit. Doesn't outlast its novelty value.

    The tension in Dragon Ball Z comes from the villains not only being stronger, but strong enough it feels impossible for the heroes to win. In the early arcs of the DBZ sequel series, there were these things called "power levels" that gaged how strong a character was. At the point where the strongest villain yet encountered had a power level of 50,000, the main villain, Frieza, was revealed to have a power level over 1 million, 20X higher. Everything that happens is also explained by a side character, so you have a clear picture of what goes on and this manages to make it more engaging.

    The Dragon Ball manga is from 1984, and Kamehameha was introduced early on, so that would be an earlier source. I'm not aware of any manga or anime earlier that uses those multisyllable attack names.

    Bulma calls Goku "son" because his full name is Son Goku. It didn't make sense in the anime either how those capsules can make a car appear.

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    1. Fist of the North Star did a year earlier, and I think that earlier super robot manga like Mazinger Z have it as well. But it goes back much earlier than that; Kamen Rider and Ultraman in the 1960s did it on TV. But the original source is probably Edo-period Kabuki.

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    2. I can't imagine anything that would remove me from a story faster than having people assigned an explicit, numeric power level.

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    3. @CRPG Addict Lol.

      If you think that's bad, you should see Isekai, where even though it's set in a real fantasy world, the world operates on MMORPG mechanics.

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    4. @Kurisu Didn't know HnK came out earlier. I wouldn't call the Tokusatsu moves multi-word-attacks.

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    5. In fairness, power levels are BS and people can hide their power or beat ones that are much stronger with skill and technique, look at Goku VS Vegeta, Goku with the power level of 8.000 VS Vegeta with 18.000 and Vegeta had to cheat to grant himself ten times his normal power because Goku severely hurt him and was kicking his ass with skill.

      The popular Dragon Ball Abridged even makes a running gag out of power levels being useless once Vegeta sees someone that couldn't handle his much weaker minion now beating someone he couldn't even scratch as he yells "POWER LEVELS ARE BULLSHIT!" which is something they mock again when Cell is asked his power level and he just rolls his eyes saying they were never important or useful to know.

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    6. Only 8.000? It's over NINE THOUSAAAAAND!!!

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  29. The battle system in this was used in the SNES game Dragon Ball Z: Legend of the Super Saiyan which was based on the first two arcs of Dragon Ball Z

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  30. I wonder if being younger than quite a few here and growing up when DBZ got big and anime started really getting dubbed and thus having zero issues with anime colored my perception because i never saw any issue with anime aesthetics at all and kinda enjoy them.

    As for Dragon Ball, i even like it, it's nowhere near the best series ever, not even a top 30 best anime/manga but...i strangely found it genuinely charming and fun in a way that in other series feels forced and fake.

    There is just this sort of charisma and sincerity in trying to just be a badass and funny show that makes it be better than the sum of it's parts and it was just the right amount of quirky and awesome for kids and teens with enough in the setting to still really be developed and interested at, things like fusions or new forms were just cool.

    And i think that was more because Akira Toriyama started as a comedy writer that also liked martial arts movies, the minute Dragon Ball GT started and he wasn't involved, people hated it, people hated the movie, Super is very controversial and the latest Super arc is just really really bad and boring and you miss Toriyama's designs and writing style, like i said, his writing is just...oddly charming you ignore the flaws and it's something you either get or don't...and considering the popularity of the franchise, it seems most people fell for the charm.

    And it's mostly charm, charisma and a certain aura making it more than the sum of it's parts, talk to a lot of people in the fandom that have actually seen/read more than 5 things and they will all admit Dragon Ball technically sucks and yet we still love it to pieces.

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    1. I people either like shōnen* or they dont.

      I tried to like it, because people would go on and on about Naruto, Rurouni Kenshi, Tri-Gun, FMA etc. Couldn't do it.

      *For the uninitiated, shōnen is manga (comics) aimed at 12-18 y/o boys, the animated representations of which comprise the majority of popular anime series.

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  31. Dragon Ball and friends don't seem too interesting to me based on the bits I've heard of them, so I can't really comment on the franchise in particular.

    Sort of tangentially related to your comment on the Laws of Magic, though... I was thinking during the arguments about the new Wheel of Time series that there are actually a couple of different approaches to magic and power level in general that one could take, and people may respond differently to certain works depending on what approach they expect.

    So the Laws of Magic are based on what I think of as the "military strategy" approach. If you have a bunch of armies around the world, and each army has a basically fixed size, then a bigger army is going to be expected to defeat a smaller army, unless the smaller army can come up with some plausible tactical advantage. And fixed/quantifiable magic power levels basically work equivalently to army size. So if a character isn't powerful enough to overcome a specific challenge, then they need to either increase their power level, or find a creative way of using their established abilities that counteracts the imbalance. And in that framework, the plausibility of the world basically comes from being able to predict characters' power levels based on the cohesive rules of how magic works.

    A completely separate approach, though, might be what I'd call the "emotional arc" approach. Here, characters wouldn't have clearly-defined power levels or abilities, and would generally be capable of manifesting whatever ability they might need to overcome the current challenge—as long as they overcome a proportional emotional block in order to unlock that ability, or pay some kind of proportionate emotional price for using it. So here, consistent rules about power levels wouldn't matter so much, as long as the emotional journey the character takes in the process of acquiring and using their powers remains plausible.

    (I'm wondering if Lord of the Rings is kind of a variation on that approach... I don't believe any exact limits on Gandalf's magic were ever really established. He didn't exactly have an emotional arc of his own, but his magic and the magic of the antagonists basically seemed to be exactly what was necessary to ensure that Frodo's emotional journey happened the way it needed to. Meanwhile, people who think in "military strategy" terms were screaming "The eagles!!")

    Reading other people's comments about Dragon Ball here also makes me wonder if it might be following a separate "improv comedy" approach, where the plot just keeps saying "yes, and..." to every possible development in characters' powers, and the only requirement for plausibility is that each new twist is sufficiently funny and/or cool.

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    1. Less "improv comedy" than "kids play-fighting". "I can fly and I'm super strong and I'm flying in and beating you up!" "Well, I have a laser gun that can shoot you out of the air!" "I make a force field that reflects the laser back at you and blows you up!" etc.

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    2. Oh yeah? Well MY power level is one bazillion squillion! So there!

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    3. I think that was a good riff on the Laws of Magic. A couple of comments:

      1. The book series is a bit more explicit than the Amazon series when it comes to relative power levels, which vary by type of magic. The oaths the Aes Sedai take also put some limits on what they can do. Nonetheless, it's still a pretty "soft" system.

      2. Even Sanderson says that the rules of magic don't need to be clear if magic isn't used to solve any big problems. Gandalf's limits don't need to be made explicit because Gandalf doesn't use them to overcome any obstacles except incidental ones. Indeed, he barely uses simple combat spells. He ends up swinging his staff around most of the time.

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    4. In regards to the Wheel Of Time, the only reason characters have an explicitly written power level is that the Aes Sedai base their entire hierarchy on how strong each woman is. Which would create huge plot holes if Jordan had forgotten an interaction and shown an character deferring to someone who deferred to somebody who deferred to her.

      Which is unusually critical because "incredibly powerful ancient wizards with powerful illusion magic" was a major threat, so that exact scenario of somebody being too strong than she had shown herself to be would be a major plot clue if done on purpose. So Jordan devised a power-level system for his own use that he could put on every Aes Sedai and determine their relative authority at a glance.

      It was never intended for the reader, and isn't explicitly mentioned in universe. Which means it is entirely in line with Sanderson's Laws of Magic - they're advice for the writer to avoid creating plot holes and false clues, not inherently to create a puzzle for the reader.

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