The Legend of Zelda has proved to be quite a force in the game industry, inspiring all kinds of developers to create their own variations on the franchise. Few of them are as blatant as 3D Dot Game Heroes, a traditional action-RPG that pulls most of its mechanics from the original Zelda. Even rarer is an adventure game like Dragon Ball: Origins, an action-packed DS exclusive that appears to have been inspired solely by The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.
The typical outcome for a game of this stature is often akin to a yawn; brief, tiring, and ultimately forgettable. Origins, however, was so much more than that. It was a game that sucked us in with aggressive combat. It intrigued Dragon Ball fans with its display of characters (both good and evil). And it enveloped players with touch screen controls that were nearly as good as Zelda’s.
Origins 2 continues the journey with a few improvements, including a greater emphasis on mission-based levels. There are more than 40 missions to conquer, and those that have been completed can be replayed at any time. This is critical because, just like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and other hardcore releases, Origins 2 is all about character growth.
However, Goku doesn’t need the power of souls to get stronger – he needs Training Points (TP). These handy dandy orbs are most commonly found underneath the disappearing corpses of dead monsters, but you will also see them in the occasional treasure chest.
Come to think of it, that isn’t all that different from the way Dante or Bayonetta acquires their upgrades. But the system works. To gain additional TP without taking on the current (and likely more challenging) mission, simply go back to an old one, thrash a few enemies, and walk away. The extra money you’ll gain from this endeavor will make it easier to purchase health replenishing items, which are an essential part of survival. Without them, Origins 2 can be highly unforgiving.
As expected, the touch screen controls are back, and they work great. But this sequel does not discriminate between touch- or button-based control schemes; players are asked to select one (or both) of these play styles at the start of the game. Surprisingly, my fingers naturally gravitated toward the button format. I had been used to the touch controls from the first Origins, as well as Phantom Hourglass. And yet I still ended up using the buttons most of the time. This might be due to the increase in battles, since enemies are everywhere. You can tap the heck out of them to attack, but it still felt like a job for the A, X, and Y buttons.
Origins 2 doesn’t require much patience but it demands a respectable amount of endurance, thanks in part to a shortage of save zones. You’ll spend a lot of time battling enemies and collecting valuable items, without ever knowing how secure your accomplishments are until doomsday strikes and you have to start over. This is an unnecessary frustration, no doubt. But the game offers a workaround that allows players to cheat the system. Though you may not be able to record your data without a save zone, Origins 2 gives you the option to escape any level with all your items by “retiring” from the mission. The game may then be saved from the level selection screen. It’s a roundabout way of doing things, to be certain. But it sure beats having to replay a mission by force, when you may have only wanted to replay it for fun or to expand Goku’s wealth.
Graphically, Origins 2 isn’t that different from the original. There are more environments, and thus a greater variety of eye candy. Goku’s animations are stellar – not only are they some of the most impressive you’ll see on the DS, but they also accurately depict the fine work of Akira Toriyama. The rest, however, is familiar territory. Players will be more impressed by which characters appear (and which ones are playable) in the game than by any of the visuals.
Dragon Ball: Origins 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but as far as by-the-book sequels are concerned, this is one of the best. It is a wonderful extension of the original that corrects some of the predecessor’s issues while increasing the challenge and improving the battle variety. The lack of save options is frustrating, but as a gamer, you’re guaranteed to have endured worse for far less of a reward. Don’t let Origins 2’s mistakes deter you from playing a game that will be remembered for its successes, not for its faults.