Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dragonball Z: Gekishin Freeza (Famicom, 1991)

THIS is the best Dragonball Z RPG out there for a retro system. It's better than the other Famicom games, it's better than the Super Famicom games... the newer ones on DS and whatnot likely have it beat, but if you want to play a retro DBZ game look no further than this one. It's seriously really good, you guys.

Aside from the story mode, there's an arena mode. This weird option gives you a battle royal to watch, with four randomly-chosen characters from the game. They all have their starting stats, which means some will be far more powerful than others.

Here we have Gokou versus some jobbers... and Kuririn. Needless to say, Gokou reigns supreme in this mode.

 It's good for seeing some of the moves from the game and showing it off, but that's about it. Oh, and the music is pretty sweet.

 That said, "Ritual of Ancient Battles" should play as Gokou and Kuririn circle each other to the amusement of their alien overlords.

 In any case, on to the meat of this game... story mode. It picks up right where the previous game left off. Piccolo is dead and Gokou is in the hospital, so the rest of the Z-Fighters set out for Namek. If they find the Dragonballs there, they can wish Piccolo back. And so forth.

Course, in the previous game, Piccolo never actually died. Either way, we get a course correction for this game.

 Like the first game, you move around by choosing numbered cards. Unlike the first game, you can control how many spaces you move (as in, you don't need to go the full number of spaces dictated by the card you draw) and the party is all consolidated into one unit. This is SO MUCH MORE PLAYABLE.

 As you move around, you draw cards. Some of them give you items, heals, or other bonuses. For the most part, you're gonna be seeing Freeza's mug the most. This means random battle.

 The Freeza Saga is absolutely the best-suited to a video game. Since Freeza has an army there's no shortage of foes to battle. The battle theme in this game is also excellent for an NES track. Much more fitting to the mood of this saga than the super-happy battle themes in all of the other DBZ RPGs.

The power levels are also super-accurate to the show. While the show had Kuririn and Gohan fighting Freeza's goons, here they've got some help from Yamcha, Tien, and Chaozu. This makes the game a lot easier in the early-going, especially compared to the previous game's difficulty curve of basically throwing you into a volcano and telling you to swim.

Here's a shot of our other main protagonist. Also, it's pretty cool to be fighting all these goons in Saiyan armor. Or Freeza armor. Whatever it is. Even Chaozu gets to be useful in this game, as he has a special move that causes enemies to miss a turn. Huge advantage.

 More goons. Every battle makes your characters about 100 BP stronger even at this early stage, and you'll actually want to fight these battles. It isn't like the previous game where you get 5-10 BP from Fight With Saibaman #364.

 Rawberry... heh. Apparently all of the Freeza goons had names.

 Energy attacks return, but they're much cooler-looking in this game. It's like the development team behind the first game actually played some successful RPGs, went "EUREKA!" and made this game with what they'd learned.

It's the weird Event Horizon ship from the show. At first glance it looks abandoned, but the inhabitants are actually hiding from Freeza and his planet-selling brigade. It's also a gateway to hell.

 Imagine that, their planet got invaded so they flew out into space and put on a cloaking device just to get away. This stuff really does a good job establishing that Freeza's army is bad news.

Also, this part of the show has Bulma walking around in her underwear a lot, so that's cool.

There's a shortcut to the left here that takes you to Namek...
 ...or IS IT? Nope, this is the Fake Namek, complete with Crab People. Far as I can tell it puts you into a fight with some fairly tough Freeza goons. I hit reset and flew on past it. Yeah, it can be skipped.

 Protip: The first card in your inventory is the Bulma card, which slightly restores (25% or so) one person every turn. This is super useful for sustaining the party as you fly along. Failure to use this every turn increases the odds that you'll see...

...The Game Over screen, which features Gokou doing a Shooting Star Press into a pot of soup.

 Tien's strongest attack is the quad-form technique. AWESOME. This is one of the best attacks in this whole Famicom series.

If you luck out and draw a Muten Roshi card, you get thrown into a BP-training minigame.

 It's identical to the BP-training from the previous game, but the rewards are WAY more substantial. Something like 350 BP per win instead of 10. Still only affects one character, unfortunately. I use this to bump Gohan up to a considerably higher power level than the others., that first game was unbelievable. 10 BP for winning a card game, and less for fights, when you needed to grind something like 4000 BP over the course of the game... can't have the player advancing at any kind of reasonable rate, nope.

In this game, the card training is a huge help early on. After I put Gohan through it, he effectively becomes a ringer who can take out random enemies quickly. Also, poor Yamcha. How the hell is he weaker than Chaozu?

Bulma finally puts on some clothes. Also, these characters are somehow dumber than the crew from Prometheus. They don't even bother wearing helmets when stepping onto Namek, much less testing the air for contaminants or anything. Who knows what diseases these Namek-folk have floating around? Maybe Piccolo is in such a bad mood all the time because of the SuperAIDS.

Of course, Vegeta is here too, and what follows is a three way race to see who can collect the Dragonballs first. It's sorta like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly except it's The Good, The Bad, and The Worse.

There's an overworld, and you can fly around it. Vegeta and Kuei are also on the overworld moving around independently; the goal is to get to the nearby Namek village before they do. If you succeed, you get a 'Ball. If Vegeta gets there first, he gets it... though you get it from him later when he joins you. At least, I think that's how it works. If Kuei gets there, then he'll hold onto it until you defeat him. He also has his own 'Ball by default, so there's a reason to defeat him no matter what.

You can choose to fight Kuei right now, but it's an extremely difficult fight even when I have Gohan powered up. Best to wait until later. Can't fight Vegeta, for some reason. Get into a battle with him and he immediately lets you go.

 In this case, Vegeta got to the village first and demands their balls. The Nameks sure take a beating in this saga.

 A Namek soldier does battle with Vegeta, but it's extremely unwinnable. Given that he's somewhat heroic later on, it's easy to forget what a complete bastard Vegeta was in these early sagas.

Meanwhile, Gokou recovers from his injuries and begins his own journey to Namek. Gokou isn't quite the sociopath he'd become yet; he's still in full-on Golden Boy Superman mode here and can do no wrong. Moments after this picture was taken, he found a beer in the spaceship fridge and refused... REFUSED to partake of its dastardly alcoholic temptations.

 He follows the same exact path and fights the same enemies, just solo. Luckily, he's much more powerful than the rest of the Z-Fighters, and has little trouble dispatching any of the goons along the way.

 Behold this (apparently cross-eyed) Freeza Goon as he processes his final moments.

Every so often Gokou boards his ship to train. Woo hoo! More training minigames! In this game they're somehow more palatable than the previous game, maybe because the ones you HAVE to do were actually in the show.

This is essentially a game of Blackjack. You want to get as close to 10 as possible without going over. Lots of randomness is involved, but if you exploit save states are lucky, you get some huge power boosts from playing this until Gokou gets tired. 

Back on Namek, Dodoria has joined the overworld race. Kuei is gone for now, so Dodoria has effectively taken his place. Dodoria is even more powerful than Kuei, so the best bet is to just continue to avoid him and Vegeta. Much like the show.

This time, I get to the next town before any of the bad guys do. This leads to a quick cutscene where our heroes tell the elder that we, you see, are the good guys and those, you see, are the bad guys. And the elder is all "oh, well in that case!" and just hands over the most prized possession of the village. Why are all of these Dragonballs just hanging out in random villages, anyway? Shouldn't they all be in some vault in the Eldest Namek's basement? Well, two vaults, gotta keep them separate I guess so that Nail doesn't sneak in and wish for a girlfriend. Good luck with that, Nail. Namekians don't have women. They're like Lord of the Rings dwarves.

A bizarre cutscene follows as Piccolo and Gokou telepathically communicate over the vastness of space.

 They aren't worried about Piccolo's home planet being ravaged by fiends, or the threat of a tyrannical space emperor. They're worried about being stronger than each other! DBZ!

Gokou has some sweet new moves in this game. The biggest and most important is the Super Genki Dama (Spirit Bomb). It completely demolishes everything in the game in one or two hits - aside from the final boss - just like the Regular Genki Dama did in the first game.

Now we're up to 50x gravity! For reference, King Kai's planet is a measily 10x gravity. In the real world, training in such higher gravity would cause your body to crumple up like an empty soda can under the wheel of a car, but in this universe it just makes you super-strong.

Meanwhile, Zarbon finds the clitoris. Well, he's way ahead of Gokou in one department.

After evading Zarbon and getting to a town in yet another overworld segment, I get the next 'Ball. I like how the Namekians just casually give their most prized possessions to the heroes as long as they ask nicely. The lesson here is that if Vegeta had just learned some manners somewhere, he wouldn't have needed to murder all those people.

A brief side-quest takes Gokou to a planet near Namek. This wasn't in the show. Also, this planet is basically one room.

Unfortunately, Freeza Goons have taken possession here. Little do they know, Gokou is READY FOR ACTION.

 Zarbon and Dodoria clones are part of this goon squad. The game might catch the player off guard here since Gokou takes a lot of damage while gravity-training and if you're not paying attention, it's easy to enter this battle without realizing what bad shape he's in. ...Oops.

 Then again...

 ...he possesses KABOOM. Now THAT is a beam.

Not sure who Kanassa is, but the name rings a bell. He's shocked that a Saiyan helped them, given that Saiyans were known for being Freeza's shocktroopers. You know, back before Freeza noticed that they got stronger a lot quicker than any other races and decided to go all T-800 in a police station on them.

Finally, Gokou challenges the final boss of gravity training, 100 G. Well, final boss for now. The next game has Vegeta taking on 300 Gs.

After that, it's back to Namek. Yeah, the game has been mostly training thusfar, but just wait. It'll get more interesting.

Kuririn heads for the Eldest Namek's kickin' bachelor pad, but now the overworld map has Zarbon, Dodoria, AND Kuei homing in on us. Kuririn alone has no chance of defeating any of them. It's a pulse-pounding chase scene!

For the final shot of today, here's Kuririn's Spread Beam. Not only does it sexually excite blonde androids, it's also the only good beam attack that affects all enemies. It does a great job mopping up groups of weaker foes.

 Tune in tomorrow as I finally start killing Freeza's minions and take on the space emperor himself. And leave a comment below!


  1. Weaker than Chaozu: The Yamcha Story

    Is it even possible for Gokou to get drunk?

  2. Whenever you're excited about a game (and you've reviewed a lot of ones you like today) it really shows. I'm glad they finally figured out the system they were working on, and the chase scenes here are pretty cool.