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"True warriors are in a never-ending search for the ultimate fight."
The Dragon Ball video games have allowed us to harness the same power that series protagonist Goku fights with in the anime and manga. In the mobile game Dragon Ball Legends, we fight alongside him as the Saiyan character Shallot. In Dragon Ball FighterZ, we could choose to fight against him, or even as him, as well as dozens of other characters from the Dragon Ball universe. And soon, in the upcoming game Dragon Ball: Project Z, we will be allowed to play as Goku through the story of Dragon Ball Z. There's no official release date yet, but it is expected to be during the fall season of 2019.
There's a lot left to learn about the game—a lot we won't know until we play it—but this is what we know so far about Dragon Ball: Project Z.
Dragon Ball: Project Z
Project Z's trailer was released amongst the adrenaline and fanfare of the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour Finals. It started off by reminding audiences of the two most recent Dragon Ball games—Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and Dragon Ball FighterZ, both highly rated games—before revealing Project Z.
Goku's Story in a Game
"A story about determination, despair, and hope."
Rather than a fighting game with a sparse narrative, Project Z is expected to retell the story of Dragon Ball Z. Of course, Dragon Ball Z was 291 episodes long, spanning nearly a decade with several movies on top of that, so there's a lot to unpack in that statement.
The trailer showed us a lot of familiar figures, including characters like Gohan and Piccolo, Kame House and Capsule Corps, and Goku's first transformation into a Super Saiyan. We can reasonably expect all the filler episodes to be left out, but hopefully not much else will be. Having such a rich universe, Dragon Ball Z has a lot of features that can easily translate to game mechanics.
Goku's training on King Kai's planet, for one, is a no-brainer to become a player controls tutorial—and a very dynamic one at that which could be revisited multiple times as the gameplay develops. In the anime, his time training with King Kai is overshadowed by Vegeta and Nappa's impending arrival on Earth. The developers have a plethora of storytelling techniques at their disposal to make this tutorial an unpleasant one. Manipulating the player so that they fail the Kaioken Technique several times, while a timer for Vegeta and Nappa's arrival counts down in the corner of the screen? Maybe it depends on your intestinal fortitude, but that's bound to encourage a player to master and finish the tutorial quickly.
If the game took on a more open world format, the planet Namek would make a fun map to explore. Senzu beans, of course, can be used to heal a player that has taken too much damage—as it's been used in past Dragon Ball games. And when a player inevitably dies, it'd be a cute touch to have Goku hanging out on King Kai's planet, wearing a halo, on the loading screen.
Reliving Dragon Ball Z's Greatest Fight Scenes
One thing we can be sure of is that Dragon Ball Z's most iconic fights will be recreated.
Early in Dragon Ball Z (and one of the top Dragon Ball Z moments), Vegeta was introduced as one of the most fearsome villains Goku had ever faced, and it would not be surprising if players have to face off against the Saiyan who has become one of Goku's closest allies. This means the resurrection of all his snarky, abusive one-liners which we—in my humble opinion—never should have lost. We might also have the opportunity to play against Vegeta in his Great Ape form, as Goku did in their first battle. Granted, Goku lost that fight, but it would be fun to play.
Controlling Goku's First Super Saiyan Transformation
Frieza, being one of the main antagonists of the entire franchise, is certain to make an appearance, and the episode "Transformed at Last" was teased in the trailer. It's very likely it will be featured as the main boss battle so prolific in fighting games like this. Suffering through both Vegeta's and Krillin's deaths again doesn't seem fun, but to be able to guide Goku through his first Super Saiyan transformation, it would be worth it.
What's a little unclear is just how strictly the game's timeline will hold to Dragon Ball Z's. At the start of the trailer is a fight between Goku and Piccolo—Goku and Piccolo were adversaries in Dragon Ball, the first series of Goku's story, and predecessor to Dragon Ball Z. By the start of Dragon Ball Z, Goku and Piccolo play on the same team. Regardless though, it's a great scene, and no one will complain about having it there.
This game, an action RPG, seems to be going down a very story-heavy route; but judging from the trailer, no colorful animations or flashy attacks will be sacrificed.
Since Goku doesn't power up to Super Saiyan until the end of the Frieza Saga, this ability may not be available until near the end of the game, or at least not early in the game.
However, though Dragon Ball Super and its metric ton of transformations make it easy to forget, Goku was not powerless before he learned to become Super Saiyan. The Spirit Bomb, Kamehameha Wave, and Kaioken Technique should be at the player's disposal throughout Dragon Ball: Project Z's entirety.
There's no word yet on whether or not Goku will be the only playable character, but it's easy to believe there will be others. As fun as it could be to watch the story play out through Goku's eyes—arriving too late to save Gohan from getting his neck snapped could make for an upsetting cutscene—he did spend several fights on the sidelines, including some of the top Dragon Ball Super fights. Krillin, Piccolo, Tien, Yamcha, and Chiaotzu versus Vegeta and Nappa; Gohan and Krillin versus Guldo; and even Vegeta walking through Frieza's guards would make awesome challenges. And leaving out the scene of Dende summoning the Eternal Dragon because Goku was in the infirmary at the time would be absolutely criminal.
Bandai Namco has given us dozens of incredible gaming experiences over the years, and it looks like they're doing so again in 2019, once again spearheading Dragon Ball's latest project.
Project Z will be developed by CyberConnect2, a company which is no stranger to adapting an anime series into a video game. They had great success recreating the Naruto Shippuden series, and the latest installment of this series—Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4—looks like the best indicator of what we can expect this Dragon Ball game project's final product to look like. Though Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a fighter game and Project Z will be an action RPG, the animation style of their trailers are pretty much identical, and you'd be blind if you didn't see the similarities between the two franchise's fighting styles.
Another promising sign that Project Z will turn out great: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 has received dozens of great reviews.
Dragon Ball: Project Z is slated for release sometime this year, most likely this fall, and will be available to play on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.