Can These Three Dragon Ball Games Take The Franchise To A New Level?

By Masoud House

March 13, 2014

Recently I looked at a few reasons the Dragon Ball mega-franchise needed to get itself back on track by offering something truly new and unique for fans to get excited about again. That made me think: what kind of games would I like to see that haven’t been done before?

There’s been a few different approaches to Dragon Ball games in the past, including RPGs and adventure games, but still, those come fairly infrequently, lost in obscurity to the dozen or so formulaic fighting games that have come out and rehashed the same familiar story that fans have been reliving for three decades now. So why not do something completely new?

Dragon Ball Multiverse

Genre: Fighting Game

So yes, fighting games do take up the majority of the franchise, and this is a fighting game idea. But I think creating a new and better fighting game — one that changes the narrative formula from basically every fighting game that came before — would be positive for the series.

Ever heard of Dragon Ball Multiverse? According to the internet, you probably have, since the series has been translated into over two dozen languages, adapted into YouTube video shorts, and has reached well over 800 pages at the time of this writing. I only learned about it a few months ago, though, so if you’re like me then you may have never been introduced to what is one of the best Dragon Ball Sagas ever told. And it’s not authored by Akira Toriyama, but by fans: writer Salagir and artist Gogeta Jr.

The premise is simple. An alien race called the Vargas have teamed with the Namekians and Supreme Kais of their world to host an interdimensional multiverse tournament. Their combatants? Fighters from twenty different parallel worlds, all of whom come from a simple “What If” scenario that at some point diverged from our Earth’s history.

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There is a universe where Trunks never stopped the Androids’ reign of terror over humanity. There’s a universe where Bardock succeeded in stopping Frieza, became the King of the Saiyans, but then became the last of his race after facing an indomitable foe. There’s a universe where the Human Z-fighters alone have protected the Earth from danger, with Krillin having succeeded Master Roshi as the Turtle Hermit, Yamcha a cyborg (or “Android” as Dragon Ball has always collectively grouped most of its cyberhumans), and Videl has been trained to use the Z-Sword. There’s a universe where all the Namekians fused together into one unstoppable hero to stop Frieza and every other villain that threatened the galaxy. And that’s only the start.

And their prize: not only the glorious title of strongest in all universes, but also three wishes from the Namekian Dragon of Universe One.

What’s great about this setup is that it is so typically Dragon Ball Z: a big tournament, unique abilities, blah blah blah. But it is also so fantastically unique in two ways: not only does it provide a “Dream Battle” type of story (which many gamers have enjoyed in longlasting fighting game series like King of Fighters and the Capcom VS titles), but the authors — and the fans of the series — have also really embraced all of the narrative possibilities of the premise.

It could have easily and simply started and ended as the fantasy baseball of anime franchises, but Salagir and Gogeta Jr. have taken many moments to explore the past of various characters and their universes with flashbacks and special one-shot issues, and have created a slew of subplots between the characters in the here and now with various asides and and dreams of revenge against their enemies across the worlds.

For example, Majin Buu of Universe 4 has absorbed both the abilities and personalities of everyone in his universe: but his usual facade of confidence masks an internal conflict between the heroic and villainous personalities fighting for dominance inside him. This makes the reader wonder if he’s looking to redeem himself in this tournament…or still looking for more victims. Vegito of Universe 16 never defused back into Goku and Vegeta after the battle with Buu, becoming a hero of immense power. But it starts to become apparent that the most powerful being in the tournament may also be the most unstable. There’s plenty more plots underlying the larger story of DB Multiverse, including plots for power from Cell, Frieza and others in the tournament, but if I mention anymore scenarios I may rob readers of the enjoyment they’ll get from reading the series on their own.

A Dragon Ball Multiverse game should take all of these concepts and then take even more liberties. There’s room for all kinds of characters to debut in future iterations expanding into all kinds of interesting or silly territory. Ever wondered how a Super Saiyan 3 Nappa would look? Would his moustache just get really long? Or what about a Super Saiyan 3 Raditz, with about a six foot train of wild golden hair? What if an evil Master Roshi indoctrinated his lieges into his own Turtle Hermit Red Ribbon Army? What if Bulma used her quick wits and capsule technology to call up armor and weapons for any occasion as a sort of Iron Woman or Batman-like hero? What if Oolong could use his shapeshifting for terrifying transformations? What if Chichi was the strongest woman — or warrior at all — in the world? What if Mercenary Tao was given more powerful cybernetic appendages? What if Yajirobe was actually a formidable samurai warrior? What if Oozarus (the Saiyan race’s giant ape form) could perform the Fusion Dance to become even more dangerous monsters?

Sounds insane, but this game could embrace the wild and bizarre, and thrive off of it. Fully customizable characters — last seen in Ultimate Tenkaichi — could even allow players to make their own warrior from their own uniquely-designed Earth using a variety of custom skills and abilities. There’s many more reasons why Multiverse would make for the perfect Dragon Ball fighting game, but the primary one is something new. Something that celebrates the story we’ve played over and over again, but still does something different with it. So Bandai Namco, find Salagir and Gogeta Jr.,  and make the best fighting game you’ve ever made to date. Give us something new.

Dragon Ball Z: The Story of Trunks

Genre: Action Adventure

When Future Trunks arrived from, well, the future, fans found their new favorite Z-Warrior instantly. Here you had a powerful Saiyan warrior, son of an even more powerful Saiyan warrior, trained by an even more powerful one-armed Saiyan, who came from a near post-apocalyptic world where the Androids had demolished just about everything they had set their eyes on. He could use a sword, he had cool techniques, and he didn’t mess around when it came to eradicating evil. He knew how terrible the world would get if villains were allowed to freely wreck havoc: he’d seen it with his own eyes, and unlike Goku and Vegeta, was firmly against allowing foes to power up to more powerful forms “for a good fight.” For fans of the X-Men, he’s basically Cable with a sword in place of a giant gun, and we loved him.

So why not explore his story?

Out of all the protagonists, Trunks had perhaps the best origin story, and the most sympathetic goals. He wasn’t fighting just for the sake of fighting, or just for a challenge, or because he was angry, or just because it’s the thing to do when you’re bored on the weekend. He was fighting to liberate a world from terror. He grew up in the ruins of destruction, he survived cataclysmic destruction, he had his only family ripped away from him. He saw a world without hope that he was desperate to salvage. And — spoilers — while his saving our world from the Androids and Cell didn’t fix his own timeline, he was able to return home, now much stronger, and defeat the foes that had driven him into the past in the first place.

But what happened after he returned home and defeated the Androids?

We know that he killed the Cell of his universe before Cell could steal Trunks’ time travel machine and go back in time. We know that he planned to use his mother’s technology to repair the world back from the ruins it had become. But perhaps we could actually live that journey and explore that world.

The 21st century has really fallen in love with alternate futures and dystopian worlds. We revel in it. We love seeing how — excuse the phrase — horribly shitty the world can get in so many different ways. Video games, movies, books, and comics have given us a slew of post-apocalyptic worlds, so a game centered around Trunks could revolve around similar themes, just through a Dragon Ball Z lens.

The greatest thing about Trunks is that he’s can fit outside of your typical Dragon Ball Z character, throwing blasts around and powering up to super forms. His character at the beginning and end of the Androids/Cell Saga felt very grounded, especially when dealing with his original era. A shift of tone and setting could return Trunks to a more relatable, vulnerable character facing incredible odds in a destroyed world. Much like Devil May Cry‘s Dante, he could have his special ranged and melee attacks, but a Trunks video game could also make use of his mother’s Capsule technology. There could be capsules that hold special items or special vehicles, and there could be a “collect-them-all” approach to seeking stolen or lost Capsule technology to aid in his quest.

Using this game’s theme to explore a ruined, post-apocalyptic world could also allow a return to the concepts Dragon Ball made popular: a sense of discovery, meeting new characters, and more importantly, meeting a slew of challenges from a range of dangerous enemies. From Androids to new Red Ribbon Armies to new powerful fighters trying to take advantage of a world lost in chaos, Trunks could have his hands full in trying to save humanity from oblivion.

When gamers think about Dragon Ball games, they often first think of the fighting games. But there’s no reason why the Dragon Ball franchise can’t be explored in a new way, and doing it with a Trunks would at least provide an interesting world with familiar mechanics, just with a Dragon Ball Z edge.

Dragon Ball: An Open World Adventure

Genre: Sandbox Open-World Adventure Game, Shared-World Adventure Game

When I wrote my recent article on Dragon Ball Z and the state it’s in, the number one idea thrown around by the majority of readers (including possibly some of you reading this right now) was an open world adventure. Considering the idea of open worlds and “shared worlds” have become increasingly popular in both “this-gen” and “next-gen” discussions, an open world Dragon Ball game would not only make sense, but could harken back to the series’ roots. Adventure, exploration and discovery were always what Dragon Ball was about, something Dragon Ball Online tried to do with an MMO design. But how about just making a large, fully-explorable world, either as a single player game or as a limited multiplayer game?

Taking a page from Dragon Ball Online, Ultimate Tenkaichi and Battle of Z, players could perhaps create players from a limited range of races with certain combat specialties. But instead of opting for battle-specific gameplay like Battle of Z and a bland MMO design like Online, a new game could emphasize teamwork and creativity while adventuring around a particular continent full of new enemies, random creatures, a few cities and more. Limiting multiplayer to a few players per world (like the Saints Row franchise has been doing) can make the experience both technically smoother and more personal, resembling the size of a traditional RPG party, and keeping encounters nuanced and engaging.

The experience has to be decidedly Dragon Ball as well, with the right combination of humor, action and Akira Toriyama-styled environments. Players could start in the countryside far away from society, but have some new menace that brings the heroes together on an adventure to find the Dragon Balls. Battles should not consist of endless blasting back and forth, but of special techniques players can unlock and use in concert against their enemies.

There needs to be more weight returned to specialized abilities like the Solar Flare, the AfterImage, and special weapons like the Power Pole and Bansho Fan. When special energy techniques are uncovered they could perhaps just be ones used in interesting ways: like the Spirit Ball, the Hellzone Grenade and Destruct Disc, which can be used for combat and for destructible environments for creative puzzle solving. There should also be a variety of Bulma’s capsules to find and use, for both transportation, tools and combat.

Enemies should be equally interesting and diverse, featuring an array of enemies, like a Red Ribbon-like army, powerful martial arts fighters, resilient androids, strange demons, aliens and monsters, and everything in-between. While there has to be some generic enemies to face during the majority of the adventure, there should at least be unique enemy encounters and boss fights scattered through the game. These fights should rely on ingenuity to win, especially if you’re facing enemies that can use telekinesis, body switches, teleportation and more against you. Battles like these can be creative and challenging, while still reinforcing what the Dragon Ball franchise is all about: combining wits and strength to overcome any obstacle. Battle of Z‘s multiplayer combat had a great emphasis on classes; now let’s distill that into something truly meaningful.

By the journey’s end, their foe should be conquered, the Dragon Balls found, and the adventure over, but as always, a new adventure should already be brewing for the next game. This is what the series has been missing for a long time, something necessary to truly expand the series.

What kind of of game would you like to see made for the Dragon Ball universe? What were your favorite games from the franchise that you would like to see returned and expanded upon in a new game? Let us know in the comments below, and for more on the series, check out all of our Dragon Ball news, trailers and features.

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Masoud House

Born and raised in video games and "geek culture," Masoud has been bred off of fantasy worlds his entire life and doesn't see anything wrong with that. He loves RPGs (especially TRPGs), sandbox games, the sci-fi genre, dieselpunk, art deco, and anything that allows him to create. Having graduated from John Jay College with a degree in English and a minor in Creative Writing, Masoud hopes to one day pen the same novels, comics, movies, and video games he enjoys escaping into when the real world gets too boring.

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