Dragon Ball Z: Sagas is a third-person beat-'em-up that valiantly attempts to distill nearly 200 episodes worth of cartoons into a mere 20 levels. Fans and non-fans alike will appreciate the game's slick presentation, which rushes players through a recap of the entire animated series by combining a constantly changing cast of playable characters with nearly 60 minutes of full-motion video. Unfortunately, the underlying game itself is a disappointment. The levels are so short that the game is over before you know it, and, to make matters worse, the beat-'em-up aspects are so underdeveloped that you probably won't have any desire to play through it again once you do finish it.
Each of the game's 20 different levels puts players in control of one of the 10 different Z warriors. Initially, you'll start out playing as Goku from the beginning of the Saiyan saga. As you play through subsequent levels, however, you'll get the chance to control characters such as Gohan, Vegeta, Trunks, Brolly, and so on. Once you beat the game, you'll unlock an option that allows you to play through ANY level with ANY character–which is a nice bonus when you think about it.
The best thing about Sagas is that it does a superb job of recapping what happened in the cartoons. Each level has a different set of enemies and a unique boss character waiting at the end. Meanwhile, all of the various plot twists and character changes are explained in detail by narrated full-motion video segments that interrupt the game at frequent intervals. The developer borrowed actual footage from the cartoons to put together these segments and hired the same narrator to do the voice-overs.
Surprisingly, even though Sagas is packed with FMV and contains 20 separate levels, you won't need much time at all to breeze right through it. The majority of levels only have two or three small stretches of land leading up to the boss area, and boss fights don't typically last longer than a couple minutes. The average player can easily finish the game in under 90 minutes.
In all likelihood, you'll be bored to tears for all 90 of those minutes. Most levels present the player with one group after another of carbon-copy enemies (usually saibamen or androids), which need to be dispatched in order to move on to the next area. Every character has the same basic moves (punch, kick, block, flight) and roughly the same set of a half-dozen combo attacks and Ki techniques. Stock enemies don't put up much of a fight, so you don't have to do anything more than press the punch button six times to dispatch them. Due to laggy recovery times, it's not a good idea to get cute with the various combos anyway. Some bosses are weak to particular combo attacks and Ki blasts, and will dole out major damage if you try to hurt them any other way. Figuring out those weaknesses does pose a little bit of challenge, but most players will figure out exactly what to do before eating up more than a quarter of the health meter.
A number of different play aspects are poorly implemented or just flat out broken. The developers tried to add more variety to the game by allowing players to buy new attacks and combos using the Z tokens scattered throughout the levels, but these extra attacks are no more useful than the defaults. They also don't look all that interesting, so it's not like buying them all makes the game more exciting either. As for broken aspects, the flight ability is the most glaring example. There are no limitations placed on its use, which wouldn't be so bad if the enemies were any good at aiming their projectile attacks or attacking in an upward direction. They're not, however, which means you can simply hover and pelt them with Ki bolts without fear of retaliation. The two-player co-op feature is also broken, in a manner of speaking. The game throws out an extra enemy or two here and there, but doesn't give the enemies or bosses a boost when it comes to health or strength. Because of that, the game is ridiculously easy when a second player joins in.
At least the graphics and audio are decent. Everything has a cel-shaded look to it, but the technique isn't used to excess. The animation lines that outline the trees, rocks, and buildings in the environment are pretty thick, as are the ones that outline the various explosions and dust-plumes that erupt after certain attacks, but the lines surrounding the characters are thin and understated. It's a good balance. The characters look just like they do in the cartoon and they move with a reasonable sense of fluidity. Many objects in the environment, such as rocks and shrubs, can be destroyed, and you can put cracks in rock faces and buildings by hurling enemies into them. As for the audio, the music and voice effects are ripped right out of the TV show, and the sound effects are loud (although the same ones are re-cycled constantly).
Most people should stay far away from Dragon Ball Z: Sagas. It's worth a rental if you want to get up to speed on the cartoon really fast. Otherwise, there are better beat-'em-ups out there. Certainly, there are better Dragon Ball games out there (see DBZ: Budokai 3 ).