When I was assigned Dragon Ball Online to review, my initial reaction was that of excitement. I remember the Dragonball Z cartoon fondly and even just recently started watching clips of Dragon Ball on YouTube while on a nostalgia binge. The iconic anime and manga by legendary artist Akira Toriyama was all the talk at playgrounds and school cafeterias growing up, so I figured that I couldn’t pass up the chance to revel in nostalgia – and it was online! It even says so in the title. But as soon as I downloaded the game off of the Play Store and saw it pop up on my tablet as “Ngoc Rong” I knew that something, somewhere had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
When I touched the app and started loading the game, I was immediately taken by surprise by the game’s presentation. The game loaded in Vietnamese, with an English translation by its side. It felt a little wrong, like I was playing a bootleg of another game. Did the developer even have the rights to these characters?
Dragon Ball Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online game for the Android in the same vein as Maplestory. You choose from three races: The Saiyans, the humans and the Namekians. Once you choose your race, there are only three looks to choose from all based off characters from the show and manga and that’s all the customization you get. From there, you’re training begins, and that training consists of harvesting Senzu beans and collecting chicken wings from gargoyles.
Yup. That last sentence was not a joke.
I’m someone who is really picky when it comes to MMOs, I admit. One of my favorite things to do is interact with the hundreds and sometimes thousands of players online. I understand that menial side quest and grinding are expected, especially at the start of these types of games, but I almost couldn’t believe how absurd the mission was. Collect chicken thighs? (That sporadically became ‘chicken wings’ from time to time for no reason other than laziness)
The rest of the MMO experience was typical and bare. Most of the other people playing weren’t very chatty, and the customization wasn’t really there. The high-flying action felt subdued, and combat devolved to simply tapping the screen – a far cry from the Budokai Tenkaichi games. You also unlock certain skills as you progress, or buy your way through via in-app purchases.
But that first mission set the tone for the rest of the game: An unabashedly mistranslated game that vaguely resembles Dragon Ball.
It reminded me of the small stands in New York City that sold bootleg bags and wholesale packs of white Hanes t-shirts. Something always felt off with the merchandise in these kiosks, even before I know that 9 times out of 10 everything was stolen or fake. The toys always grabbed my attention immediately – the frog in the pool of water, the squeaky gag toys and bubble blowers, but what always made me laugh, even as a boy, was the obvious knockoff Power Rangers and Dragon Ball Z figures. You didn’t need to be a fan to notice the splotchy acrylic paint and laughable faces. They were like parodies being sold for full price.
A friend of mine received a cheap knockoff Dragon Ball toy as a gift from his unsuspecting mother. I found it in his room when I came to visit. When he left to the bathroom, I picked it up and held in my hand. It felt light and hollow. It was ugly. The paint had already begun to chip, and you can tell they repainted the same exact model for every character.
When I was holding the toy in my hand, I moved the arm and it snapped off, like a twig of off a branch. My friend came back from the bathroom and saw the broken toy in my hand. I thought he would’ve been mad at me. “I’m sorry,” I stammered before my friend shrugged his arms and replied “that toy was wack anyway.”
Playing Dragon Ball Online rekindled those feelings of betrayal and confusion I had when I stared at those plastic molds on store shelves. Dragon Ball Online is one of the worse games on the Play Store. Don’t bother downloading it. There are better DBZ games there are better free MMOs, and there are far better games to play on your phone.
Is it Hardcore?
Dragon Ball Online may be a licensed title, but looks, feels and plays like a knockoff. It’s a boring, uninspired MMO with Dragon Ball in the title. Don’t waste your time.