Game Developers On Why They Love Dragon Ball

by Kyle Hilliard on Oct 20, 2017 at 02:00 PM

The Dragon Ball franchise has been around for more than 30 years and has served as a huge influence to game developers and those connected to the industry in myriads ways. As part of our month of Dragon Ball coverage coverage in anticipation of Dragon Ball FighterZ, we reached out to folks in order to have them share their appreciation for Dragon Ball, and where applicable, pitch their own dream Dragon Ball video game.

Hidetaka “Swey65” Suehiro is best known for his work on Deadly Premonition. We asked him if Dragon Ball has inspired or influenced him in any meaningful ways.

The one takeaway I had from Dragon Ball growing up was there’s a part in the series where a character called Udon who received panties from God. Somewhere in there, that whole episode allowed me to understand that panties are not necessarily erotic. It means that everything is fine!

We offered the same question to Goichi "Suda 51" Suda, who is best known for Killer 7 and the No More Heroes series.

I may have subconsciously picked up inspiration from the Dragon Ball series. In the [Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes], there’s the console, the Death Drive MK-II, and the games for that console aren’t cartridges or CDs, they’re balls called “Death Balls.” Since the console and the games are sort of like a phantom console and phantom games, there’s really not that many in existence. There were only six games that were made for the console, and there’s only one copy for each of those games that exists, so if a player goes and collects all six of those game balls, they can have a wish granted, which is pretty much the same as Dragon Ball Z. I may have been subconsciously inspired by the whole Dragon Ball concept when I thought of that. Maybe if you collect all six balls, a huge tiger will appear or something. [laughs]

Shane McCloskey is a developer with Insomniac games who is currently working on Spider-Man and shared with us the kind of Dragon Ball game he would make.

Dragon Ball Z was the first anime I watched as a kid, I was absolutely captivated by the art style, the characters, and of course, the fights. If I were to get my hands on the Dragon Ball license today I would produce a linear story that would cover one saga, so it could have the production values of something like The Last of Us or Uncharted 4. In terms of the gameplay it would be similar to the Infamous titles, where the protagonist would be in the center of the screen when brawling or traversing. To use energy attacks, the player would hold the left trigger to shift the perspective to more of a third person shooter, from this mode the player would be able to unleash things like a simple ki blast up to a devastating Kamehameha, as long as their ki meter were filled the proper amount. Fighting games are definitely the best fit for the Dragon Ball license but I believe that the third person perspective could really help capture the feeling of what it is like to release a fully charged Kamehameha or slice Frieza in half.

Nina Freeman is known for her work with Fullbright on Tacoma, but she has made a number of games on her own like Kimmy and Cibele. For her input, she pitched an idea of what she would do with the Dragon Ball license if she ever got the chance to make a game using it.

If I were to make a game set in the Dragon Ball universe, it would definitely focus on young Bulma from the first season. I'm pretty fascinated by her and her family's backstory around capsules. I also just think she's hilarious and deserves a whole game just about her.

The game would be about Bulma going on vacation with her family to a capsule resort and trying to score hot dates. Obviously the resort would be full of cute boys and capsule shops and traders. This idea is basically based on Bulma's goal early on in the show to find a boyfriend, and also her family's capsule business backstory.

You would play as Bulma, exploring the resort and meeting various boys. In order to romance a boy, you'd need to talk to him and get to know what kind of activities he likes. Then, you have to craft the perfect date using capsules. Maybe you have to get one outfit capsule, one transportation capsule, and one location capsule (e.g. a swimsuit, convertible and pool set would probably be pretty desirable!). The date is scored based on what kind of date set you manage to come up with!

I think you'd probably make the money needed to buy your set by designing and selling your own original capsules (since it's the family business)! This is probably how you interface with her family during the vacation. Based on the capsules from your personal collection that you decide to sell, and maybe capsule designs your family members share with you, you'll have more or less money to go on dates. I feel like this game would kinda resemble the Kim Kardashian mobile game... except instead of modelling, you're a rising star in the capsule industry that also wants to kiss all the boys.

Speaking with Alx Preston ahead of the release of his game, Hyper Light Drifter, he mentioned influences like Studio Ghibli. Unsurprisingly, he also has a fondness for Dragon Ball.

Dragon Ball Z was massively popular when I was in high school, since Toonami was a thing. Kids were wearing those (never really) stylish bowling shirts emblazoned with Goku and Piccolo and energy blasts. It was fun times and it was hard not to have this show – a cultural touchstone – influence how I thought about story telling, action, characters and even the state of 2D animation. It was so important to me that I had to call my friend for episode summaries when I missed new ones.

As far as my ideal, Dragon Ball Z game, the new Dragon Ball FighterZ is lookin' like that'll scratch that itch for me. wouldn't change much about it, honestly.

We spoke with Katsuhiro Harada of Tekken fame earlier this month about his role on Dragon Ball FighterZ, but he also shared with us his thoughts about the larger Dragon Ball franchise.

I haven’t worked in development of any of the titles in the Dragon Ball game series. This is just his opinion as a company employee of Bandai Namco, but more so, of me personally, that it is quite a unique case with the Dragon Ball series that originally started as a manga and IP itself, it actually was kind of complete at one point. Now we have the anime and it branched, and then there are games in between that. But to see that case where you have an IP that kind of concludes and then to have a game that comes out after that is kind of a rare case. You don’t see that, that often. And, in the meantime before the anime started, we had a series of games as well, so you can kind of say the popularity was broadened, at least for foreign audiences, and even kind of marinated a certain level of relevance even after the original IP finished, and then of course branching into the new anime.

This time it is very exciting for me to be a part of the announcement of the title first for Dragon Ball FighterZ, and I was also able to give input on the game in particular. So being able to be involved with such an amazing and well known IP is very exciting.

We also spoke with Harada about Dragon Ball's impact specifically on Tekken.

You can say that there was a major difference with western media in that Dragon Ball was the first to show in a visual aspect, you know, the Kamehameha, which was basically, to Eastern philosophy is something that is relatively known that you have this ki and the way you manifest it. Normally you wouldn’t be able to see it visually, but to take that and make it something you could visually recognize in manga and later in the anime – and not just that, but to see the Earth splitting or the smoke and effects that are created when you concentrate a power? These are all things that Dragon Ball was one of the first to show off and, not just Tekken, but  a lot of Japanese games were probably influenced by the way you show this kind of power of a fighter. Even though in the West, they had Superman that could shoot lasers and stuff like that, this kind of visual way that the eastern arts showed off the Ki and how everything is displayed is kind of unique to Dragon Ball. Maybe Street Fighter wouldn’t even have a fireball if it wasn’t for Dragon Ball, or at least the way it was visually shown.

Adam Heart is a designer at Iron Galaxy (Killer Instinct, Divekick), and while he does not consider himself a big fan of Dragon Ball, he absolutely recognizes its importance.

Unpopular opinion but I’m actually not a big Dragon Ball fan. I just rewatched all through the cell games with my wife because she had never seen it, and it solidified my opinion that I really don’t like it. But I recognize its value as kind of a gateway anime to me. And it lead me to one of the things I love most in this world, which is One Piece. One Piece is my favorite thing on the planet, period. It’s just the best. It’s taught me a lot about mood, and storytelling, and comedy, and action, and diversity that I just wouldn’t be who I am as a person or a developer without.

So I like Dragon Ball because it gatewayed me to stuff that I actually really do love. And I have soft spots for something things in Dragon Ball. I like Krillin a lot. I got a Krillin figure at my house. I’m going to be playing him in Dragon Ball FighterZ. I have it pre-ordered. Definitely playing him and Piccolo, I don’t know who my third is going to be, but I gotta play Gohan’s green dad. I’m definitely going to play him, because he’s the only character in the series who isn’t an idiot. Everyone in the series is just an idiot, and they make the worst possible decision at every turn, and I’m just like please kill me.

It’s funny because One Piece is obviously influenced by Dragon Ball Z, and it has characters who make bad decisions all the time, but they’re anchored by characters who are the voice of reason, and Dragon Ball Z doesn’t have that at all. Nobody’s the voice of reason in Dragon Ball, everyone’s just making terrible decision after terrible decision. It’s frustrating for me to watch.

Mega64 does not make video games, but they are directly tied to the industry, and more importantly, Rocco Botte is a big fan of Dragon Ball.

Dragon Ball has had a huge influence on me- I watched it in its early dub episodes on TV as a kid, and thought it was exciting and pretty cool. But it wasn't until I saw the Japanese version that my mind really opened up to it and was blown away- what the original Japanese version had in terms of its character, frenetic editing, use of both eclectic sound effects AND silence, were what were most striking about it. There wasn't any other show like it.

The types of moves, powers, and characteristics of the personalities in the show are so definitively Dragon Ball that they seem absolutely hysterical/stupid if you see anybody else attempt them. I think that kind of ironic juxtaposition is a big part of our humor in Mega64- seeing one of us grown-ass men attempt to teleport somewhere or go "Super Saiyan" in complete seriousness will never not be funny to me. It's just the template for insane action, to me. A couple years ago, we were asked to make an official video promoting the new DBZ movie. Though filming it was hard to figure out, I think editing the footage was one of the best days of my life. I excitedly woke up at 6AM like it was Christmas morning, and I raced to the computer, finishing the entire video by that afternoon. That almost never happens- I usually have to mull over a lot of editing choices, but I just didn't have to with a DBZ video. It has such a specific vibe and style that was so ingrained in my brain- it just flowed from there, through my fingertips and the video was done fast. It's one of our most viewed videos ever- the power of Dragon Ball truly never dies.

Since I was a kid, I've always thought the best Dragon Ball game concept would always be a truly well done, high quality fighting game- something worthy of the Street Fighter or Marvel Vs. Capcom series. Most of my life, I thought that would honestly never happen, which is why I'm so happy with Dragonball Fighter Z coming into existence. It really is the coolest game I could hope for. Every single move is an iconic moment from the show. Whenever I see Frieza do his grab move, it reminds me of Krillin's death on Namek and gets me emotional. What other fighting game can do that?

For more from our month of Dragon Ball coverage, including new details for FighterZ, click the banner below. And if you're a developer who loves Dragon Ball and want to see your voice represented here, send me an e-mail and I will add your thoughts!