- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Japanese anime and manga creator Akira Toriyama’s martial-arts-themed, animated adventures of Goku, Gohan and the entire Dragon Ball gang have enjoyed more than a decade of exposure to U.S. fans.

For those who cannot tell the difference between a Frieza and a Parunga, here are some of the latest multimedia releases that will introduce them quickly to the phenomenon of Dragon Ball and its cartoon series.

First, anyone unable to catch the repeats of the 276-episode “Dragon Ball Z” epic on Cartoon Network can enjoy them through the digital video medium.

FUNimation Productions has been slowly introducing uncut editions of one of the series’ pivotal story arcs, the Saiyan Saga, which found main character Goku fighting as a young adult along with Piccolo, Yamcha and his son Gohan to stop an invasion of Earth.

Each single-disc package, such as “Piccolo’s Plan,” “Into the Wild,” “Gohan’s Trials” and “Saiyan Showdown” ($22.48 each) offers just three episodes of the 26-episode story arc, Japanese and American voice dubs, digital sound and a less-than-satisfying amount of extras. Only the interviews with some of the cast stand out.

Thankfully, the company also has put together more economically priced boxed sets of many of the story arcs. Releases range from the eight-disc “Fusion Saga” ($99.98), highlighting the temporary merging of Goku and Vegeta to take on Super Bu, and the four-disc “Imperfect Cel Saga” ($54.98) which explores how an energy-absorbing mutant with a scorpionlike tail threatens Earth.

Once introduced to the concepts behind Saiyans, Super Saiyans and the life-regenerating Dragon Balls, new fans can pop the latest 3-D fighting game, Dragon Ball Z Budokai: Tenkaichi (Atari, rated T for ages 13 and older, $39.95), into their PlayStation 2. The game covers all of the major sagas that take place not only in “Dragon Ball Z” but also in the later cartoon series, “Dragon Ball GT.”

The incredibly accurate-looking, one-on-one action uses cel-shaded technology and the actual voice actors to make the characters look and sound as if they stepped out of the animated series. Players eventually can control more than 50 characters and 20 more of their various forms that harness the powers of Ki to deliver colorful and blindingly fast attacks.

Of the various game modes, the single player will most appreciate entering the Z Battle Gate as the kindly Mr. Popo welcomes them into nearly 150 chapters of fighting challenges.

Success in the Z Battle Gate requires satisfying criteria in each match, such as using a special attack to defeat an opponent or surviving for a certain amount of time. Winners progress through the stories to unlock biographies and earrings to customize powers under the Evolution Z area.

Other modes include an Ultimate Battle, in which a player must take on 100 opponents, a World Tournament and a two-player dueling challenge presented in a split screen.

Owners of Nintendo’s twin-screen, hand-held gaming system also can enjoy Goku’s struggles to save his adopted planet in Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2 (Atari, rated E10 for ages 10 and older, $29.99).

The side-scrolling fighting game fakes three-dimensional combat brilliantly for a single player to relive some of the series’ best animated moments through the use of more than 30 Dragon Ball legends.

A generous story mode provides the ability to take part in 15 characters’ adventures, including Frieza and his Genyu Force minions battling Vegeta. Team challenges involve selecting a combination of characters whose assigned numbers must equal a certain number of Dragon Points to band together.

Control schemes are very basic, and the touch screen is used mainly to select members of the team to enter the fray while another player can join in a Battle mode using the DS’ wireless capabilities if he also has a game cartridge.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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