Battle Stadium D.O.N.

August 23, 2008

One of the things I bought at Otakon—one that was actually on my hit list—was the import crossover fighter Battle Stadium D.O.N. I got the PS2 version, since I haven’t made the molestations to my Game Cube that allow you to run imports. See my previous post on some of the insanity I’ve gone through for that. I have since replaced the Go stones with a rubber stamp pressed down by rubber bands to get the adequate pressure.

The game is a fighting crossover between three of Shonen Jump’s biggest properties: D.O.N. stands for Dragonball-One Piece-Naruto. Gameplay is heavily based on Nintendo’s own fighting crossover, Super Smash Bros. Given the extreme similarity, I’ll be describing the game based on that comparison. I’m assuming everyone has at least played SSB. For the most part, you have a standard attack button, a special attack button, a grab/throw button, and a block/dodge button. Each of these works mostly the way they do in SSB. DON also adds a super attack button, where you can unleash your character’s most powerful (and flashy) attack.

One major difference in control is that while SSB will change your attack based on however you’re holding the stick, DON requires you to tap the direction on the stick and hit the button at the exact same time. I always found this approach irritating, as in the heat of a match, your character frequently fails to do the right move because you didn’t hit the timing. Generally speaking, DON’s controls are not as tight as SSB’s. Jumping is difficult, as you can’t jump very high even with a double jump. Many ledges are barely within reach of your jumping ability, so any mistake and you won’t make it onto the platform. Dashing can also be really bitchy about timing your double-tap.

As far as the actual game mechanic, there are two major differences from SSB. While SSB is entirely based on ringout, DON is based on KOs… sort of. Every character in the match shares a single health bar at the top of the screen. Attacking your enemy allows you to steal their health, as well as sending some of it flying out as red orbs. Your goal is to take control of the entire health bar, or be the player with the most at the end of the timer. In matches with more than 2 players, you’re not out of the fight if you lose all your share of the health. As long as no single player has taken the entire bar, you’re free to fight and try regain your share.

When you have a certain amount of the bar, you go into “burst”, wherein you are stronger and faster than before, as well as becoming Super Saiya-jin, or whatever your character powers up to. In addition, attacks that can be charged, including the super, are instantly at full charge. This allows you a chance to clean up the last bit of health from your opponents, but beware. If someone hits you hard while in burst, it could trigger a “Reverse Attack” where you lose a ton of health and are suddenly the one at a disadvantage!

The other big change in mechanic from SSB is the use of a fairly typical energy bar to govern use of special attacks. Specials all cost a certain amount of energy, and using your super requires something like 2/3-3/4 of your bar. I have no particular problem with this, especially as it prevents spamming and overuse of supers. However, blocking and dodging also drains the energy bar. There does need to be a way to limit turtling, but it should be separate from your special bar. Also, dodging should be free. Doing this discourages using the defensive moves that add a level of tactics to fighting games and encourage button mashing blitz attacks. Very bad.

Before I get to my biggest peeve about the game, let me point out that I actually do like this game. Once you get used to the quirks of its controls, it actually is pretty fun. Who doesn’t want to smack Frieza around like a bitch with Luffy’s rubber arms? With some fine tuning, and some more content to unlock, this could be a very good game should they make a sequel. Content, however, is where my biggest gripe is.

THIS GAME HAS THE WORST UNLOCKING MECHANISM EVER. By playing the single player battle stadium mode, and no other mode, you have a chance to accrue coins. You accrue these coins on three random stages, where you are given a randomly generated “mission”. Succeeding in the mission gets you coins. The missions range from simple, like don’t use your super, to near impossible, like take no damage, to the bizarre, like jump 100 times. Any difficulty above normal, and the missions are damn near impossible to do while the computer harasses you, so you play Easy or Normal where the game is boring. Except for the final boss, Cell or giant Buu, who are overpowered and cheap as fuck.

Let’s say you get some coins though, then you get to play a slot machine after beating the boss. You have to hit a jackpot of Jump logos, then you go to the bonus slot machine. If you get a similar jackpot of ? icons in the bonus slot, you may unlock a character or stage… or maybe you just get some ultra rare tickets for use in the custom battle mode. The real insanity is that you can’t hit the jackpot except for certain times where the screen goes dark and it basically gives you the jackpot on a platter. I tried many times to hit that jackpot naturally, and it will always cheat you out of it. It’s very observable that it is adjusting how long it takes the third column to stop so that you always miss the jackpot—except when it wants you to. This unlocking system is so convoluted and irritating, that I just can’t think of a way to describe it besides “bullshit”. That’s what it is.

Overall, if you like shonen action shows, you should check this game out. Rasengan, kamehameha, it’s all there for you to fling at your friends. I’m hopeful they’ll make a sequel to iron out some of the kinks, add more characters, stages and modes of play, and have a real winner on their hands. Just beware of that damn slot machine.

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