For many years I have been astonished with the growth seen between Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku 1 and Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku 2 (or LoG1 & LoG2, respectively) in only a one year time frame. So when I recently replayed these two games, and the their sequel: Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury, I felt that it was the perfect time to go over why exactly I think Legacy of Goku 2 is such a great sequel, perhaps the G.O.A.T.
What makes a Good Sequel?
Let’s go over some of the criteria for what might make “the best sequel ever” really quickly. We all know what I mean when I say sequel– it’s the next entry in a series– but what makes a good sequel? It has to build upon the original game in a meaningful way by fixing old problems while ensuring that new systems are meaningful and complementary to the larger experience. Since this new game is just that: a new game, it is to be judged separately from the previous game(s). Additional systems might work well or be just as broken as the old systems they sought to replace, if they were even there to replace something to begin with. New dynamics will invariably be added or removed as the system changes and thus new gameplay will arise and so too new fun and frustration as well; hopefully this scale drastically teeters toward new fun.
In the case of the transition between Legacy of Goku 1 and 2, there was a lot of weak points LoG1 that needed to be patched up in the sequel while trying to add in new mechanics to create a more fleshed out experience. To add to that trial is the fact that there was only a year of development time between LoG1 and LoG2. It would have been all too easy to recycle LoG1 and create a simple cash grab with LoG2; however, this is not what happened. While LoG1 was a beloved childhood game of mine, it merely did not hold up (as you can read here) nearly as well as LoG2.
Breaking Down Combat
The biggest problem in DBZ:LoG1 was the lack of clear feedback. Now when someone is hit they will reel backwards and numbers will fly above their head indicating how much damage was taken. Both of these features give the player instant feedback. Screen shake also helps in various places, along with better use of sound effects.
The feedback provided by the floating damage numbers is hugely important, because the previous game provided nothing of the sort which created bizarre situations. In LoG1, I once fought 2 wolves back to back. The first wolf died in 2 hits while the second foe died in 6. Similarly, there were times I would get hit once and take seemingly no damage and then get hit a second time by that same foe, only to be reduced from 95% HP down to 50%.
I would like to clarify that while damage numbers fixed the problem in this scenario, many games do not have damage displayed numbers or health bars while still preserving a reliable, predictable system. Think about many shooters (Call of Duty, Uncharted) and action games (Devil May Cry, God of War). The two most important things that works about not seeing the foe’s HP is 1: giving weapons/ attacks predictable, easy to understand amounts of damage. If I know the basic foe dies in 3 chest shots or 1 head shot, then I can plan accordingly. Moreover, you can create a good ‘feel’ to the enemies, which in this case has to deal with both how much it takes to kill a foe and how that foe reacts to getting hit. This is displayed well in the Legacy of Goku series. In LoG1, enemies often took nearly 10 hits to kill, which made them feel like damage sponges. In Buu’s Fury, many foes only took 1 or 2 hits because you were constantly overpowered, which made enemies feel like a nuisance instead of like real adversaries. But LoG2 struck the right balance. Harder foes– those that were larger or of a higher level– might take up to 7 hits, while weaker foes would take 2 or 3 hits; however, most enemies usually fell in the sweet spot of 4 or 5 hits.
You may not know how many hits it takes to kill a foe, but you are afforded the ability to control the fight. In a shooter you usually have range at your aid, while in action games you have the ability to juggle foes, or dodge allowing you to escape and strike at your own convenience.
Semi-automatic guns are usually very transparent concerning the number of shots it takes to kill a foe. It would seem that the amount of damage you do in LoG1 potentially varies by a large enough amount that it can really throw the player off.
LoG2 also included an experience bar which allowed you to always EASILY know how close you were to leveling up while allowing you to have instant feedback concerning how much closer any one enemy brought you to leveling up.
Recoil makes actions feel like they have real weight. Hitting or getting hit is impossible to not notice because it physically moves the person getting hit, which creates a feeling of power or a feeling of weakness, respectively. This serves more than just an aesthetic purpose, however, as you and your opponent no longer stand on top of one another when engaging in melee combat, which means you can now viably face multiple opponents at once.
Notice how this creates a new dynamic: since foes are stunned during this small push back, they can effectively be stun locked. LoG2 actually handles this pretty gracefully. Level design and combat scenario layout stop you from stunlocking many foes because hitting an obstacle causes them to bounce off the obstacle and behind you, giving them the chance to hit you, or get interrupted by other foes in the area, as you slowly push your current foe into another enemy’s territory.
Oddly enough, Buu’s Fury somehow messed this up and decided that enemies should only bound off of walls by a small amount, meaning that most battles, including boss battles, boil down to merely getting the opponent up against the wall and smashing A. That being said, Buu’s Fury also played around more with large foes that do not recoil when hit, but that give you a large tell so that you know when they are about to strike, which adds an extra wrinkle to the combat system.
Speed, Traversal, Flow, and Pace
LoG2 also feels better because of the speed afforded by sprinting, which is initiated by double tapping in a direction. If you run into something, then the screen violently rattles and your character recoils, again giving you satisfying feedback. Gone is the need to charge up your energy attacks. Meaning you now use ki blasts in rapid succession and launch large energy waves in a responsive manner. Also, did I mention that you can now move in 8 directions instead of 4? (Oddly you can only ever attack in the cardinal directions, however. Not sure why that is.)
5 Characters: Story & Variety
LoG2 also allows you to play as 5 different characters over the course of the game, each having their own moves. More importantly playing as different characters significantly helps with telling the game’s story. In LoG1, you only played as Goku and since Goku spent significant portions of the storyline either dead or injured you often had no idea what was going on unless you were already intimately familiar with the show. In LoG2, this problem was largely fixed because you controlled various characters at appropriate times.
Playing as Piccolo fighting against Androids 17 and 18 allowed you to see what was going on in the story while the other 4 characters were training. Had you not been able to play as Piccolo then there would have been an important chunk of story missing. To be fair, you do not have to have multiple playable characters to tell a complex story. Both LoG1 & LoG2 could have told the story effectively merely by showing you what was going on in your absence.
However, which is more interesting: playing as Piccolo and fighting the Androids, or watching scripted segments? It’s been said,”Show, don’t tell,” but I am of the school of thought that you should,”Play, not show” (As Richard Fine wrote in his great piece on the topic.). Interestingly, DBZ: Buu’s Fury has more segments where you play as a character for a limited amount of time to convey something special. You play as Hercule for a brief moment on his walk up to the tyrannical monster, Buu’s house. You play as Videl in her tournament fight where she gets beaten to a pulp. You play as both fusion characters Vegito and Gogeta in their respective boss fights.
A world map and revisitable locations were added to extend the scope of the world. This also allowed the player to find and collect items along their journey, which led to secret bonuses.
Design with Purpose: Saving
Two things that felt more forward thinking, even if poorly executed, in LoG1, was the ability to save anywhere and quickly regenerating energy. Saving anywhere worked relatively well in LoG1 except for the exploit that allowed you to regain all HP when you reloaded the game. However, I think that having save points was not necessarily a bad thing in LoG2 as they served to create a good pacing in the game. Moreover, the addition of multiple characters really begged for there to be some way for you to switch between characters. It is important to note that, unlike many games, save points do not restore HP in LoG2, so you really had to survive through the levels.
Which brings me tangentially to my next point: automatically restoring energy points, or EP. In LoG1 your energy was recovered relatively fast while in LoG2 it did not seem to recover at all on its own. Instead, restoring both HP and EP is done by picking up instant consume items that enemies/destructible environmental objects might drop upon death. Buu’s Fury had one interesting development in this front (and several disappointing setbacks): that punching foes restored a small amount of energy. Ultimately it was too small of a boost to prove useful, but it was an interesting way to mechanically feed back into the gameplay loop.
I personally felt that LoG1’s faster recharging energy could have potentially opened up a lot of interesting gameplay avenues with utilizing abilities, especially if you were to combine it with Buu’s Fury’s mechanic where punches restore energy. LoG2’s method made it more binary: either you could use moves or you couldn’t. As such you had to really ration your energy. This is not to say that LoG2’s system did not work well, as it was balanced extremely well and was very satisfying. To that effect, restoring your HP via instant use consumables was much more preferable to the system of herbs and senzu beans employed in LoG1. This was mainly a problem of game design, however. LoG1 runs into a problem with its limited economy. Enemies respawn whenever you exit and reenter a screen. Since there is no money or store in the game, the health items have to respawn as well otherwise you can easily get stuck in a position where can not move forward. Because items respawn you have to limit the number the player can carry. Instant use pickups, as implemented in Log2, or a full blown economy, with currency and shops, as implemented in Buu’s Fury, can solve these problems.
Games like Resident Evil and Legend of Zelda pull off similar systems well. Respawning enemies is not really a thing in Resident Evil and is not a big problem in Legend of Zelda, largely because pots and grass can drop hearts: instant use consumables. Both also have economies, so that while you might find herbs and potions in the open world, your most reliable source of reloading on them is to purchase them. This means they do not have to respawn in the game world. Finally, the games do a good job of making sense of why you can only carry a certain number of items. For instance, Resident Evil 4 has its attache case, which requires you to fit all of your gear into a ‘physical’ space while several Legend of Zelda games give you bottles which you must then put your potions into. You only have a few bottles, so you have to carefully think about what you will put into them. This gives the limitations placed upon your inventory a logical limit.
Reduction: Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me!
Not everything was just fixing old systems, like the combat system, or building on existing systems, like making the world more open and connected. Some stuff was actually removed from the game. The biggest example of this being the removal of flying, which was incredibly wonky in LoG1. In fact, sprinting served a similar mechanical purpose while being more fun and hassle free (just like in an infomercial!).
Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku 2 not only does everything necessary to be a great sequel, but it goes above and beyond by improving every aspect of the game. Story telling, better. Art, better. Music, better. Gameplay, better. This game is the Oprah of Sequels; it just keeps giving. But what do I know? You tell me what you think in the comments. Is Legacy of Goku 2 not allowed to be the Greatest Sequel of All Time just because it is not a Greatest Game of All Time candidate? What Sequel do you think is just as good, if not better than, Legacy of Goku 2 at being a sequel?