Believe it or not, these card battles are strung together by a rather lengthy (an incredibly boring) set of stories ripped right out of the Dragon Ball Z anime. When you first start the game you will have a choice between three different scenarios, each with their own stories and characters. At first you get to adventure with Goku, Gohan and Piccolo, but eventually Vegeta's scenario is unlocked. Each of these stories unfolds in long, drawn out clips of dialogue that seem to go absolutely nowhere. The stories are exactly the same as what you would expect from any other Dragon Ball Z game or episode, the character arcs are the same and they all play out in a predictable fashion.
Most of Harukanaru Densetsu's action takes place on a large multi-path board (which, oddly enough, reminds me a lot of Mario Party). The same deck of cards you use to battle opponents is used to walk around this map. That is, you select five different cards from your deck and use them to determine how far you can walk in each turn. Your walk distance is determined by each card's strength, so if you have a card with a five stars on it you will be able to walk five spaces. Along the way you will run into various battles, these are usually preceded by a few minutes of the most boring dialogue your eyes will ever see.
The problem with these scenarios isn't that they are merely boring; it's that sometimes they can be wholly unfair to the player. For example, you'll go through a scenario that is filled with mostly easy enemies, only to discover that the boss at the end of the map is significantly more difficult to beat than anything leading up to it. While usually a difficult boss battle is expected, Harukanaru Densetsu makes it so that when you lose to an enemy you have to start the entire scenario over from the very start. This means that you will lose a good half hour of your life, something that gets old real quick. To make matters even worse, this game isn't about collecting cards and improving your experience level ... so when you start a scenario over again you will discover that all of your work was for nothing.
Things aren't helped much by the game's lackluster presentation. When you're moving around the board the game looks no better than a Super NES game, and the battles themselves are nothing to write home about. The only time the game ever looks somewhat impressive is when you attack your opponent, and even then the simplistic animation gets extremely old in only a short amount of time. I suppose it's too much to expect a card fighting game to have exceptional graphics, but Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu doesn't even try.
The game does come with a few different multiplayer modes, one of which only requires one Nintendo DS cartridge. Unfortunately these modes are bogged down by the simplicity of the gameplay, which will turn off a lot of gamers looking for an exciting two- (or four-) player experience. If you can't get into the single-player campaign, then there's no hope that you're going to enjoy this game with more people.
I'm not convinced that a Dragon Ball Z card game would be a terrible idea, but Harukanaru Densetsu is not a shining example of what could be done with the genre. While some gamers may appreciate that there are a lot of different adventures to go on in this game, I just couldn't get into the overall experience of battling these random cards. The game play is far too simple, the stories are predictable, and the sum of all its parts never quite comes together to create a compelling portable game.
While I commend Atari for trying to take their Dragon Ball Z games in a new direction, Harukanaru Densetsu is not the exciting card battling game it should be. With simplistic gameplay, boring graphics, and the same old stories we've seen time after time, this is one game you should think twice about before playing.
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