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Lost In Localization: Dragon Power (NES)

Lost In Localization: Dragon Power (NES)

Posted by Aaron on 21st Jul 2016

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In 1987 Bandai released a game called Dragon Power for the NES. This kung-fu themed action game featured a story in which a young boy is tasked with gathering crystalballs in order to summon a dragon that will grant his wish. He is helped on his quest by a young girl, along with an old Kung-fu master, desert bandit, and a pig. If you are thinking to yourself, "Hey this sounds exactly like Dragon Ball", well guess what...you are 100% right.

You see, in Japan, this actually was a Dragon Ball game, known as 'Dragon Ball: Shenron no Nazo' or 'Dragon Ball: The Mystery of Shenlong'. Despite the game's poor quality, it was a massive hit in Japan thanks to Dragon Ball's extreme popularity in the 80s. However, when it came time to release the game in the US all of its Dragon Balliness was removed as result of the series being completely unknown Stateside. Dragon Power will return after this...

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As a quick aside, despite the popular idea that the original series was never released in the US until the 2000s, Dragon Ball actually saw a very short release in the late 1980s courtesy of Harmony Gold USA (the people that brought us Robotech) but was canceled after only 4 episodes due to poor ratings. It was then released a second time in the mid 90s by the then unknown Funimation and was also canceled after only a few episodes. We now return to Dragon Power...

Dragon Power's main character is still called Goku, as the games marketing materials states it is based on an ancient Chinese story, however that is it for similarities to its Japanese counter-part. Bulma is now known as "Nora", Master Roshi is simply called "Hermit", Yamcha is called "Lancer", while Oolong is called "Pudgy" and is not actually a pig just a fat kid. Additionally, specific items such as the Kamehameha are renamed the "Wind Wave" and the Dragon Balls themselves are simply referred to as crystal balls. The changes don't just stop at names however.

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The majority of the game's character sprites were edited to remove the resemblance to their Dragon Ball counterparts, some with more success than others. Oddly enough Bulma remains unchanged. Goku however was given a new haircut and headband and now more closely looks like a monkey, while Master Roshi was completely redesigned to resemble the western image of an old kung-fu master. Speaking of Master Roshi, the character's famed lecherousness and love of women's underwear was changed to a love of food, specifically sandwiches. Interestingly enough, all Bandai did to make this change was to alter a few lines of dialogue and invert the sprite used for the underwear; presto-chango you now have a sandwich loving foodie. Despite all of the graphical and character changes made to the game, its biggest change is in fact a gameplay one. Dragon Power actually had an entire section of gameplay removed!

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The original Japanese version of the game consisted of 14 chapters, each one relating to a storyline in the manga. However, the US version only has 10 chapters. For the US release the entire world martial arts tournament storyline/gameplay section is completely removed from the game. In Dragon Power, after Goku defeats King Minos (Emperor Pilaf) he simply skips ahead to fight Monster Carrot on the moon. All in all this is a fairly significant section of gameplay to be removed and a pretty drastic change for a localization.

In the end, Dragon Power is not much more than your fairly typical licensed property NES title, just without the licensing. However, revisiting the game after learning about its origins is actually quite enjoyable as you can clearly see the heavy amount of Dragon Ball influence that still remains.