Trying desperately to become like the unforgettable licensed arcade beat-em-ups of old, Dragon Ball GT Transformation doesn't quite reach that goal. It follows the weakest parts of those titles, without injecting any character or life into it. To call it bland would be correct, but also generous.
At first, it's not an ugly experience. Players have three characters to choose from, and they can be swapped as needed. When swapped out, they'll regain health. They're barely any different from each other when fighting though, only their animations separating them dramatically. It's the only way this game attempts to avoid the repetition the genre is famous for, and it doesn't do this very well.
From a technical standpoint, it's not strong either. Slowdown is a major problem, randomly occurring regardless of how many characters are on screen. It definitely adversely affects gameplay, and you can expect a few cheap shots since your timing is thrown off. Oddly, during the most strenuous moments on the hardware (the boss fights which are generally spectacular from a graphics standpoint), there's rarely an issue.
Part of the problem with the gameplay is how flat it is. It's always nice to move around a little, whether vertically or diagonally to break things up. The floating jumping mechanic would indicate it would come into play at some point. However, in Transformation, you're on a flat playing field in every level. As you travel from planet to planet in an attempt to understand some inane plotline, it always feels the same. That's because it is. Each planet does nothing but bring new background detail.
There's no freshness between each level, even though new enemies are introduced in almost every stage. Unlocking new features is ridiculous, and it takes multiple plays through the entire game (around five hours of button mashing) just to get a single new character. It's not worth the trouble, nor is the scoring system fair.
The controls also pose a problem, crammed onto a limited amount of buttons and not configurable. You'll stick with the basic fireballs and punches all the way through. Hit detection is also a sore spot, sometimes connecting when you're a little above or below an enemy (as it should), and other times completely missing. It's not fun to deal with that, and with proper coding, we wouldn't have to.
While the opening moments offer that small glimmer of hope that someone finally recaptured the joy of Ninja Turtle and X-Men arcade games, those dreams are quickly crushed. The developer has the right idea, just not the proper way to execute it. This is a flawed title that will only grab DBZ fans long enough to play through it once.
Note: If you're playing this on a DS, be prepared for sound glitches. Otherwise, it plays the same as on the GBA.