There's something unsettling about seeing actor Justin Chatwin as Dragon Ball's Son Goku--complete with gravity-defying hairdo aided by the local salon's finest product--grace a PSP screen. Yet that's exactly what Dragon Ball: Evolution does in Namco Bandai's new fighting game based on the live-action film. The result is a dull, muddled mess, and Dragon Ball: Evolution doesn't even do enough well to warrant more than a cursory glance from Dragon Ball-starved fighting game fans.
Remember how awesome Mai is in the anime? Neither do we.
The good news is that developer Dimps Corporation's fast, accessible combat engine resurfaces here. Thus, you're gifted with a varied repertoire of offensive and defensive techniques. If you're a veteran of previous Dragon Ball fighting games, such as the PSP's own Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai, you won't need much training to get acclimated to the gameplay. Using a mixture of light, heavy, and special attacks, you can perform simple multihit combos and throw out screen-filling ki beams with which you can easily decimate your foes.
The bad news--and this is merely the tip of Goku's hairdo--is that you probably won't end up using many of these techniques against the brain-dead AI. It's possible to defeat opponents in both Arcade and Story modes simply by using a square, square, triangle combo with some blocking and special attacks thrown in just to keep things from getting close at the highest difficulty setting. Though fluidly transitioning from a series of punches straight into a Kamehameha energy attack is satisfying when you pull it off the first time, when you realize that your opponents will fall for this pattern nearly every time, the satisfaction quickly turns to boredom.
Of course, playing against computer-controlled opponents exclusively isn't much fun in fighting games. Dragon Ball Evolution offers ad hoc wireless play so you can go head-to-head with a friend, but because this is a movie-licensed game you don't get to play as any characters outside of those who appear on the silver screen. Franchise staples such as Gohan (Goku's son, not "grandpa"), Trunks, and Vegeta are nowhere to be found. Instead, you'll be graced with the presence of Mai, created specifically for the film to be Piccolo's right hand, and Fu Lum, a generic Regenerator henchman who becomes self-aware.