During the early 2000s, the four-player "party-fighting" genre was at its prime. In the wake Nintendo's crossover powerhouse franchise Super Smash Bros., several other developers at the time tried their hand at mimicking the Super Smash Bros. style with their own franchises. Capcom released not one but two Smash Bros.-esque games in 2004 and 2005 with both Onimusha Blade Warriors and Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble. There were two separate party fighting games based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise worked on by two different companies. TMNT Mutant Melee was produced by Konami in 2005 based on the 2003 cartoon series. That was followed by Ubisoft's creatively titled TMNT Smash-Up in 2009 which followed the continuity of the 2007 TMNT movie. There was even a bizarre three way collaboration between, Konami, Hudson, and Takara resulting in the a crossover that can only be described as "an experience" titled Dream Mix TV World Fighters.
Naturally with a seemingly endless amount of imitators, there are bound to be a few titles that fall through the cracks. Battle Stadium D.O.N is most certainly one of the lesser celebrated and lesser known games in the party-fighter library. Battle Stadium D.O.N was released for the PS2 and GameCube in Japan in 2006 by Bandai/Namco. The "D.O.N" in this instance is an acronym for Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, and Naruto (arguably the three largest anime/manga franchises in the Shōnen Jump brand. The game has a roster of 20 characters; 12 already selectable characters and 8 hidden characters (two of which are the bosses).
Dragon Ball Z Characters
The face of Dragon Ball and Mr. Deus Ex Machina himself, Son Goku. In Battle Stadium, he's an all-around character. Not too fast and not too powerful. The complete opposite of what he is in his source material.
The eldest son of Goku who hates to fight. He's definitely one of the faster characters in the game with a nice assortment of special moves and combos.
The prince of all Saiyans and the first antagonist of DBZ. Despite being a complete badass in the anime/manga, he's one of the weaker characters in this game. His short and long range attacks are very limited.
Vegeta's super bishounen son from the future, Trunks is the fourth Saiyan to join team DBZ in this crossover. Trunks is one of the better ranged fighters in the game (and the only character who uses a weapon).
The final son of King Piccolo and the former antagonist of the original Dragon Ball, Piccolo plays relatively similar to Goku in this game. Piccolo's fairly average with the exception of his trademark stretchy limbs.
One of the most relevant villains in all of Dragon Ball. Frieza's play style is unique in this game because he is the only character that constantly hovers above the ground.
The bio-engineered android created by Dr. Gero for world domination. Cell appears in the game as a sub boss/hidden character in the game. In typical boss fashion, the majority of Cell's attacks hurt... a lot. He's easily one of the cheapest characters in the entire game.
One Piece Characters
The man who declared to be king of all pirates and has a body made of rubber. Luffy is the protagonist of One Piece and the leader of the Straw Hat Pirates. Similar to Goku, Luffy is a very strong all-around character. He takes the stretchy limbs shtick to another level. He also one of the best supers in the entire game.
This green haired samurai badass is the resident swordsman of the Straw Hat pirate crew. Despite being an offensive beast in the manga/anime, he's a very defensive/counter heavy character in Battle Stadium.
Nami is the navigator, thief and first femme fatale of the Straw Hats. She attacks with her staff (the clima-tact) that can manipulate the weather. Nami deals the majority of her damage from a distance.
Sanji also known as "Black Leg Sanji" and is the resident chef of the Straw Hats. All of Sanji's attacks are kick-based making him a really good offensive character.
This adorable reindeer, humanoid, hybrid creature is known as Tony Tony Chopper. Chopper has the ability to transform into different variations of his reindeer body making one of the more unique characters in the game.
BELIEVE IT! The ninja of the leaf village who is possessed by the nine-tailed demon fox Kyubi. Unlike Goku and Luffy who are more all-around characters, Naruto is more of an offensive character with his shadow clone, shuriken and chakra based attacks.
The first lady of Team Kakashi and the ninja healer of the main cast, Sakura has one of the stranger play styles in the game. As opposed to punches and kicks or projectiles, she attacks with her alter-ego (known as Inner Sakura) similar to the "stands" in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
Formally a member of Team Kakashi and now the resident anti-hero, Sasuke specializes in an assortment of electric and fire based attacks.
Kakashi also known as "Copy Ninja Kakashi" is the fastest character in the game. He has an assortment of traps, ranged attacks and vanishing/teleporting moves. Kakashi is one of the more technical characters in the game.
The menacing sand village with the one-tailed demon Shukaku living within him, Gaara is the most defensive character in the roster. Most of Gaara's special moves are composed of sand barriers and counter attacks making it extremely hard to deal damage to him.
Battle Stadium has the usual assortment of game modes that you would come to expect from most party-fighters. There is Battle Stadium mode (the single player), survival mode, time attack, practice, free mode (multiplayer), item use mode (which is just multiplayer with the option of turning specific items on and off), options and character galley mode (the mode in which you view all the character models).
The gameplay of Battle Stadium is only slightly similar to the rest of the "not Smash" menagerie with some vary glaring differences in the fighting mechanics. Like in Super Smash Bros., every character in the game has a normal attack and special attack button, a side step/guard button and a grab button. These attacks can also vary depending on which direction you tap as you hit the button which leaves each character with four normal and special attacks. Unlike Super Smash Bros., Battle Stadium has an "action meter" that appears below the character's portrait which limits the amount of attacks you throw out. The action meter depletes whenever your character uses special moves and sidesteps and it increases when you connect with normal attacks. When your action meter fills to the max, you can tap one button ("X" for GameCube and "circle" for PS2) to execute your character's super/signature move (ex: Goku's Genkidama, Naruto's Rasengan and Luffy's Gomu Gomu no Hanabi etc.).
Quite possibly the biggest deviation from the Super Smash Bros. games is the "tug of war" system that is used to decide the victor. In Battle Stadium, as opposed to knocking your opponent off the stage to score a set amount of kills, there is a multicolored bar stretched across the top of the screen. As you proceed to beat down your opponents, small red orbs will drop out of them. The more orbs you collect, the further to the right your opponent's icon will veer to the far right of the bar. Also, if you manage to collect all the red orbs from your opponent while you are already winning, your character will enter "burst mode". In burst mode, your character will power up (in typical shonen fashion) and have immense attack and speed buffs. It's a little silly to have a comeback mechanic in a fighter... when you're already winning. Fortunately, unlike most modern day comeback mechanics (like X-Factor in Marvel vs. Capcom 3) Burst Mode can be stopped by striking the opponent with a special with result in a "reversal attack" which will instantly cancel out Burst Mode.
The majority of the replay value comes from unlocking the characters, stages and additional modes through the single player. When you play the single player mode (specifically on hard and very hard), you will be given very brief mission prompts right before each match. The missions consist of ordain tasks to perform while trying to win such as "don't dash" and "don't leave the ground" (which are seriously two different mission requirements). When you complete the missions, you'll get rewarded a set amount of coins that you can use for a slot machine mini-game that starts after the ending credits. Unfortunately, if you are no good at mini-games (or actual slots) it will take maybe three or four hours of your life trying to unlock at least two of the hidden characters.
Visually, Battle Stadium looks decent at best. The backgrounds are very bright and vibrant and accurately depict the universes that each stage takes place in. The West City stage (from DBZ) is a small metropolis with small future cars blasting across the street as a stage hazard. The Forest of Death stage (from Naruto) adds to the sidescrolling stage requirement for this party-fighter. The details on the tree branches are lush and damp and periodically show off a rather blocky giant snake that appears to attack the characters as a stage hazard. One of the tamer stages would be the Baratie ship stage (from One Piece). Despite the stage consisting of the obligatory three platform layout (similar to Battlefield from Super Smash Bros.), the background is pretty attractive. A luxury cruise ship with neon lights and the name of the ship "Baratie" illuminated at the very top of the stage is quite a sight.
The character models have a very toy-etic flare to them which is appropriate for a game like this. The character movement can be quite stiff, especially with the super animations. There's also a hefty amount of collision detection issues. More times than not, there are instances where I've walked through opponents and have dropped out of opponents super attacks. The hit boxes in this are not very consistent. As I mentioned previously with supers, there are times when supers will not register as hits or end abruptly for no reason. The most attractive visuals in the game are from the opening FMV. The entire sequence revolves around Luffy stealing Naruto's ramen and then eventually all the characters beating the crap out of each other (what else would shonen characters do in their spare time)?
The music is surprisingly good as it contains a decent blend of orchestral, drum and bass and electronica songs that set the tone for an anime-based throw down. It was a treat to hear that all the characters have been reprised by their original (Japanese) voice actors to keep you into the experience.
Battle Stadium D.O.N isn't exactly a hidden gem but it's definitely a notable entry in the party fighting game genre (especially if you're a huge Dragon Ball, One Piece or Naruto fan. If you're willing to look past the games glaring technical issues, it can be an enjoyable four player experience. Unfortunately, the game is import only so you'll have to check online for the most reasonable prices.