Given the abundance of Dragon Ball Z titles flooding the used games bin at your local GameStop, it seems hard to believe that there was a time when Americans couldn’t play out Goku’s many adventures. But from the show’s American premiere in 1998 through mid-2002, the best we could do was play Street Fighter and imagine that Ryu and Ken were Goku and Vegeta.
Things changed that May, when Atari-affiliate Infogrames released Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku. The first DBZ game to see a widespread American release, the Game Boy Advance title allowed gamers to relive the first third of Goku’s story, from Raditz’ arrival to a final, epic battle with Frieza. The game was very clearly inspired by old Zelda games: It was a top-down adventure, and Goku gained powers and abilities as the game progressed.
Two sequels followed, completing the Cell and Buu saga. By the time the trilogy was completed, the market was full of Dragon Ball-inspired fighters that captured the show’s kinetic action sequences better than the slow-moving Legacy series could ever hope to. Legacy of Goku will never be remembered as the best Dragon Ball game, but it was the first of its kind. And when you’re first video game incarnation of a mega-hit like DBZ, that’s a big deal in its own right.