You know, I really don’t have a problem with Dragon Ball games being made; I think the show begs for a good fighting game and if made right can be quite enjoyable. Unfortunately this is not that good fighting game we were all hoping for. This game is nothing more than a simple button mash fest with a broken fighting, flight, and special move system. In short, even if you’re the hardest of the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans, give this game a rental shot before you toss away your money on this festering pile.
First, I must give the game credit where it is due. Like most Dragon Ball Z games, this game gets the story across nice and quickly, now wasting hours and hours on useless dialog of why certain characters exist or why they fight. The story tells you all the important bits and then retreats into the terrible fighting. The other plus to this game are the graphics. Dragon Ball has never looked so good and the transition to 3-D for the Dragon Ball characters is finally a good one. The fighters included in this game are pretty much everyone from the Frieza and Cell sagas, including Goku, Gohan, Krillin, Piccolo, Tien, Yamcha, Vegeta, Trunks, Frieza, Cell, Captain Ginyu, Recoome, Zarbon, Raditz, Nappa, Androids 16, 17, 18, and 19 and the wonderfully lovable Hurcule.
Graphics have taken the cel-shaded turn and for the most part look very good, the rest of the game does not however, really all you’ll be staring at is the fighters anyway so do you really care how the rest of the game looks? The music is also a bland mix of stuff you’d hear from the TV show and generic fighting game music that really adds nothing to the game. I’ve also never been a fan of the voice acting in the series, in the middle of the Frieza series they switched actors and I think it was really for the worse. The voice acting here won’t be winning any award that’s for certain.
Now on to where the game really bores, the fighting. Honestly I really don’t get what is so hard about capturing the fighting style of Dragon Ball Z and making it fun. To start with every character has the exact same moves, the only variety comes in the form of special attacks, which are really easy to learn, punch four times and then hit the energy button. It’s a universal combo that equates out to snores on the battlefield. Each character has a different energy attack along with power up skills that are assigned by capsules. Each character can have up to seven capsules, most of those seven capsules are what it takes to move your character into their elevated more powerful state, leaving you with less and less cool attacks.
You also got the issue with the balance thanks to this wonderfully bland system. Some characters are obviously larger than others, making their range that much greater than other characters. So a match between Perfect Cell and Teen Gohan makes for more frustration than fun. A typical battle simply is dependent on who can land a hit first; from there you just stay on top of them and then its naptime for your opponent. To liven up the battles there are Burst Zones, you know when the characters go into a wild flurry of punches and kicks that seem impossible to read, well in the case of this game once you enter a Burst Zone it’s simply a matter of who can mash the buttons and rotate the control sticks faster. No fun, no fun at all. What would have been a better idea in my opinion was make it a Bust a Groove/Parappa the Rapper style event where you’ve got a string of buttons that you need to press, both randomized for each player, and the one who finishes first wins the Burst Zone and does some massive damage to boot. As for the energy attacks, if the Kamehameha Wave or Spirit Bomb is supposed to be the most powerful attack ever then why is it so readily available in the middle of a fight? I would have preferred to see these moves used in the style of Mortal Kombat fatalities, or Killer Instinct’s Danger Zones, make the player work for that special move and make it a spectacular.
You’ve got three battle modes to stick it to the Dragon Ball man, there is the story mode which encompasses the Saiyin Saga, Namek Saga, and the Cell Saga all of which will take you a little over an hour or so thanks to some of the stages where you’ll need to constantly continue because the odds are so stacked against you. One of the cool things about story mode is the amount of replay value you get out of it. Once you complete it you can go through it again and see different parts of the story from other character’s points of view, and unlock additional characters.
Then there is the World Tournament mode where you compete in a tiered bracket system and depending on where you finish, be it first or second you are awarded prize money; which can be used to buy capsules so that you can make your own custom version of your favorite Z Fighter. Although buying capsules is really hit and miss because you get a lot of repeat capsules, which makes the time and money spent a big waste as well. World Tournament mode would be a bit more enjoyable if multiple people could take part in it and if it wasn’t so easy to lose. If you get too close to the edge of the ring be careful unless you want to lose via a cheesy ring out. Speaking of cheesy, how about the announcer for World Tournament mode, awful if you ask me. Lastly you’ve got the standard two player duel mode, and I won’t even count the practice mode, because you seriously don’t need it, unless you really want to see every characters different energy attacks.
And so continues the downward spiral of Dragon Ball Z games, although I must say that spiral is starting to slow down. The ideas and the execution of a good Dragon Ball game are almost there; it’s just going to take more development time to make these games worth playing. If the battle system would start showing a bit more variety then we would have a venerable fighting series on our hands instead of this mess that continues to sell well just on name alone. Spend your money on a copy of Super Smash Brothers Melee or even Capcom vs. SNK EO if you can find it.
The string of sub-par Dragon Ball games continues with Atariâ€™s latest efforts