Unfortunately the fights themselves aren’t nearly as interesting as the environments they take place in. You controls are reduced to one button for melee, one for a ki blast (a long-range projectile attack), one to block and one to dash. Along with those basic moves you will also be able to ascend and descend, as well as lock on to your enemy and charge up your Ki.
As you might imagine Atari had to be a little creative when mapping everything out for the Nintendo Wii's control. Because the remote control (and nunchuk attachment) have a limited amount of buttons, certain things had to be done with button combinations and control movements. At first this will seem strange (especially for a fighting game), but there are a few rather inspired control decisions. For example, if you want to fly into the air what you have to do is hold the C button and swing the nunchuk up. Ki attacks are performed by pulling the control back and then pushing it forward, similar to how the characters perform their fireball attacks in the show. And you can swing your nunchuk around to evade attacks.
But not every choice in the controls works flawlessly. Blocking tends to be a pain, since you have to either hold the down button on the D-pad or pointing the Wii's control above the TV screen. Neither of these choices are very good, you either have to always keep track of where you're Wii's control is aimed or you have to push a small button on the D-pad, something that isn't as accessible as the big attack button below it. I also found that the Dragon Dash, while easy to perform, often bordered on the unruly side.
Ultimately these new controls work fine for this simplistic fighting game, but I wouldn't say that they improve the experience any. I found the game just as much fun (if not a whole lot more reliable) with the GameCube control plugged in. It's definitely too early to write off fighting games for this new motion sensing control, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 wasn't the strongest fighting game even with a traditional game control, so I'll hold out judgment until a game like Mortal Kombat Armageddon is released.
The problem I have with the fighting system is that it’s not very deep. Most battles seem to devolve into nothing more than button mashing, something that is simply unacceptable in a new fighting game. Even with the addition of projectile attacks, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 just doesn’t offer a lot for your character to do. Another problem is that the same special moves seem to work for all characters, which means that you won’t be doing a lot of memorizing as you play the game. The battles themselves may look a lot like they do in the TV series, but they aren’t as much fun as I would like them to be.
Perhaps even more distressing is that most of the computer opponents can be defeated by simply knocking them down and then bombarding them with non-stop ki blasts. Whenever a fight gets tough it’s just a little too easy to resort to these cheap tactics, and unfortunately it seems to work nearly every time. It’s also worth mentioning that the computer opponents are extremely predictable, which ended up boring me as I went through the numerous stories.
The real charm of any fighting game is the multiplayer mode, and Budokai Tenkaichi 2 delivers … for the most part. With its huge roster and large environments, this game certainly has the makings for a great two-player battle, but again the camera rears its ugly head and makes everything a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Since the game camera is positioned behind your character the screen has to be split into two when you’re playing a two-player match. Losing 50% of the screen is kind of hard to deal with, especially when you’re trying to keep track of where your opponent is at all times. Those that can get past this technical hindrance will probably have fun kicking your friends hundreds of feet into the air and beating the snot out of the large cast of characters, but since the game’s controls are not very deep you’ll probably end up getting bored and wish the Wii had a bigger library of fighting games.
The good news is that the game looks pretty solid most of the time. Even with so many different characters, Spike has been able to do a good job of recreating them for this fighting game. Each of the characters is presented with a cel-shaded finish, which tends to make them look much like they did in the cartoon. The character animations probably won’t blow you away, but they are no worse than what you would see in the popular TV show. In all the game looks pretty good, if you’re a Dragon Ball Z fan you probably won’t have any problems with the overall presentation.
Budokai Tenkaichi 2 not only features graphics that look just like the cartoon, but it also snags a lot of the same voice actors from the English-dubbed TV show. I’ve never been a fan of the voice acting in the Dragon Ball Z series, but the work done in Budokai Tenkaichi 2 seems especially bad. Part of the problem is that the actors don’t sound very excited to be doing yet another video game based on this cast of characters. With the corny dialog and silly characters I can’t blame them, but I found some of the voice acting to be a bit distracting.
The box promises that Budokai Tenkaichi 2 offers sixty hours of game play that fills in the Dragon Ball Z mythology, unfortunately most gamers will grow bored of the game long before they see the sixty hour mark. Throughout the course of this fighting game there are glimpses of potential, but somehow it is all wasted with shallow controls and boring game play. Dragon Ball Z fanatics will no doubt get a kick out of seeing so many of their favorite characters in one game, it’s just a shame that Spike wasn’t able to create a more compelling reason to bring them together.
While it's certainly not the worst game on the Nintendo Wii, Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 doesn't quite live up to the system's potential. The game does prove that a 3D fighting game can be done with the Wii's limited buttons … but only if the game is very simple with only one or two attack buttons.
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