I am not what you would call a typical Dragon Ball Z fan. The truth is, I hate the cartoon and only have a passing interest in the gigantic cast of annoying characters. Yet as much as I loathe this cartoon juggernaut, I find myself having to review each and every one of these games ... and half the time I find that I actually like them. There's just something about Atari's line of Dragon Ball Z fighting games that works on me, even though I know that I should hate them.
Burst Limit is Atari's first "next-gen" Dragon Ball Z game, and yet again I find myself having a great time with it. At its core it may be a shallow fighting game, but there's just something about this series that gets my blood pumping and keeps me captivated. I suspect that a big part of this game's charm is that it's aware that not all of us are huge Dragon Ball Z fans (heck, some of us detest it), so they've gone out of their way to give us likable stories that introduce us to a wide assortment of characters. You may still not care for Dragon Ball Z after you've beaten the game, but at least you'll have played a fun fighting game and not felt like you needed to watch a decade's worth of cartoons to know what's going on.
Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit tells three different stories ... er, sagas. This game features the Saiyan Saga, Frieza Saga and Cell Saga, three unique stories that do a good job of explaining what this Dragon Ball Z universe is all about. There's plenty of magic, betrayal, dastardly acts, fighting, supernatural occurrences and bad dialog to keep you going through the 50-plus battles these three sagas entail. Fans of the series will find that this is all familiar terrain, but the rest of us will discover that some of these stories are a lot deeper than we had originally given them credit for.
But let's not get too wrapped up in the storytelling, because it's the fighting engine that keeps this game interesting. Dragon Ball Z has always been a combination of close hand-to-hand combat and long-distance projectiles. It has also always been about hovering in the air and using your opponent to destroy everyday objects. Thankfully all of that is apparent in this game, even if the emphasis is more on the close combat this time around.
Fans of the previous Dragon Ball Z games will feel right at home with this fighting game. The game gives you everything you expect, such as a couple of buttons for attack (rush and smash), a pursuit button and a ki blast button (which allows you to throw objects and perform special attacks). The action will take place on the ground, high up in the sky and everywhere in between. Big special moves will even allow you to throw your character high up in the air, give you a few free attacks and then have him fall to the ground for some additional damage. The average Dragon Ball Z fight has you flying up and down more than Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
Beyond the basic attacks, Burst Limit features a brand new gimmick that they call "drama pieces." These are short cinemas that feature more bad dialog and machismo. These are triggered by doing specific things in a battle, and most of the time these drama pieces will help that player. Sometimes it's as simple as getting your life back or upping your strength, but sometimes it will help you avoid what would be a game ending special attack or countering a huge combo.
In a lot of ways these drama pieces make the game feel even more like the anime TV show, but at the same time it has a funny way of stopping the action dead in its tracks. Worse yet, you can't skip these cinemas. Things go from bad to worse towards the end of the game, where you'll find that a new drama piece is being dropped every thirty seconds, making it feel like there's more bad dialog than actual gameplay. I definitely like what Dimps is doing here, let's hope if they have another stab at this franchise that they make it feel a little more natural (and offer a way to skip the lame cinemas).
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