reviews\ Dec 20, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 - PS2 - Review

Most legendary fighting games have arcade roots. Dragon Ball Z, however, didn’t make a splash in North America till arcade games were being thrown out the window. Hence, when it came time for TOEI and Funimation to turn their biggest property into a fighting franchise, they looked to the most successful console of that generation – PlayStation 2.

Several years and several sequels later, the series has evolved into Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi. The third game is the biggest yet, combining 150 characters and/or character variations with about 20 destructible environments. Those looking to pummel their friends as the ultimate Super-Saiyan will have plenty to master over the next several months.


Dragon Ball – Helping You Get Your Z’s

No, not the kind that make you sleep, but the kind that make you summon large creatures and demonstrate world-altering power. Gohan, Goku, Piccolo, Vegeta, Frieza, and the other beloved Super-Saiyans are back. Most have multiple forms, allowing a young Goku to face an older version of himself. That, however, is not as cool as the King Kong-style battles where a small character like Gohan must battle an enormous foe like Janemba.

Budokai Tenkaichi 3 isn’t just an anime fighter – it literally is an animation fighter, as in a game that pulls its variety from different animations. Whether playing as Yamcha, Android 13, Frieza, or any other character, you’ll see each one fight differently. The thing that ties them together for one unified experience is the unrelenting consistency across all gameplay components. Most notably, the graphics are slightly better than the last game. BT3 looks brighter, more detailed, and has superior background interactivity. These warriors can plow their way through any building, launching debris while abolishing each inflicted structure.


This won’t hurt your fighter, nor will it harm your enemy should he be the one to receive the blow. But it looks like it hurts with some really impressive effects (the best of any fighting game released this year next to Virtua Fighter 5). The stages, old and new, are also a bit larger than before. You still have that annoying transparent blocker that prevents you from leaving the area. But there’s more room to move around.

Neither of these upgrades would mean much if the frame rate had to suffer. We’ve been spotting slowdown in games all year long, and not just on the older consoles. BT3 isn’t one of those games. It isn’t playable online – the biggest test for any frame rate – but the offline content is super quick, consistent, and without any of the common (but less damaging) flaws like clipping and pixelation. The backgrounds are a tad grainy, more so than the Wii version. But with structures that are highly detailed and span several screen sizes, you can’t help but be impressed. You can find smoother environments in Tekken 5, but its playing field is smaller and not as interactive (fewer environments to destroy, etc.). Taking that and other gameplay differences into account, both games’ graphics are pretty well matched.


Deja Vu

Like most PS2 games released this year, BT3 is an upgrade of the last. If you’ve played the other DBZ titles, it won’t take more than a few seconds to jump into this one. Of the new content, there’s a system called “disc fusion” that lets you bring the battle modes from BT1 and 2 into BT3. This isn’t a groundbreaking addition since the game contains several similar play modes – a story mode (called Dragon History), a tournament mode, a standard versus mode, etc. – on its own.

Battle Replay mode is DBZ’s answer to the replay modes that have been featured in racing games for more than 10 years. After any regular battle, the game gives you the option to save a replay. Saved battles can be viewed as many times as you like, either from the perspective of your opponent or the character you were controlling. Health bars may be added to the top of the screen, or you may choose to include a BT3 logo.

As an addition to the fighting genre, replays are unique. But it doesn’t do much for this game. It could’ve been cool if it had more options (additional camera perspectives, the ability to slow down or rewind the battle in real-time, etc.). The best thing of all, however, would have been the option to re-play, and not merely re-view, each battle, which would’ve allowed players to try different strategies against the same enemy and situation.


Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 continues the legacy started by this DBZ in the early days of PlayStation 2. But unlike its predecessors, BT3 does not evolve genre (or the series, for that matter). DBZ fans will enjoy it and come back to it again and again. But this is the only time the game will get away with being more of the same.

Review Scoring Details for Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3

Gameplay: 7.6
Loads of fun but no longer a fresh experience, Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is a solid character and environment upgrade to BT2.

Graphics: 8.0
The last great-looking PS2 fighter? Hard to say. Whatever next year holds, PS2 owners should be happy to know that their system could still produce greatness seven years after launch.

Sound: 7.0
The DBZ music has yet to lose its appeal, and the voice work is the same as featured in the show. But in terms of new aural content, BT3 doesn’t succeed.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Not much more difficult than the last Budokai Tenkaichi.

Concept: 6.0
A lack of excitingly different content prevents BT3 from producing the “wow” factor of its predecessors.

Multiplayer: 8.0
BT3’s two-player battles will have you and your buds pounding out the combos for as long as it takes to master (or at least memorize the moves of) 150 characters.

Overall: 7.8
Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is a “more of the same” sequel, but its still-addictive gameplay presents a problem: if you buy it, you’re out $40. But if you choose to rent it, you’ll likely spend more in the long run since the game is hard to give up.


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