reviews\ Dec 5, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warrior 2 - NDS - Review

It's been a little over one year since the Nintendo DS launched in America, taking the world by storm with new gameplay features and endless possibilities for developers. Since the system's release we've seen entirely unique games within existing series (Kirby: Canvas Curse), a new, innovative take on Tetris Attack (Meteos), superior Sonic and Castlevania games, and complete originality from Trauma Center, Nintendogs, and the yet-to-be-released Electroplankton.

Now it's time for another series to make its DS debut, Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors. The core gameplay is back with a vengeance for this sequel, bringing all the high-flying, button-mashing action to Nintendo's dual-screen platform. Players will instantly catch how the game's artists utilized the 3D processor, bringing familiar environments to life in ways that were previously only possible on a home console.

Featuring over 30 playable characters, Supersonic Warriors 2 is based on a three-character system. Remember the countless iterations of Capcom fighting games where you could have two or three characters on your team at one time and switch between them on-the-fly? That's how this game is. Sort of. Players can choose up to three characters, assuming your Dragon Power (DP) level is high enough. DP is assigned to each character to determine their presumed strength and to limit the number of powerful characters in your party. With a starting DP rating of seven, only two of the three DP characters are selectable. Example: Goku and Piccolo. They both have a DP rating of three. By choosing both of them (or any other two characters who have a DP rating of three), you must then choose a character with a DP rating of one. Fighters with a rating higher than one are prohibited because you've already got six points taken and only have one point left.

Battles cannot be extended beyond the three-on-three skirmishes, but your DP will rise as you succeed at the maximum mode. The result, obviously, is more powerful character combinations.

Searching for innovation the title takes advantage of the touch screen, though not as brilliantly as I had hoped. To change characters in battle you must touch the character you wish to play as. This action is not instant nor seamless. Likewise, there are special group attacks that let two fighters gang up on their opponent, but executing them means looking away from the top screen to see if the bottom screen is ready to be touched. Given this game's lack of responsiveness, you could be touching the screen for a while before it finally does what you want. As a result I rarely switch between characters and don't use the group attacks very often. Instead I let my characters fight until they die. Then the game automatically replaces my dead character with the next one in line.

Supersonic Warrior 2's game modes are repetitive but offer replay value for those who wish to take advantage of them. They include story, maximum, Z battle, free battle, practice and versus.

Z battle is Supersonic Warrior's version of an arcade mode; maximum is a slightly more involved variation. Newcomers should start with the practice mode. Contrary to the rule that tutorials and practice modes suck, in this game they turned out to be a great way to get used to the controls and attack features.

Character movement is not typical for a fighting game. There is a flat surface to walk on (known as "the ground"), though you'll never see it given how fast and flexible each fighter is. Like the show Goku, his friends and his enemies can fly, hovering around each other with ease. It's easy on the player as well given that the controls are set up like a 2D space shooter. Press any of the four D-pad buttons and that's where your fighter will go. Hold down the R button while doing this and your fighter will lock-on to the enemy, chasing 'em like a heat-seeking missile.

Those are just two of many gameplay elements that were formed from the show. Players can block standard attacks, deflect blasts, and find ways to be nearly impervious to certain strikes. Defiant enemies may be punched and kicked at any time, but the best attacks use Ki energy. Energy depletes pretty quickly – you'll lose 10 points for every Ki blast. The amount depleted rises from there. It takes a lot of Ki to transform into a Super Saiyan and more to sustain it.

Physical attacks increase your energy, but if you're in need of a major increase hold down the R button to charge. This leaves you open for attack. Enemies do the same thing from time to time, giving you the chance to get in at least one easy hit.

The story mode is a big selling point for the series, especially in this game where more "what if" scenarios are presented. This isn't GameCube though – Nintendo DS game cards are not the best format for voice-overs and full motion video. Despite that a few DS games have implemented those features with great success.

Supersonic Warriors 2 must not care because it doesn't attempt to do much of that. The story is mostly developed through short text messages. That was okay in the old days when it was all games could produce. It was also acceptable on the PSone (for a while). But we know what Goku, Gohan, Krillin and friends should sound like. Hearing, or rather seeing them speak so often via text is not that entertainnig.

The lackluster use of the Nintendo DS's dual and touch screen capabilities is disappointing to say the least. It's wasteful of the system's true power considering that, except for the 3D backgrounds, everything you experience here could've been done on the Game Boy Advance.

Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2 is not a must-buy for the average hardcore fighting fan, but if you wholeheartedly love DBZ and all things connected to it, this game won't let you down too much. It's simple, repetitive, and big on button-mashing – who would have expected otherwise after playing the first game? This is pretty much the same experience but with more features, improved modes, better graphics, and additional story elements.

Review Scoring Details for Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2

Gameplay: 7.0
Solid button-mashing. That’s an extremely odd statement to make, but it’s true. As far as button-mashers go in the fighting genre, Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2 delivers an entertaining experience that fluctuates between addiction and repetition. The attack and group moves are cool but I don’t think there will ever be enough of them, not on a handheld fighter at least. Maybe Supersonic Warriors 3 will prove me wrong.

Graphics: 8.0
Excellent backdrops and warriors – the backdrops being three-dimensional, the characters being 2D but have great detail and smooth animation. The combination of anime characters and polygon backgrounds make for impressive results; if the SNES and PSone got together for some hot gaming love, this would be the byproduct of that wild night.

Sound: 5.0
Supersonic Warriors 2 really misses the boat on this one. DBZ’s library of music is small but good and instantly recognizable. These tracks are low in sound quality and in variety. Like techno but without any highs or lows. During battle it’s just the same sound over and over again. Voice recognition, another DS innovation, is completely ignored.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Not the sharpest tool in the shed. In almost every circumstance a losing battle can be won by button mashing. That goes for most fighters, but if influential titles like this don’t make a change, no game will.

Concept: 6.5
Better than the first, but still lacks any form of innovation. The game seeks variety and Nintendo DS exclusivity through the touch screen, but the actions applied to it could have easily been applied to a regular button. Having to look away from the top screen (where all the action is) to glance at the bottom screen, even for one second, is crazy.

Multiplayer: 7.0
Nintendo continues to put out games that allow for single-card multiplayer, but Supersonic Warriors 2 is yet another third-party game that forces everyone to have the game to enjoy it. Playing it with others is best the experience you could have with this game, but it doesn’t make up for or eliminate the lack of variety and repetitiveness.

Overall: 7.0
Supersonic Warriors 2 searches for superior gameplay and DS-exclusive innovations, but overall this isn’t much more than a new version of the first game. The lack of variety within game modes, annoying music and repetitious combat left me with the same feeling I had after playing through the original. The new moves, new characters, and improved visuals, however, are surprisingly rewarding considering the rest of the game’s shortcomings. DBZ nuts should go nuts for this one, but they must be warned – the repetition doesn’t go away, it only builds with time.


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