Review: Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is a pretty, yet shallow experience
A number of teams are to create new experiences that make use of Microsoft's Kinect device. But the problem is putting together something that players will have fun doing, not just some mindless effort where you're commanded to put your foot here or your arm here. Ask anyone who picked up the awful Self Defense Training Camp last year if they truly enjoyed it.
With that, Namco had a novel idea. Instead of just giving players another chance to throw around fireballs and punches with Goku and the Dragon Ball Z gang with a controller, why not instead let them re-enact the fights from a first person perspective? And thus we have Dragon Ball Z for Kinect, a game that strays away from the countless button mashing brawlers in favor of a more unique approach. Unfortunately, that doesn't really make it any more fun.
If there's one area where the game actually does its best, it's recreating the anime series. The graphics really bring out the best in the series, whether it's characters dashing around without a care, or Vegeta shooting you a dirty look before he attempts to pulverize you. The cut-scenes blend in almost seamlessly with the first person action, and though the environments are somewhat bland (oh, look, we're in another canyon), the animations and varying character designs are enjoyable to watch, especially if you're an avid collector of the anime DVD's and Blu-Ray's.
Unfortunately, the voice acting seems a bit off by comparison. A lot of the cast from the original show is missing (it has been, what, ten years), and the sound-alikes, while trying their best, just don't really deliver quite the same level of dramatic corniness, though there are some memorable lines that occasionally eke out. The music's okay, though nothing above the usual rock drivel you hear in games like these.
But when it comes down to it, this Kinect effort is all about how well the gameplay clicks. At first, Dragon Ball Z almost feels novel for the device, as you execute punches, kicks and special techniques using body movements, while occasionally playing defense and (sigh) partaking in mini-games that involve quick-time event style movements. But after about two fights, you start to realize that nothing really changes. You strike an enemy, block their attacks, and really do little else. Granted, that's the nature of the DBZ series, but you'd think Namco would've done something more than "punch this, kick this, special move, repeat". It just wears out its welcome quickly.
The fact that the story mode is lacking in rewards doesn't help either. You've got about 20-something fights here that will last you, at best, about three to four hours, and though you unlock new characters, they all play the same, with barely any differences in special moves or anything along those lines. What's worse, Namco didn't even consider split-screen multiplayer, which would've been novel for anime fans, as they could've stepped up and gone, "I can throw a Kamehameha better than you!" "Good luck, sucker!" Alas, that doesn't happen. You don't even get the glory of online leaderboards.
As a result, Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is a shallow, forgettable package. A lot of the development went into the graphics, which shine, but not nearly enough focus went into the gameplay, which collapses under its own repetitive weight. Multiplayer and better variety in fighting styles would've gone a long way here. Without that, the only people who are likely to be interested are hyper-kinetic kids and drunken anime fans. That's a decent audience size, but still, think about whom this could've reached out to with more development time.