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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Loads of fun but
no longer a fresh experience, Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is a solid character and
environment upgrade to BT2.
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.
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.
Not much more
difficult than the last Budokai Tenkaichi.
A lack of
excitingly different content prevents BT3 from producing the “wow” factor of its
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.
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.