-Console: Playstation 2
-ESRB Rating: Teen
– #Of Players: 1-8
-Published by: Atari
– Memory card usage: 110 kb
– #Of Disks: 1
In nearly every way this game almost perfectly captures the atmosphere of Dragon Ball Z. From the box art to the game play itself; it is a good representation of the series.
The story is a heavily abridged retelling of the DBZ anime. Basically, the hero Goku fights warriors from different places in the universe, to keep them from destroying the earth. Since the storyline is so abridged, much of the details get left out. It is an admirable attempt by the developers to condense such a large library of anime into bite-sized pieces, but the storyline won’t hook new players.
All of the original talents from the Funimation dub reprises their roles here, and everyone does a great job. Situations where vocals don’t match the mouth movements are extremely rare. When players need to be built up for a battle, the voice actors do a wonderful job of accomplishing the goal of making it a compelling experience.
The sound is a mix of wailing rock music with the occasional jazzy beats. While some tunes will get on gamers’ nerves, most of the beats are catchy and fit the game perfectly. The songs manage to blend well with the average sound effects and enhance the overall experience.
While the controls are pretty responsive, it can be overly difficult to land some of the more varied attacks in the game. The camera can also become a pain and moves around wildly when you need it to be stationary the most. Since the controls don’t change when the camera is behind a character like in other fighting games, it is easy to get disoriented and take damage from attacks that would normally be easily avoided.
The cel-shaded art style perfectly captures the essence of the anime. Though in cinematic situations pixelation can be seen often. Larger character models also have clipping issues. Stages and locations have the distinct Dragonball look. They fit perfectly into the universe. It was also a nice to see all of the little details on the maps, like certain locations that mimic areas where battles were fought in the anime, and the cars travel around cities in the Dragon Universe mode. Overall the graphics often look better than the anime.
The real meat of this game lies in the Dragon Universe mode, where players choose the role of one of the heroes from the game and play through an abridged version of their exploits in the storyline. While finding capsules and searching for dragonballs across Earth and Namek are fun for a while, playing through with all of the characters, and finding their hidden paths get tiresome quickly. Especially when most of the hidden events are only unlocked after multiple playthroughs. Also, you never really get to go down and walk through any of the locations in the game. All time is spent flying over the world from an uninteractive view point, only clicking on a place that shows up for a rather boring story segment. Even if some of the storylines can be beaten in a sitting, the tedious gameplay will get tiresome after a while.
Story segments are disappointing as well. All of them consist of a bland background, a picture of the character and a word bubble displaying what the character is saying. The character’s faces don’t even display any sign of actual talking during these segments. It is just a blank face, every once in a while accompanied by a voice over. Many conversations start off with audio, and then mysteriously cut out after characters get past a certain point in the story conversation.
The fighting is the true star of this game. Everything seems fine tuned to give anyone who is playing a fair shot. Almost all of the characters pretty much play the same though. Each character has a few combos, and two special energy moves, one more powerful than the other. The game balances this out with the Ki Meter. Every time you do an energy move, or teleport behind an opponent, it uses up Ki. If a player is reckless and uses up all of their Ki, they become fatigued and are open to attack. Each character has a standard Ki level, and if energy falls under the standard level, it will regenerate. If Ki goes over the normal level, it begins to do the opposite. The real balance between characters is how high their standard Ki is.
Players that power up enough can hit L2 and go into a super mode, which allows the possibility of going into dragon rush mode, a cinematic rock-paper-scissors type of battle. Or they can try to land an ultimate move with the press of L2 again after being fully powered up. If the player on defense matches the button press of the player on offense the dragon rush stops, if they are unsuccessful, it continues with the button that the winner pressed disabled in the next round. Successfully winning the dragon rush mode makes it easier to land the ultimate move, the extremely powerful finisher.
Even the dragon rush and ultimate moves aren’t a surefire way of winning. If your timing is off or a player gets caught pressing the same button as an opponent, moves will be cancelled. The atmosphere of attacks and counterattacks is done beautifully, and is a great addition to the series. Though it is still sad to see no sign of any real flying in this game. Instead of flying whenever a player wants like it says on the box, players are only allowed to “levitate” when hit with certain moves that launch the opposing character into the air.
Though the combat is fun, there isn’t a whole lot to do outside of the Dragon Universe mode. The majority of the unlockables are placed in this part of the game. It will quickly get tiresome constantly going through the same storyline multiple times for each character. Playing the Dragon Arena mode is fun, and gives the a game a much needed second wind upon unlocking, but that will soon become stale. Even the multiplayer options are rather lacking.
Final Score: 6.5/10
Despite its flaws, this is a pretty fun game. Fans of the series will certainly enjoy the atmosphere. Gameplay isn’t very deep, so dedicated fighting fans won’t stay around for long. The Dragon Universe mode gets boring pretty quickly. Multiplayer options are also pretty weak. Many longtime fans will find many of their favorite villains missing, especially a majority of the characters from the Namek saga. While I personally enjoyed this and it is a positive turn around for the franchise, I’d suggest giving this a rental before you choose to buy. That may be enough to get a good DBZ fix for a while.
By Plumbum Sol