Review by grasu
"The first DBZ game that isn't labeled "Fans Only", but if you are one, all the better"
When I first read a preview of DBZ: B3, there was nothing that could convince me that this game would be more then an encyclopedia of DBZ with a game added as an afterthought. All the elements were there: huge numbers of characters, DBZ fight mechanics, and more. Never, in a million years would I have imagined that this game would actually turn out well... but it did, and I can proudly say that this wasn't $50 wasted on another DBZ failure, it was a very good investment, especially since 2004 seems to be low on good fighting games.
The graphics are flawless. Everything is booming with detail from the characters, which have reached cell-shading perfection, to the environmental effects, which are truly superb. The detail is just truly stunning, characters are now surrounded by small tornado-like-winds when they power up, trails of dirt and sand are left in the ground as your fighter is thrown back, explosions have real depth to them, the lighting is superb, glows of green, red, or blue light surround the characters when they use moves that incorporate those effects... it's all truly amazing.
The animation also has a perfect flow to it. Characters react beautifully to the hits they receive, especially the ones received to the abdominal area (I would say this game has the most accurate gut-hit effect, EVER). Transformations now give out a satisfying feel of pride as the screen turns dark and your character hunches over and performs a true DBZ-like transformation.
If there is one problem with the graphics, it would have to be the anti-aliasing, or, the lack there of. The characters look really pixelated while not in Dragon Rush mode and that really hurts the overall feel of the graphics. There also seems to be a little slow down at the start of Dragon Rush mode... in a fighter this is UNACCEPTABLE, even if it has NO effect on gameplay.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that the sound got such a low score since it really sucks. It appears that the VA's, even the ones from the actual show, have gotten really tired of botching they're "Ghuaaaaaaaargh"s and "Roar"s and that transposes to DBZ: B3. The VA performance is awful even for a game now a days. With actors like Samuel Jackson and Pierce Brosnan giving performances Chris Sabat is starting to show how bad he really sucks at acting. Maybe he should look for a new profession.
Thankfully, however, the musical score has really improved. There are actual worthwhile tunes (although, there's only 3 or so that fit that description) and the actual sound effects are truly satisfying. They have real depth and they give fights an even closer to DBZ feel... which is obviously the aim, as you will read later on.
Let's get something straight from the start: If your expecting this game to be the next Virtua Fighter or Street Fighter, you need to stop reading right now. The actual gameplay in DBZ is still way too simplistic for a fighter, but this time it's fast, fun, interesting, and so show-accurate that it just plain simply is worth the price of admission.
Dimps has actually added some things to Budokai, this time around, and they work out pretty well. The three major additions are Dragon Rush, teleportation and power struggles. Dimps' goal was to give this game a feel as true to DBZ as possible, damned be variety and a more complex fighting system although, this time, not completely damned.
Dragon Rush mode is Budokai 3's biggest attraction, and it's biggest flaw. DR mode is a very-DBZ-like feature. When activated (by entering into Hyper Mode, a second transformation and throwing your opponent in the air) you character will start pummeling on his opponent. There is a catch though; both you and your opponent have to choose one of the 4 face buttons. If your buttons match, the attack is cancelled, if they don't, then the attack goes on. While in this mode, the damage keeps piling up and the camera cuts at some insane angles. Trust me, this will be instantly recognizable to DBZ fans and it's plain simply amazing when you first see it... but after that first visualization, it starts to slide. First off, the dragon mode is IDENTICAL in its first 2 steps (our of 3) for ALL characters, the only difference is in the last step (which is usually a beam attack) and that is, sometimes, different for certain characters. But variety isn't the biggest problem here... it's the mode itself, which is, more or less based on the luck of the draw alone. There is a slight pattern to what buttons the computer hits, but when facing humans, good luck! This is absolutely FRUSTRATING sometimes, because DR is easily the best way to deal damage in Budokai 3 and when we're talking 8000 HP per character, you'll want to win all 3 rounds. Another problem is that the ultimate moves are only activated if all 3 rounds of a DR are won, which means that you won't see the ultimate moves of a few characters ever, or just rarely. More on that later.
The second and third additions to the fighting are not nearly as important. Power struggles are now in the game... and are used just as often as burst mode. To the untrained, that means that if you get yourself in a power struggle more then 10 times during the course of the whole game, you should feel lucky. But, assuming you actually get into one, just rotate one of the analog sticks to win. They look damn cool, but they're both rare and useless.
Teleportation is a whole new ball game (no pun intended). This time around, if you hit X and either Left or Right (in the direction of the attack), and if you time it perfectly, you can teleport behind your opponent at a huge Ki cost. The second type of teleportation, Pursue, is far more aggressive. To activate this one, you have to throw your opponent in the air and then, when he's floating to this destination, you have to hit the O button to instantly teleport and ping-pong him or her around. This deals craploads of damage, but it takes away one ki bar every time it's used. These two techniques make fighting more DBZ-like, but they also make it more annoying, since the computer seems to have the ungodly ability to dodge 95% of your beam attacks and ping-pong you all the way across the map at anything above Very Weak difficulty.
Hyper mode and dodging are 2 other, less important techniques introduced to Budokai 3. Hyper mode is only useful for 2 things: Death moves and DR. You need to be in this mode (which is also the only way that you can loose ki while doing nothing) in order to be able to use death moves or Dragon Rush. Dodging is another "avoid a hit at a cost of Ki" defensive technique (which is odd, since Budokai 3 provides almost nothing for defensive players) and to activate this one you just have to press the X button right before your about to get hit by physical attacks. Useful, but very likely to be underused by anyone other than the AI.
That's not all for the additions though. Fatigue is a new, and essential addition to the game. Fatigue happens when you run out of Ki, and there are only 2 ways to do that: By failing to send an opponent in a Dragon Rush or in a death move during hyper mode or by using teleportation until you run out of ki (Read: being stupid). While fatigued, you're a sitting duck anywhere from 3 seconds to 10. Fatigue is essential because of one thing alone: Death moves. Death moves take 5 ki bars right off your ki meter AND they have to be used during hyper mode which makes them VERY dangerous since, if you miss, you'll be left with 1.5 ki bars or none... and since you can't power out (or power up) of hyper mode, that makes YOU a sitting duck now. It's sounds more complicated than it really is.
The actual fighting system has also been slightly modified. Throws are not skill capsules anymore; everyone has them as a default. There are only 3 moves you can actually do now: a ki-based physical move (Dragon Fist, Wolf-Fang Fist, etc.), a beam (Dodompa, Kamehameha, etc.) and your death move, everything else is either done through DR mode or through a combination of keys. Ultimate moves are the ones who have taken a real beating though. Since the only time you can use an ultimate move is at the end of a Dragon Rush, if you win all 3 random-rounds, they have really become useless. When they connect, they do ungodly amounts of damage, but not quite as much as death moves which ALWAYS connect (if you don't miss that is). In fact, the only reasons why you may need the ultimates is because in order to deal full damage with a death move you need to win a button pushing contest, but generally speaking, it's much easier to win that one than to win a Dragon Rush, especially later in the game.
Now that I finished dissecting just about every game mechanic, let's talk about the actual fighting. The fighting itself is a helluva' lot of fun, but EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER PLAYS THE EXACT SAME. They all have the same key combos for all the moves, they all have the same DRs, and so on. It may seem repetitive, and it is, but it also happens to be fun, especially with the new transformations that actually carry some weight now. Not only is the animation for transformations much better than in the previous games but the actual transformation increase speed and damage by quite a bit, unlike in the other games. The amount of hits per combo has also been increased and the actual controls have become much tighter allowing for much better hit-connection; you'll need it too. The faster pace and more DBZ-like moves help the fighting a lot too, but I wish there would be more moves, even it they're invented because 4 moves total, per character, is just way too few.
Fusions return, but the focus has been taken off them, as far as the amount of fused characters goes. On the other hand, fusions are the most unbalanced things out there. An SSj4 Gogeta leveled up to attack 20 and ability 20 (maximum) can kill ANY character in a single shot with its 100x Big Bang Kamehameha attack. Even if the fusion lasts only 10 seconds, since the Ki is infinite, you can enter hyper mode as many times as you want and you never have to fear that you may run out of ki, which means that you can go around trying to kick the opposing player in the air for 15 seconds straight with no repercussions if you miss. Not good. These kinds of unbalances truly make some characters useless for the first time in Budokai history. Some characters, like Omega Shenron, start out with maximum ki, others, with 4 or 5 bars and then, there's Krillin or Yamcha which have 1 or no transformations, and no special abilities to start out with. Jolly! In reality, a Krillin lv. 99 is gonna have problems beating a Breakthrough Gokou lv. 45.
There are a few other things about the characters that boggle my mind. Why can't you use fusion during the Tenkhaichi Budokai Tournament? I understood that in Budokai 2 where EVERYONE was the same, but since Brolly gets 5 ki bars in the Tournament arena and you can still use Breakthroughs, it seems utterly pointless not to allow fusions, unless you want to follow DBZ rules of idiocy (i.e. no more then 1 character in the arena at one time). Then there are also some of the characters: Why are there Saibamen and Cell Jrs. in the game instead of having some variety in the Dragon Rush? I mean, who is honestly gonna play a Saibamen? Oh well, guess I can't have'm all.
And now, for the part you've all been waiting for: Characters and other DBZ stuff. Let me make it simple: Budokai 3 is an encyclopedia, pure and simple. The new story mode, Dragon Universe, where you fly around with 1 of 11 different characters and fight DBZ battles is amazingly fun by itself, but throw in the lite-RPG elements and you got a real feast. The difficulty of Dragon Universe is a whole new different course I'm afraid. It ranges more then the difficulty in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. When Imperfect Cell is harder to defeat then Perfect Cell and when Piccolo has a harder time with #17 than with Buu, we have problems. Make no mistake, Budokai 3 is DIFFICULT, don't underestimate this game since the AI seems to have ungodly teleportation, pursue and dodge powers especially at higher levels.
There are somewhere over 50 characters in this game including Brolly, SSj4 Gokou and Vegeta, Gogeta, Gotenks, Trunks, Cell, Frieza, Cooler, Gohan and all the other favorites. A ton of arenas, ranging from Grandpa Gohan's House, to Inside Buu are also at your fingertips. Recordings of the taunts and voice data used in the game can also be wished from the dragon (if you really have no better things to do) and there are quite a few alternate storylines to go around. Too bad nothing but the intro (which is superb) is animated.
Budokai 3 features 4 gameplay modes: Duel (standard 1 v. 1 fighting), Tournament (The Tenkhaichi Budokai Tournament, where you earn money to buy stuff, now it's open to up to 8 human players), Dragon Universe (story-like mode) and Dragon Arena (after you finish all the story modes for the 11 characters you unlock a build up system similar to the one in Final Bout, you can also enter codes of other different fighters from the web, making this a pseudo-online mode). A practice mode, and the Skill mode where you can buy capsules (capsules enhancements to the fighters that range from Pork Soup to SSj4, by adding capsules in a characters capsule tray you gain most of the games abilities since the normal characters are rather weak and they don't have more than a 1/3 of that characters abilities) are also available.
Duel mode has been changed quite a bit, allowing you to increase the number of health bars this time around. The practice mode features 12 different training sessions for the newly initiated. I recommend taking those practice sessions since some of the new concepts, like teleportation, are a little more complex then you may think. The 2nd new mode is Dragon Arena, which is the 2nd build up mode in Budokai, amazing. The rest of the modes are just like they were in the previous games with no real changes.
The one thing that is absolutely stunning about Budokai 3 is how much game time it features. You can collect all Dragonballs to wish for mega powerful Breakthrough capsules (these grant you all skills and transformations, 2X), you can take a character from lv. 1 to 99 in Dragon Arena, you can win the world tournament, etc. This game is HUGE and if you even remotely like it, you may find yourself pouring HOURS into this since there are hundreds of capsules to collect (50 of which cost $50000, which is the maximum you can win), and 50 characters to level up.
Improved, but still not quite up to standards. Even though the password system allows for this pseudo-online game it's not against people it's against their creations, which are manned by the CPU.
The introduction of an 8 player tournament is advantageous to Budokai 3's score, but not enough to make it as good as other games which offer online tournaments and many other modes (especially tag team modes, which would be awesome in this game).
I was really torn up between a 7 or an 8, but chose to give this game the latter since there is way too much luck involved in the fighting. This is a game, not a poker match; if I want to play dice I'll just do it without paying $50.
Does that mean this game is bad? Hell no. Even if you're not a fan, you can enjoy this. The moves are over the top, there is a crapload of game time, and it does take some time to master everything (or, at least, everything that doesn't involve luck).
If you're a DBZ fan and if you don't own this game, go out right now and buy it. There is NO questioning it, this is the best thing in DBZ history and I doubt it can get better than this.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 11/24/04
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