Review by MasterMo

"A DBZ game that fully feels like... well, DBZ."

When I first saw pictures of this game in GamePro magazine, I knew this game was going to be good. It looked so much better than the previous Budokai games. The Sunday after the game came out, I got the money and bought the game, hoping for a fun gaming experience.

Man, my money was worth it.

Graphics

The graphics of this game are superb. The same cel-shading from Budokai 2 is back. The character models seem about the same, with the exception of new costumes and obviously new characters. Everything else, though, has been made much better. The scenery has looks impressive and far greater than the previous games. The characters, like in the anime, have glowing energy auras that look outstanding. Dust will fly when you charge your ki or dash at your opponent.

All and all, the details and excellent. It looks good and still looks true to the anime. Very well done.

Sound

The music is alright. I'm not expert on what is good or bad music-wise, but it seems good. The music really doesn't get too repetitive and can even be a bit catchy. I don't have any problems with the music.

The sound effects are rather good. They sound just like something out of the anime, and rightfully so. No problems here.

The voices, though, get a little sketchy. Most of the voice acting is good and sounds just like the characters did through (most of) the anime. Some of the acting is a little off, though. There are also the instances where characters in different forms have the same voice when they should have a different voice. Cell, for example, has 3 different forms with different voices, but whenever he's in his perfect form, many of his grunts will be from his imperfect voice. (The funny thing is, that same of his grunts are from Imperfect Cell while others are voiced by Perfect Cell)

The sound is all fine and dandy, except for a few voice glitches. It's not that big a deal.

Story

Some people love the story mode, some people hate it. I, for one, like it, but I can see why some people may dislike it.

The story mode, aka “Dragon Universe” basically lets you take the role of 11 different characters (out of 38 in the game…) and play through their part of Dragon Ball Z, or new parts never in the series. During so, you get to fly around the world, battling enemies, picking up items, and searching for the dragon balls. By battling enemies, you can actually level up your characters to make them progressively stronger.

The story is progressed by dialogue between the characters. The cut-scenes basically consist of upper-body portraits of the characters and spoken-out talk, with the occasional sound-effect. That's about it. There are no animated cut-scenes, just heads and words.

The story can also be confusing for people who don't know the story in DBZ. For example, in Goku's story, once he defeats Freeza, his next part of the story takes place when Cell turns to his Perfect Form. Sure, there is a paragraph explaining the current situation, but it leaves a lot out.

If you already know all of DBZ, then you won't have a problem. If your unfamiliar to the DBZ timeline, though, the story may be a bit intimidating. I personally think the mode is fun to play though, to find all the extra things hidden around. Is the mode good or bad? Well, you'll just have to decide for yourself, as this really is just a matter of opinion.

Gameplay

A game is nothing without gameplay. Graphics and sound don't make a game; the quality of playing is what is important. Luckily, this game delivers great quality gaming with only one or two minor flaws.

The control system isn't that difficult at all. The main buttons are square to punch, triangle to kick, circle for an energy attack, and x for block. Pressing some of those buttons at the same time activate more commands, like throws and transformations. As if it wasn't easy enough, those commands are even shortcutted to the L and R buttons, which of course can be changed if necessary.

Basic button combinations will allow you to do combos. For example, a simple combo, Punch, Punch, Punch, Punch, Energy, does a punching combo, ending with one of your characters death moves (A kamehameha wave, for example). Combo's of course, grow more complex after that, but are never all that difficult to pull off.

The X button gives you a variety of ways to block and counter. simply hold the button to block most weaker attack. Tab the button as your opponent attacks you to dodge all damage. Press forward and X when your opponent attacks to teleport behind him and send him flying.

The one horrible thing about the gameplay, however, is Hyper Mode. By pressing Punch, Kick, Block, and Energy (also shortcutted to L2), your character will start to glow red. He'll be unable to block, but won't be stunned by attacks. Also in this mode, your ki slowly depletes. When it runs out, your end up out of the Hyper Mode, dazed for a moment.

This, I have no problem with, but it gets worse.

In Hyper Mode, a character can do 2 things, the first thing he can do is a called a Dragon Rush. Basically by hitting your opponent back, you and your opponent shall enter a series of rock-paper-scissors like challenges. If both of you match in the button your press (Square, triangle, circle, or X), the attack is either countered or stopped. If you and your opponent's results are different, the attack will go on.

Unfortunately, these are somewhat overpowered and can do way too much damage for not having to do much of anything. To make things worse, higher level computer players tend to abuse Dragon Rushes. Not only can this turn the tide in a bad way, but the fight scene you see while you and your opponent play Rock-Paper-Scissors gets highly repetitive since it doesn't change with the exception of the ending.

The other thing that you can do in Hyper Mode is your ultimate attack. When an ultimate attack is activated, both you and your opponent will enter another kind of competition, where bars will appear at the bottom of the screen and you have to press a button when a bar gets close to the end. Whoever gets the most energy built up by getting the bar close to the line wins. This then can cause this ultimate to be strengthened, weakened, or even sent back at the enemy.

Ultimate attacks are rather easy to pull of and don't take as much skill as they probably should. This isn't as big a problem as Dragon Rushes, but they can be annoying as well.

Off the negative side, those whom have played the previous Budokais' should remember the capsule system, which is back and better than ever. Basically, in the versus modes, you can use a custom character by equipping the characters with various capsules that can give him attacks, special stat boosts, and so forth. You don't have to play this way in versus mode, but it does provide a fun way to make the game more interesting.

What really makes this game good to a DBZ fan is that the game is so much like the anime. Fights play out much more like the show, allowing you to pinball your opponent back and forth by teleporting behind them, or entering a beam struggle with your opponent in which you have to press buttons rapidly to beat out your opponent's attack. Sure, it's no groundbreaking fighting game, but it's so much like DBZ that most fans should enjoy the game.

Replayabiliy

Often to me, a fighting game gets boring to me just after a few days. Yet I'm still playing this game almost 2 weeks after I got it. The story mode is replayable, as going through a character's story a second time around lets you do a few extra things and unlock extra characters.

Eventually, you can unlock the Dragon Arena mode that allows you to level up any characters in the game. In this mode, there is even an option that allows you to get a password for your character and give them to people all over. By inputting the password, a player can play your custom-made character, with all of it's stats and capsules intact. It really is an interesting system.

Long story short, it isn't too hard to spend a lot of time on the game, and have fun doing it.

Final Verdict

If your fan of DBZ, buy this game if at all possible. It has it's flaws but it's not the end of the world. If your just a fighting game fan looking for a different game, then try and rent this game and see how you like it, for you don't have to be a fan of DBZ to enjoy the fun game engine. The 50 dollars this game costs is money well spent. No DBZ fan will regret it, and I'm sure many other gamers will enjoy it too.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/04


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