Review by EggmanChao

"DBZ: Budokai 3 - Truly An Anime Remake"

When is a beat-em up not a beat-em up? When it's the latest instalment of a television/movie franchise, with what sounds like Japan's late bid for Eurovision entry opening the proceedings and has you flying over large 3d maps prior to combat. Make no mistake Dragonball Z Budokai 3 is not just unusual in name.

The aim of the game is still the same old familiar - render your opponent senseless and progress. This you can do via a number of play options. The Duel will see you square off in a one to one fight with your selection of characters. The Tournament repeats this but on the standard knockout challenge trophy basis. Practice surely doesn't need an explanation from me but will be very handy for reasons that will become clear later on, and the title manages five different difficulty settings. The mainstay of your experience, however, will be the Dragon Universe selection. Faithfully recreating the anime world it allows you to choose your hero and guide them through a television faithful storyboard tackling the evil that lies within.

Entering Dragon Universe you get the initial selection of a number of characters from the series, many more can be uncovered depending on your success (up to 40 from DBZ, GT and movies.) Choosing one isn't the usual 'who does what' selection thanks to a rather impressive skills assignment option. Although you will start the quest with no experience or battle points you can quickly acquire these, each fight rewarding you with a wealth of statistics and subsequent benefits depending on your performance. Once you've achieved a certain number you can level up and start to hone your abilities. Dragonball's "E.S.S" system is designed so you can choose to weight a character with particular traits, perhaps more attacks, or greater defence, whatever you go for you can start to create an almost unique character (naturally the game has to be limited so it will never be unique in the DB world but it's going to be pretty rare whatever you choose.) Whilst the game isn't online compatible what the developers have included is a password system that enables gamers to swap codes, or trade online, so that they can then take on each others creations - whether they then lie their arses off about beating them depends on your circle of friends. This character development, whilst small scale for an RPG, is quite a cool feature for a title also displaying all the checkpoints of a solid fight game, offering some genuine long term play beyond the story finish and the usual unlockables.

Combat itself is quite a different experience, for even the veteran beat em up fan. Battles are staged across a big platform, it is 3d but other than stepping into the foreground and shifting sideways it's not hugely utilised in the way that some of the games that have marketed heavily on that feature are. The characters instead make their spatial awareness in another direction - upwards. Initially it looks like you have very few moves to your name - a punch button and kick equivalent, with a basic guard posture and a 'Ki blast.' It's quickly apparent that this is not the case at all, the 'Saiyan Overdrive Fighting system' being the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. Combinations of the buttons and control stick send your character charging across the screen to deliver powerful uppercuts, flying kicks and multiple combinations. The Ki blast releases energy bolts towards your opponent that can result in some devastating damage and debilitation for a period of time. Timing is a very definite requirement of play, perhaps more so than who's got the biggest strike and without practice you'll almost certainly have no idea why what happened just did. Fights are often quite long and include a very smooth teleportation manoeuvre, or allow you to take to the air in a quasi-Matrix style gravity defying shift, leading to some pretty sore thumbs on this reviewer. It's this latter point that I think is one of the game's strongest features - it feels like you are faithfully recreating an episode of the series, the publisher's claims of cinema not misplaced.

As I have just said graphically it is a very faithful game, however there is a quite large and entirely personal 'but' coming. To me, in the world of Japanese non-18 certificate fight animation, the word 'faithful' means it will feel very colourful, very linear and almost like you could have turned on in the eighties, nineties or present day. I hesitate to use the word 'timeless' as that often implies 'God-like', but it's hard to see this package becoming dated as the genre often feels like it visually ever evolves. There are obviously good and bad implications from that statement, I guess you take from it what you will. I don't dislike it, but it's certainly not jaw-dropping in the way some of the more familiar 3d beat-em ups have been.

The Bad Side
If you though it was good up till then, well not anymore. I would say, and be corrected if stated otherwise. There are characters like Pan, Baby, Nova Shenron who were the fight of the GT series. They are not in the game, this makes it a but sad, if your going to add a characters from the GT series then atleast have all of them in it with a great and major spotlight in the anime! I subtract a few points for this making the game still good, but I still do not see the word “Go Airborn at anytime”. ERMM.

Well the game itself is still good to play for a DBZ fan!

Gameplay: 10/10 – The game and how to play it, I say easy to start, hard to beat.
Graphics: 10/10 – The graphics truly look like the anime is playing in your way.
Sound: 10/10 – The sound may be hard to hear but, shut of the music and its loud then!
Ability: 10/10 – The game has a lot of features that are never found in any other budokai game, take advantage of this!
Other: 5/10 – Well, this is the bad side, its content. Bad amount of characters if your going to do GT series, some new constumes would be nice, or atleast more.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/11/06

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