Review by ThatDamnNinja

Reviewed: 07/07/08

Kamehamehallelujah!

Here you’ll find my two cents, and maybe a nickel, regarding the pros, cons, and overall play value of Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit on PlayStation 3. Please enjoy.

Graphics

We’ll begin with a bang and touch on graphical appeal. WOW!!! I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again now. This. Game. Looks. Phenomenal. Cel-shaded textures have hit a new high with Burst Limit, earning it a well-deserved rank of true next-gen stature. Smooth, defined stage backgrounds appear almost surreal, and in terms of visual presentation, this is just about as close as it gets to taking the actual characters out of the show and placing them under your control. The most crisp, clean, and fluid animation you’ll find in a Dragon Ball Z game for a long time to come. There’s nothing more satisfying than landing a heavy smash on your opponent in genuine, kick ass Dragon Ball fashion. You’ll know it when you see it. The thing where your fist comes half an inch from exploding out of their back? Yeah, that one. Dimps has a knack for making pain look beautiful.

- 10/10

Sound

Up next, we’ve got sound and music. DBZ has really taken a step up in audio effects on this one. Most of them sound as though they’ve been taken straight out of the anime. No more garbled bits of indiscriminate impacts or explosions. When you send your opponent flying into the stratosphere, the sharp pitch of their soaring carcass whistling through the sky is a verbatim rendition of the sounds you’ve heard on the show. The same goes for heavy smashes and beam clashes.

The voice work seems to have faired a little better this time around. More emphasis is placed on conveying the stress of battle, though in such a manner as to avoid any cheesy artificial emotion. Also, very good move on the part of Dimps in continuing the tradition of optional English/Japanese voiceover. Myself, I prefer the Japanese voices, but I find both to be compelling and well done.

As for the tunes; pretty decent, not too bad. Nothing on par with the Japanese track of Budokai Tenkaichi 3, but it’s okay. Definitely one of the better intro themes of the DBZ franchise, to be sure. The stage music is fairly unintrusive, I found myself not paying too much attention. However, the exception to this norm would have to be the Archipelago stage. Now there’s some music you can whip somebody’s backside to.

- 9/10

Story

Let’s be honest, who plays a fighting game for the story? If a fighter actually DOES have an exceptional story mode, it’s at least half by accident. Some dislike the fact that you can fly through Z Chronicles within the window of 3-4 hours, but think about every other fighter you’ve ever played. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive. It’s all the same tier-based level progression from one fight to the next. When’s the last time it took you three hours just to get through Street Fighter’s story mode?

Z Chronicles is surprisingly well-rounded with a decent number of battles, and a story that at least connects well within sagas. I’ll tell the truth, if you’re not a fan, you won’t have a clue what’s going on when jumping to a new saga. Aside from that, the story flows smoothly in the three primary isolated sagas. You’ll be going up against all of your favorites from the animanga, recreating the greatest battles between the Saiyan, Frieza, and Cell sagas. I’m sure some are disappointed by the exclusion of the Majin Buu saga, but let’s get real, if we had to do without one saga, which would it be? Precisely.

All-in-all, an average story mode, nothing too special. 25% of your time here will go toward clearing it, the other 75% will go toward unlocking the Drama Pieces. Stay tuned for more on this.

- 8/10

Gameplay

If you’ve played fighting games as long as I have, you know full well that gameplay will indeed make or break the game in question. RPGs, FPSers, and other such genres of video games have the luxury of relying on the saving grace of groundbreaking graphics, story, and content to fall back on. Fortunately, I see this as one of Burst Limit’s strongest areas of performance. True, it can be a button-masher of sorts, but then, so can every fighter when you put the controller in the hands of a novice. However, there is an entirely new level of combat to be explored in mastering the game’s fighting engine and actually crafting your own unique combo system in the form of heavy smashes, pursuit attacks, ki blasts, and unlimited use of special attacks, all of which are made faster and stronger with the aid of Aura Spark(we’ll catch up with this later).

Now, I know what you’re thinking…”Unlimited special attacks? Like…one Kamehameha right after the other in a non-stop spamfest of utter spameriffic n00bery?” Special attacks require absolutely zero ki consumption. Yes, it would seem as though all hope was lost and the n00bs of the online gaming world would run rampant and take over everything as far as the eye can see, BUT, after an hour or so of practice with strafing and vanish counters, you’ll be more than capable of cleaning every spammer’s clock cleaner than Mr. Clean’s chrome dome. The damage area of your typical special attack is such that just a tap on the d-pad will move you out of the way from an oncoming Kamehameha wave…provided you haven’t been hit six or seven times prior and left helpless and flailing. But then you’re not facing a spammer, you’re facing a seasoned fighter and have no reason to complain for getting a Kamehameha in the face.

Moving on, we’ll go to the character selection menu. You’ll start with the opportunity to select your character from a roster of 21, one alternate color of costume, and in certain cases(Kid Gohan, Vegeta, Trunks, and Krillin to name a few), a different costume altogether. WHY they didn’t give us at least one extra costume option for every character is beyond me. Anyway, once you select your character, we’ve got an entirely new and original feature added to the DBZ gaming mythos: Drama Pieces. To speak bluntly, you either love ‘em or hate the living funkenhausen out of ‘em. These are short cutscenes, triggered by specific events during the course of battle, i.e. you just got hit with a Death Beam, so the Drama Piece triggers and begins a cutscene of your partner, chosen in the character select menu, swooping into the battle and knocking away your opponent(or the blast, depending on the Drama Piece), essentially saving you from the attack.

Another example of Drama Piece intervention would be a cutscene of your partner tossing you a senzu bean once your health reaches it’s final bar, or your character becoming extremely enraged and receiving an increase in damage/defense. They can be somewhat disruptive to gameplay, as they stop everything that’s going on and place each fighter back in their starting stances, but thank goodness you can turn them off if you like. There are several of these Drama Pieces for every character, all of which provide a multitude of effects, ranging from increased stats, health recovery, faster ki regeneration, fatigue reduction, auto-block, and auto-counter. You unlock these in Z Chronicles by performing specific actions during battle on Normal difficulty or above, and believe me they’ll keep you busy trying to get all 95 of them. There are a ton of different combined requirements to meet when unlocking Drama Pieces throughout the various sagas. One such example would be having less than one bar of health and 75% fatigue while executing an Ultimate Attack on your opponent.

Back to the character selection process, you’ll pick out your partner from the full roster, along with three Drama Pieces of your choosing, adding a great deal of depth to gameplay and strategy. You can put together any tactical strategy you wish with this system. This is one of the more appealing aspects to Drama Pieces. Suppose you want to play defensively, but also have a little muscle put away for a tight pinch; you pick Partner Support, Tien’s Resolve(assuming you’re playing as Tien), and Senzu Bean as your Drama Pieces. Once your health reaches its last bar, you’ll have both of the former DPs to give you a boost in health AND stats, giving you the considerable advantage in those close battles for the win, as well as Partner Support to watch your back in the event of your opponent whipping out a sneaky Ultimate Attack in a desperate attempt to end the battle immediately. If tactically pre-meditated battle strategies are your game, you’re going to love the concept of the Drama Piece.

Now, about Ultimate Attacks; after selecting your fighter and drama pieces, you’ll have a choice between three Ultimate Attacks, i.e. Super Kamehameha, Instant Transmission Kamehameha or Spirit Bomb(SFIII: Third Strike, anyone?), you’ll want to choose these carefully, as one UA requires more ki bars in order to execute, though with more damaging effects. Being that your ki gauge will gradually charge on its own over the course of battle, it will take longer for you to pull off an Ultimate with a higher ki bar requirement. You may speed this process up by landing hits on your opponent. Ahem.......I’ll admit, I miss the power up feature as much as a quadruple amputee misses skiing on the weekends. If I had to award this game one inexcusable flaw, that would be it. Seriously…you can’t power up your own ki? It’s a friggin’ Dragon Ball game. Let’s make a Super Mario game without the mushroom.

So you’ve made it into battle. The fighting is fairly straightforward, however, you’ll most likely be both amazed and slightly disoriented by the fast-paced animation in close quarters combat. It will grow on you within the first 20 minutes and you’ll find yourself feeling like a pro in no time, falling victim to those ever treacherous button-mashing tendencies we all have. This makes Burst Limit a perfect fit for both casual and hardcore players alike. Take a shot online and you’re going to get knocked off that cloud mighty quick, though. In the words of the greatest martial-arts masters, “Practice, practice, practice!” The fatigue meter is back from the Budokai series, while Dragon Rush has been replaced by Aura Spark Pursuit. Take too much damage, and you’ll have to button-mash your way out of paralytic exhaustion.

Easily one of the best inclusions to gameplay is the Aura Spark. You know it, you know it well. Once your ki gauge is completely full, you may either transform with certain characters(Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Trunks, etc.), fire your Ultimate Attack, or enter Aura Spark, which is available to every character in the game. This is where the attention to graphical animation really shines. Your fighter will be inundated in a flowing corona of wild ki energy, greatly increasing the speed and strength of your attacks, as well as automatically charging your ki blasts and special attacks to max power. As you might expect, this “hyper mode” of sorts will run your ki reserves dry within a few seconds, though you may slow this effect by continuing to land hits on your opponent. Aura Spark, you’ll have a lot of fun with that.

Burst Limit’s pros far outweigh its cons in the gameplay department; the minimized character selection and absence of manual ki charging being the only significant draw-backs, with regard to my opinion. One could yammer on and on all night 'n day about the intricacies of gameplay, but I’ll rest with the assumption that this has given you enough insight to further explore the fighting mechanics for yourself.

- 10/10

Online

The future of gaming. These days, online play makes up virtually 99% of every online-compatible game’s replay value. I am ecstatic to report that Burst Limit’s online is less than a chicken bone short of flawless. I’ve held matches with people from France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, and half a dozen other foreign countries, and I would estimate only 1 out of 10 matches had significant lag, actually affecting gameplay. Either I have the fastest connection on the planet(…and I don’t), or this is some of the best PSN connectivity to come down the pike yet. For you Wii owners, your BT3 online nightmares are over.

Should you find yourself snagging one laggy match after another, I’d suggest either choosing a custom match from your country of origin, or hosting your own room and waiting for someone with two or more latency bars to join, as indicated next to their PSN. And, of course, if you’re playing with someone local to your country, the matches will run like greased lightning.

- 10/10

Akira Toriyama’s magnum opus has made its jump into the next generation of home console gaming, and needless to say, it has more than cleared its mark with a promising launch for the series on next-gen consoles. In closing, I’ll sum up my thoughts by saying if you’re the type of person that must have no less than 73479136842 characters to choose from, this is not the one for you. But, if you’re in it for gameplay and graphics, Burst Limit has your number.

Final word; rent first if peace of mind is important to you, but I’ll say this, I rented before buying and wound up wishing I’d put that five bucks toward my purchase. Well worth my money, and that of any Dragon Ball fan with a taste for fighting games.

Catch you online. ; ]


Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit (US, 06/10/08)

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