Review by Xtreme1

Reviewed: 01/01/08

The Dragon Ball series endures for another game in the long lineup of enjoyable titles.

You can say and think many things about Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series but regardless of anything said or thought, you can’t deny the lasting power of the characters and storyline. Dragon Ball is by no means a new product. Actually, it’s probably older than a lot of the fans it generates. The strange thing is that it shows no real signs of letting up, though the series has been over for a long time now. Names like Goku, Piccolo, Vegeta, and Gohan are all popular and well-known. Most young males grow up watching the series faithfully and can recount every fight by heart. Its from this popularity that the successful Budokai series has stemmed. Though it used to be that you had to pay over a hundred dollars to import a Dragon Ball game - one lacking in quality at that - the Budokai series has managed to turn that around and create a quality fighting game featuring your favorite names from the Dragon Ball lineup. Every fight that fans wanted to see and participate in was finally a reality and the series has managed a huge success from that. Year after year the series grew and evolved, until finally we have the latest installment: Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3. For those who haven’t played since the beginning it’s a remarkably new adventure. For those who haven’t picked up a DBZ title yet then its something in an entirely new world altogether. Yet for those faithful fans who have been there all along this latest title in the series serves as further justification behind the popularity of the name and solidifies the solid game mechanics that the Budokai series has been building for years now.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi has been unique among other Dragon Ball titles for featuring a new perspective on fighting. Traditional fighters have always offered a horizontal view of the battle with you at one end of the screen and your opponent at the other. This is not the case in this series. Instead of this side-scrolling camera view the action shifts as everything is shown from the behind-the-back perspective. For Dragon Ball Z this is a great thing because it immerses you in the fight and character much more so than the alternative. It gives a unique handle on fighting that you wont get anywhere else. This unique handling is only furthered by the exclusive Wii controls featured in the game. In other fighting games a button sequence has always been implemented in order to pull off high damaging special attacks. Not so in Budokai Tenkaichi 3. Instead of memorizing which button to press and when, developers had made the process much more simple as well as more fun and potentially embarrassing should anyone be walking by to watch you play. You see you take the controller for your Wii and you perfectly mimic the motions of the move… which means holding your arms in the air and then bringing them down to do a spirit bomb, or taking your fists and pulling them back to charge up a kamehameha wave and then shifting them forward to unleash your energy. This is great in the way that it readily immerses yourself into the fight and character in a dimension not explored in any other game before it. The controls handle accurately and you’ll never have a problem pulling off an attack as long as you know what you’re doing. They even have a nice little icon on the screen that pops up when you’re ready to do an attack and demonstrates how to do the attack, just in case you forgot. This limit’s the menu scrolling, which was very abundant in the previous title as you’d constantly check the menu to remember what motion to do for what attack. Also these controls are entirely motion-based, with no need for the sensor bar. This is a vast improvement over the previous title because now you’re no longer limited in what position you are in relative to the television and can really get comfortable and fight exactly how you want. Moves are easier to pull off than ever and it shows. The only unfortunate thing is that you’ll look like a prize idiot as you’re flailing your arms all over the place in order to deal out the heaviest amount of damage but if you worried about looking cool then you probably wouldn’t be playing a Dragon Ball game on your Nintendo in the first place.

This is a game that serves as a testimony that the series has endured and learned what works and doesn’t work, offering the ultimate refined product. Graphically they’ve nailed the characters and environments from the show and in some cases the characters look better in the game than they ever did on the show. It would be nice for a better track selection, specifically it would be amazing if they could incorporate the soundtrack from the show (both English and Japanese), but the game itself has passable background music that serves as well as any fighting game could hope to. Where they really pull the audio together is with the characters themselves. Every VA from the show is hear and they’ve recorded all their lines in crystal quality. Even the ever-popular “It’s over 9000!” line is featured, which is sure to make any fan’s day. The only real unfortunate thing about everything this game features is that very little of it is new to the table. We’ve had these stages and characters for a while now, and they’ve played as well as ever. This may be the downside to success, as every year a new game seems to come out and every year less seems to be innovative and new which makes you wonder why you brought the game if the only thing it holds over the last installment is a handful of new characters and stages. This is where the developer is challenged to come up with new ideas to make playing the fights we’ve played for years now new and entertaining. Unfortunately the end result of their ideas isn’t always terrific, but let’s shed some light on what they’ve come up with.

Story-mode this year plays largely unlike what we’ve been offered before. Fights are more cinematic complete with story elements and voice segments being incorporated into gameplay. So, instead of a fight being divided into three fights with dialogue and cinematics in-between the action… it’s all one fight and one-process. This eliminates a lot of the needless garbage you had to deal with before. Unfortunately this can make some fights easier as all you have to do to win in some cases is trigger a story-element and press the button for it to commence. Fortunately for those seeking a challenge you have the option of not triggering the story command and can continue however you want. Sadly when they decided to gut story mode of needless garbage they also gutted it of a lot more content as well. A lot of story material is completely skipped and you only fight in a select few battles. This makes the story incomprehensible to anyone not familiar with the source material and also makes it so an entire saga of story content is summarized into a ten minute fight with one person. This strips away a lot and sadly, despite of the innovation the new story command triggers bring to the table, it makes it so that as a whole playing through story mode is a less enjoyable experience than before. They try to make up for this by adding a few more modes, such as Dragon Sim and Mission 100. Mission 100 is pretty much the same as other challenge modes in previous games and Dragon Sim plays as an unentertaining Training Sim that makes you wonder why you’re bothering to waste your time to train when just fighting is much more fun. The other major change they seem to have done is change up tournament mode. Instead of being able to choose what tournament you enter its chosen for you at random. Why on earth they thought this was a good idea I’ll never know because now you have little control over what tournament you enter without backing out and trying again to see if the one you wanted was picked by the computer.

In summary the major strength this title offers is the refined controls, which hold strong over previous installments due to sensor bar no longer being depended on. However many other things in this title are a backtrack for the series and some things the game offers (like the random selection of the tournaments) are just plain frustrating. I’d recommend Budokai Tenkaichi 2 over this game for a better story mode but if what you care about is controls and controls alone then you should definitely purchase this game. It’s not horrible and proves that the company has had experience in handling the Dragon Ball title. With more new things brought to the table it could have been a classic. As it stands it’s a decent addition to the franchise, with a few problems holding it back from being at the top of its game.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (US, 12/03/07)

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