Review by AK_the_Twilight

"Never has a Kamehameha looked this good."

Is it already time for another DBZ game? Well, here we go again. Dragon Ball Z; it's arguably one of the most popular anime in history, spanning many a saga following the travels and trials of Son Goku, Mr. Super Saiyan himself. Dragon Ball Z games have been hit-and-miss for years now. Yes, I know that Budokai 3 was incredible. Yes, I know that the Budokai Tenkaichi games were fun and challenging, but suffered from an annoying camera and long load times. But I like Budokai Tenkaichi 3 for the Wii, despite its problems. It is time, however, for the Xbox 360 to get a DBZ game. Equipped with impressive graphics, online play and a return to the classic Budokai style of gameplay, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is the first DBZ installment for the 360. But has DBZ reached its limit here?

Dragon Ball Z has been around the globe for nearly twenty years now, so if you haven't heard of it, it's about time you learned why this is such a phenomenon. The story focuses around the adventures of Son Goku, a man from Earth who also is part of the Saiyan race, a powerful group of aliens based around warrior code. In the world of Dragon Ball Z, there are seven magical spheres known as the Dragon Balls that when collected, summon the dragon Shenron to grant a wish to the collector. Along the way, Goku meets up with some nasty aliens like his eternal rival Vegeta, along with other beings who want the Dragon Balls like space creature Frieza and android Cell. It all gets pretty complicated, but one thing that DBZ always manages to deliver is intense action, mostly the different characters trying to beat the crap out of each other. The different characters have their own methods of flying, firing explosive blasts of energy, or even the famous Super Saiyan transformation. Don't be too confused about the story; Dragon Ball Z is mostly about the action, which it accomplishes extremely well.

So that's DBZ. The question, though, is: what about DBZ: Burst Limit? This is the first Dragon Ball Z game on the Xbox 360, and is supposedly the first next-gen DBZ game (not including DBZ: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 and 3 for the Wii). As far as the next-generation graphics and presentation go, Burst Limit does look amazing. The mix of blurring energy effects and cel-shaded characters is quite impressive. Energy attacks ripple with motion blur and the entire package manages to look incredibly sharp. However, you will notice reused animations both in battle and during cutscenes, which both are incredibly frequent. I did find the menu screens to be bland, but it was a minor issue. As far as the voice acting goes, you do get both English and Japanese voice acting. I wasn't bothered by the English voice acting (although the horrifically frequent use of the term “darn it,” was particularly annoying). Sean Schemmel still voices Goku well; Chris Sabat does the same as Vegeta and Piccolo. Sure, a few manage to make a few waves, but it wasn't at all bad. For the purists, the Japanese voice acting is there. The sound effects are also well done; crashes and explosions sound off in battle. The presentation is a major step up from the Budokai Tenkaichi games, as the amazing graphics and sound show.

But the gameplay is the star here, so the question remains: has it changed? Back under the control of Dimps (the company behind the original Budokai series) instead of Spike (the company behind the Tenkaichi series), I expected a return to form. Budokai 3 was a remarkable achievement, and Burst Limit does follow in its footsteps. On the other hand, Burst Limit borrows a few ideas from Tenkaichi as well. Controls are generally easy to get a handle on. A to guard, B for a ki blast, X and Y for hand-to-hand attacks. Combinations of the triggers and bumpers allow for some quick, though complicated, evasive maneuvers. It isn't as simple as Budokai 3's evasion system, but it isn't anywhere near as demanding as Tenkaichi's, which is definitely a good thing. The game focuses back on Budokai 3's mechanics, though the camera can get a bit confused during the fray. Fortunately, it's not as bad as Tenkaichi's was. All of this comes together pretty nicely, but it can draw down to a button-masher at times. Super moves can be pretty cheap and simplistic, and the CPU players can be vulnerable most of the times. There are, however, a slew of difficulty levels to challenge you. Overall, the gameplay has its ups and downs, but manages to make some interesting progressions and repairs a lot of the missteps of past games.

For the Dragon Ball Z fans out there, you do get your favorite characters like Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Piccolo and such, though you won't get as comprehensive a roster as seen before. Not only does the main story mode only go through three sagas, you don't get many of the more obscure characters. You do get some surprises after completing the main story mode, but this isn't the most collective of Dragon Ball Z games, which is a bit of a letdown. However, new to the mix are Drama Pieces, special pieces of cinema that not only show essential moments in the DBZ timeline, but can also change the tide of battle themselves. When certain conditions are met in battle like your character having low health or dodging a special attack, you may be surprised by an ally appearing or a significant power-up. Although these are unskippable and can be a bit repetitive at times, these add an interesting mix of cinematic and strategic factors. You can unlock Drama Pieces in the story mode, and when battling in VS. Mode, you can equip up to three of your collected Drama Pieces to power up a character. Although they don't change the gameplay tremendously, they're interesting inclusions and are cool to watch and experiment with.

As far as modes go, you get the traditional storyline mode where you play as different characters throughout Dragon Ball Z history. It's here that you unlock characters, stages, and Drama Pieces to use in the other modes. As explained before, there are only three sagas and not all battles are represented, so the main story can be pretty short. Returning to the main story is essential to unlock the Drama Pieces, so there's a bit of replay value in the storyline. Along with that is Trial Mode, which includes different things like Survival and Time Attack mode. One of the biggest inclusions is online play, which is actually rather robust. You can jump into a quick match, either basic or ranked, and compete against players all over the world. There is the occasional problem with lag, which can be pretty annoying, but this is pretty rare and occurs mostly during battles with very distant players. The VS. Mode also has two-player local versus matches and you can even let some CPU characters battle. There's also a Training Mode, along with a Tutorial Mode, but aside from that, the modes are pretty empty. If you're not a huge fan of online play or collecting Drama Pieces, Burst Limit may not deliver. It is a shame that the game is so limited when it comes to options, especially compared to the Tenkaichi series, which had a great variety of modes.

+ Excellent graphic style
+ Drama Pieces are surprisingly involving
+ Online play
+ English and Japanese voice acting

- Sparse on modes and longevity
- Online play has a degree of lag
- Not as comprehensive as other DBZ games

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is definitely the best looking DBZ game yet; the 360's graphical power makes the battles look sharp and clean. The energy effects are amazing and the cel-shaded characters are great to watch. To compliment the strong graphics, you get the English and Japanese voice work, both of which sound great. The gameplay, however, is a bit hit-and-miss. You do get improved controls and new Drama Pieces to change gameplay, but the evasion system is still a bit too complex. Burst Limit is also extremely…well…limited when it comes to modes, offering only VS, Trial, Tutorial and Training aside from the main storyline. The online play is a welcome inclusion and the many Drama Pieces offer some fun replay value, but it would've been better to see some more modes on the whole. For DBZ fans, you won't find all of your favorite characters from the Dragon Ball Z narrative, but there's a decent amount of diverse characters to play as throughout. Overall, DBZ: Burst Limit makes some next-gen improvements to both presentation and gameplay, but it sacrifices quite a bit of content to get the whole thing going. Fewer sagas and modes is a disappointment, but if you can look past some of the missing content, you'll find a sharp-looking and challenging fighter for the Xbox 360. It's best worth a rental first though, both for DBZ fans and gamers alike. Newcomers shouldn't fear the license and will most likely enjoy the game's over-the-top fighting style and great-looking graphics. Check it out for a solid 360 fighter.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/18/08

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

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