A not-so-Super Saiyan
I was never really big into anime, but like most every other guy back in my day, there was about a two-to-three year period where Dragon Ball Z was near the top of my list of must-see TV shows. Unlike some other obsessions in my life, my Dragon Ball Z love affair was short-lived, mostly because there really hasn’t been anything new with the series since those days.
Even the DBZ videogames that have been released over the years simply rehashed the same story over and over again. It’s gotten to a point where it’s hard for me to get excited anymore because I know that nothing content-wise has changed. All we’ll see is maybe better graphics or some new gameplay mechanics as we take on Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu for the billionth time.
But Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z was supposed to be different. It was coming after last year’s release of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, a film that Battle of Z was supposed to incorporate elements from, and the first new DBZ movie in years. Battle of Z also channels the look and gameplay of Dragon Ball: Zenkai Battle Royale, a DBZ arcade game, so this could surely breathe some freshness in the series for those who only play on consoles.
I’m afraid, however, that my high hopes didn’t pan out. As is normally the case, not enough has changed, and some of the new mechanics do more harm than good.
The new customization features are a perfect example. Not only can you change the color of your favorite DBZ characters’ outfits, but as you beat missions in the story mode, you earn points and special boost cards. These cards can increase your melee strength, HP, Ki blast power, speed, and more. The points can also be spent to also buy more cards if needed.
It starts off as an intriguing way to see whether you can truly make Goku “over 9,000” in terms of power level as you see the direct benefits of what a “+35 melee” card or the like, but by the time you get halfway through the Cell Saga, you’re trying to grind for new cards or points to buy better ones than what you’re given to overcome some really brutal battles.
The worst part about the card system, though, is that it’s random. You may want a melee boost, but you might only collect Speed and HP boosts. Plus, each character can only equip so many cards at a time, so you could have a flood of cards you don’t need as you slowly try to collect the point to buy the card you want or hope you get lucky. It’s an interesting take on leveling up characters and implementing new RPG-like elements into a fighter, but the randomness becomes a grind that gives little to no reward.
Besides this abominable leveling system, the game also fails to deliver enough content revolving around Battle of Gods. The first new movie in over a decade for DBZ gets a single mission in the game. With 60 missions in the single-player mode overall, that’s a pathetically small offering, especially when you make players grind through multiple missions based around the same handful of storylines we’ve been playing through for decades now. At the very least, beating it does unlock Goku’s Saiyan God form as well as two new characters from the movie, Whis and Beerus. But it’s not enough.
Not everything is a disaster, though. From a gameplay perspective, Battle of Z does a fine job of representing its arcade brethren—and the anime itself—on consoles with over a dozen huge arenas and battles that usually are massive in scope. You can also take up to three AI allies into every battle, even if they’re clones of the player character. This leads to some epic re-creations, since the Z Fighters (Goku and his friends) can take on the entire Ginyu Force in one mission. It also opens up some interesting “What If?”-style missions in the single-player mode, like having a bunch of Super Saiyans taking on all four forms of Frieza at the same time. The friendly AI could use some work, and the camera can go a bit wonky when the action gets particularly hectic, but otherwise, the combat’s definitely not the weakest part of this fighter.
When you boil everything down, this still isn’t the Dragon Ball Z game fans want. The single-player mode offers almost nothing we haven’t seen before, and it can’t even be bothered to give us any cutscenes from the anime to tie all the missions—or at least the Sagas—together. A few interesting co-op and team-battle modes on top of the story can make for some online havoc, but it’s still not enough to warrant a Battle of Z purchase by anyone but the most obsessive of DBZ fans.
|Developer: Artdink • Publisher: Namco Bandai • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 01.28.14|
Battle of Z had a lot of potential, but like so many DBZ games before it, it fails to capture the opportunity. The unnecessary amount of grinding required to progress through a story we’ve seen a dozen times before overshadows the decent combat.
|The Good||First DBZ game outside Japan with Goku’s God form, Beerus, and Whis.|
|The Bad||Horrendous camera; customization system makes grinding more bothersome than normal.|
|The Ugly||Remembering why I stopped caring about Dragon Ball Z in the first place.|
|Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PS Vita. Primary version reviewed was a retail copy provided by Namco Bandai for the Xbox 360. .|