Friday, June 10, 2005

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3

Genre: Fighting, Action, Side-Scroller
Platform: PlayStation 2
2004 Atari, Inc., Dimps Digital Innovator

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-------------------------------------------------- Product Description:
Use your unbridled power to destroy anything that gets in your way, including the environments. The combat system is faster, and the counter system is more potent. An all-new single player mode will allow fans to recreate some of the most dramatic DBZ moments. Its Dragon Ball Z at its most compelling.

It's. it's a good Dragon Ball game! >>> by Trigon
Yes, I'm as shocked as you are! Most games based on the popular Dragon Ball Z anime have ranged from bad to incredibly bad. This game features a simple, yet surprisingly deep, fighting engine that allows players to feel like they are playing their favorite heroes for the first time.

Budokai 3 features the basic game options you would expect in a fighting game. There is a Story Mode (called Dragon Universe), Dueling Mode, Tournament Mode, and Practice; each mode is pretty self-explanatory. The Practice Mode deserves special attention, as Budokai 3's Training option is an excellent tutorial, teaching newbies everything from the basics to the most advanced maneuvers. However, the game could certainly benefit from some additional modes, such as Survival or Time Attack.

Combat is where Budokai 3 truly shines. The game's controls are fluid and responsive - absolutely necessary traits for a fast-paced action game like this. The characters' attacks and special abilities are far easier to perform than in a hard-core fighting series like Tekken. It is this very simplicity that causes Budokai 3 to feel like a Dragon Ball experience. For example, in other fighting games firing a basic energy blast may require a complex motion on the controller. In Budokai 3, you can rapidly fire simple energy blasts with the push of a button, and you can fire a more powerful special energy blast with a simple combination (Kamehameha is merely Forward + Energy button). Moreover, the game allows you to do things like: take to the air, teleport behind your opponent to counter their attack, launch your opponent into the air and teleport after them to continue the beat-down, and participate in beam struggles. The Ultimate attacks are appropriately over-the-top, being just as flashy and devastating as they are in the anime. A new addition is the Dragon Rush, a hyper attack that plays out in three rock-paper-scissors-like phases. If the attacker wins all three phases, he deals damage to his opponent on par with that of an ultimate attack. If the defender wins one of the phases, he stops the Dragon Rush and takes less damage. Overall, the battle system in Budokai 3 succeeds at making you feel like you are playing a super human - or, dare I say, Super Saiyan - character.

There is not much to say about the plot of Budokai 3. In Dragon Universe mode, you play as one of the heroes of the anime, and relive the storyline of the anime series, starting with the Saiyan invasion of Earth and ending at different points depending on the character you pick. The primary flaw with the story is that it makes absolutely no sense unless you are already a fan of the series, and is often confusing even then.

Budokai 3 has bright, colorful cel-shaded graphics which are visually pleasing and fit the anime series nicely. The backgrounds are not as impressive, being mostly featureless plains or barren mountains, although there are some dazzling hidden stages. The special attacks are spectacular, including some effects so powerful that you can see the blast from orbit. A cool feature of such an attack is that afterwards, some stages' backgrounds are reduced to smoldering rubble!

Unfortunately, the sound effects are not extraordinary enough to match the visual action. It all feels like it should have a little more impact. This is not a game you will buy for the soundtrack, as the music is forgettable at best, dull and repetitive at worst. Budokai 3 features the same voice acting as the Dragon Ball Z anime, which means it is mediocre, but not unbearable.

Budokai 3 has a huge cast of playable characters (at least 3 dozen), so DBZ fans should be able to play as their favorite fighting character. There are a wide variety of characters, including humans, monkey-men, aliens, androids, and demons. However, DBZ is perhaps the ultimate example of shounen fighting anime, so there are few playable female characters (a total of two, and one of them is an android). Most of the characters must be unlocked by playing Dragon Universe mode.

As you might expect, there is little in the way of character balance. Just like in the anime, some characters are just stronger than others. Luckily, the power level difference is not nearly as extreme as the anime, otherwise the game would be called "DBZ: Play Goku, fool!" Relative power levels between characters do not always correspond to the anime; for example, short characters in Budokai 3 are significantly stronger simply because they are harder to hit. This lack of character balance would be a major problem if this were a tournament-level, arcade-style fighter, but it is forgivable in this game as it focuses more on being entertaining than ruthlessly precise.

This game is definitely worth replaying. Early on, there is significant incentive to play and replay the story mode in order to unlock hidden characters, stages, and capsules (power -ups). Once you unlock everything, the replay value drops off steeply but it never vanishes entirely.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 is the game that Dragon Ball fans have been waiting for. The fast-paced action and straightforward gameplay should appeal to those who enjoy action and fighting games as well.

HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: Level 95 in Dragon Universe (with Vegeta)
RATINGS: Gameplay 8; Battle 8; Story 6; Visuals 9; Characters 7; Sounds 7; Replay Value 7

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