Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 Review

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Publisher: Atari
Developer: Dimps

Platform: PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Long ago, the sadistic and evil wizard Bibidi summoned Buu – a creature designed to destroy planet after planet. Buu was ultimately confined in a restraining shell, but Babidi (son of Bibidi and yet another evil wizard) has unleashed Buu upon the universe. Now it falls to Goku and his pals to defeat Buu while simultaneously searching for the complete set of mystical Dragon Balls. Of course, they sometimes get distracted, battling it out to see who might be the greatest fighter of all time.

Kyle Ackerman

The original Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (DBZ:B) game was not a sophisticated fighting game for dedicated fans of the fighting game genre. It was a simple romp, in which even casual button-mashers could succeed, but it managed to perfectly capture the feeling of being the lead character in the cult, animated television show. With it's bizarre plot, stilted dialog and constant battles, the original game was something that any fan of the television series had to play. Furthermore, the lower level of difficulty for the game (especially on easy settings) was perfect for the younger crowd that tend to be the biggest devotees of the animated series in the U.S. The sequel, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 (DBZ:B2), is entertaining, but moves away from what made the original game so compelling. Much of the content from the original game has been extended, adding more characters, more abilities and the quest for the seven Dragon Balls. At the same time, the story mode from the original game, which framed every battle with plot sequences drawn from the Dragon Ball Z storyline, is gone. The loss of that story mode makes the game feel like a fighting game with licensed characters rather than making the player feel engrossed in an interactive episode (complete with clear breaks for commercials, narration and title sequences).

Replacing the story mode from the first game is the Dragon World mode, in which you hunt on a sequence of game boards for the Dragon Balls, ultimately facing off against the powerful Buu. Each map is comprised of a set of point locations, and by moving along the connecting lines avoiding (or seeking out) enemies that attack you, you can grab all the balls and ultimately have a wish granted. Playing Dragon World mode does give the player more control over which characters will battle, and the conditions under which they fight. The game board spaces often host special conditions or items that can change the conditions of battle. Spaces might have capsules that give characters their skills, or defensive and offensive power-ups that are good for that board alone. There are also icons that indicate whether battles on a specific space will happen under special circumstances, such as both combatants starting at half health, fighting with constantly falling health, or leaving characters unable to defend themselves (forcing them on the offensive). Characters such as Goku are represented as game pieces on the board, typically moving one space at a time. Each piece can have up to five lives (although they start with different amounts). Pieces lose lives by falling in combat, and when all lives are gone that piece is eliminated. There are spaces to gain more lives, and this system often means that you'll face the same evil fighter several times in a row. Fortunately, in the Dragon World mode, if the enemy wins, he will start the next combat with whatever wounds he sustained in the last match. Your fighters start refreshed every time.

"I Like Chocolate!"

Completing the levels in Dragon World mode is relatively easy, at least until you encounter the final incarnations of Buu. Mostly, Dragon World mode is the best way to unlock the myriad extras in DBZ:B2. Not only will you find lots of skill capsules (to grant characters new powers) scattered around the game boards, but by defeating enemies you can gain even more capsules or unlock new, playable characters. Again, the only disappointment is that instead of the animated sequences from the first game, you get static screens when two fighters speak. There is dialog, but it's usually text in boxes, with occasional voice-overs or sound bites. Still, fans of the series will enjoy the many characters from the original game and a few new characters – particularly Buu. Majin Buu (the juvenile form of Buu) is capable of causing devastating damage, despite (or because of) his pink and childish nature. Until he fuses with other powerful and evil creatures, his destructive power seems to derive from his ability to be annoying. His two more powerful forms are just plain hard to beat and are the main foes you encounter at the end of Dragon World mode. Players may choose to replay Dragon World mode even once it's been completed successfully, just to unlock more of the game's features.

Beyond unlocking basic game content, the main reason for completing Dragon World mode is to collect all the Dragon Balls and have a wish granted. That wish can be used to unlock an additional game mode (which in turn can unlock the different iterations of Buu himself). There are other game modes that more resemble other fighting games. Players can duel against the computer or other humans, or enter World Tournament mode as in the previous game. In the World Tournament, you fight for cash with which to buy capsules in a single elimination tournament. There is a tutorial mode which will allow you to practice or receive instruction, but that instructional tutorial is the least comprehensible of all. I couldn't get past the very second step of the tutorial in which you learn to dash by double tapping the controller. It seemed to just go on forever.

Can You Shout Kamehameha Ten Times Fast?

Of course, the heart of the game is combat itself. The 3D, cel-shaded graphics do an amazing job of capturing exactly the feel of the animated series – making players feel a part of the battles from the television show. Much of the content (both warriors and combat moves) are just carried over from the original game, but there are some additions. Each combatant can punch, kick, put up a defensive guard, or fire a Ki Blast that is a destructive wave of energy. They also have a variety of combinations that invoke special attacks. Admittedly, while different characters' moves have varied descriptions and visual effects, they typically use the same limited pool of button combinations. As such, once you've learned a few moves, it's easy to play a wide array of characters. Better yet, you can customize the controller, assigning combinations to the controller's shoulder buttons, making special attacks easy for anyone to execute.

There are a couple of interesting variations to normal combat. As in the first game, characters can end up going face to face, forced to twirl the analog sticks – the fastest twirler ultimately landing a powerful blow. Some attacks (such as Goku's Continuous Kamehameha) require such twirling to power up the attack, while in other cases you may be able to push back against an attack using the same sort of stick twirling. Some attacks are powerful enough that the recipient of the blow gets a chance to defend by guessing which button the attacker will press, and truly powerful attacks may require the attacker to execute an extra button sequence to successfully complete the attack. These complexities add some variety to what is otherwise a fairly simplistic combat system. Use of blocks and dodges is key to successful play, along with occasionally tossing out an energy attack to negate that of an enemy. All of this works fine for fast and furious combats, but it should be noted that many battles are preceded by long loading screens.

Use Aliens to Destroy the Landscape

Exactly which moves are available depends on how the character has been customized. Customization relies on a capsule system that builds on the "Exciting Skill System" of DBZ:B. Capsules can be found, purchased or traded, and contain costumes, skills, special combat conditions. Each character has a set number of slots, so players can customize the character's abilities to fit personal play styles. Of course, many capsules are specific to certain characters, so unlocking everything you might want for a specific character can take time. The skill/capsule system is fun for those who want to spend time customizing and improving their characters. Fortunately, younger players (and those who don't want to bother) will usually get along just fine button mashing, using mostly just the punch and kick attacks. If the existing characters don't provide enough variety, DBZ:B2 also provides for fusions – fighters that are literally the combination of two other characters.

Some of the battlefields have cool environmental effects. Ordinarily, players can get pinned against the side of a battle space (except in arenas, where combatants can be knocked clear out of the ring), but in some cases the arenas themselves can be destroyed. In one battle, Piccolo knocked Recoome clear through a glacier, causing an avalanche that knocked them both (and a nearby tower) to the ground. Goku punched Cell into a distant island, ripping through the land, and was himself kicked through a temple-like building in an arena-stage.

When describing the original DBZ:B game, we noted that if strains of "Dragon! Dragon! Rock the Dragon!" drag you (or your twelve-year-old) to the TV set, you needed to buy the first game. DBZ:B2 will still be a big draw for Dragon Ball Z fans, but replacing the story mode with Dragon World mode makes it less like the interactive TV experience the game once was. The new version does look a bit better than the previous, but both did a wonderful job of capturing the look of the animated series. Unfortunately, the latest edition of the Budokai franchise is just more of the same, without the potential to reach beyond devotees of Dragon Ball Z.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on January 11, 2004 2:47 PM.

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