Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu Review

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Publisher: Atari
Developer: WebFoot Technologies

Platform: Game Boy Advance
Reviewed on Game Boy Advance

Some of the denizens of the Dragon Ball Z universe have gathered for yet another bout to see who is the greatest fighter of all.

Kyle Ackerman

While there is something more to the story in this game than "a bunch of licensed characters get together and fight," it seems to be an afterthought, and is included only as brief text blurbs each time you complete tournament mode. With no (re)telling of a Dragon Ball Z tale to enthrall fans of the animated series, Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu (Taiketsu) is forced to stand on its own merits as a fighting game. On that basis, there is some fun to be had, but that's counterbalanced by a number of problems. The appeal of Taiketsu is largely that of the licensed characters.

Decent Environments and Several Play Modes

You begin choosing among seven fighters with whom to compete. Based on the characters from the show, you can always play as Goku, Gohan, Piccolo, Krillin, Android 18, Trunks and Vegeta. You will encounter (and can unlock playable versions of) characters such as Raditz, Nappa, Cell, Buu and more. Perhaps most familiar to Dragon Ball Z fans will be the backgrounds for the various combat stages, recognizable as places such as the Snake Way, and dangling organs hanging from a fleshy cavern that could only be Buu's innards. The characters are all recognizable due to their distinctive costumes, but range from fairly accurate (Goku) to pixilated and generic (Gohan). They are so recognizable because it's hard to go wrong with Goku's orange outfit and pointy hair, while Raditz's mane of hair is larger than all of Krillin.

The game has several single-player modes. Gamers can compete against a series of foes in Tournament Mode, or do the same thing in Time Challenge mode while trying to complete the tournament as quickly as possible. An Endurance Mode has players fighting as many foes as possible without replenishing health between fights. There is also the required Sparring mode that lets players practice moves. A conventional set of moves include two punches, two kicks and a number of special attacks common to all characters such as uppercuts, foot sweeps and chops. Since this is a Dragon Ball Z game, fighters can charge up energy (to three levels) in order to fire Ki Blasts or execute more powerful, unique attacks. As long as there is some yellow in your block meter, you can also block your foe's strikes. Every blow blocked depletes the bar until you can no longer defend, preventing players from simply balling up like a turtle.

Don't Think... Just Press Something!

The fundamental problem with the fighting in Taiketsu is that an organized plan of attack is not as useful as just button-mashing. All the game modes can be easily won by pressing the buttons as much as possible, barely tempered with a modicum of positioning. In this way, many players will be able to complete the tournament mode on the first try, with a minimum of lost matches. Special attacks can be devastating, but are difficult to pull off consistently. Given that both combatants start with no energy and must charge up, your opponent will typically only fully charge if you pause to do the same. Since computer-controlled foes will execute special moves flawlessly and you won't, it pays to win with simple attacks and not allow anyone to charge up. In fact, the best bet is to continue button-mashing until you get your foe pinned against the side of the two-dimensional arena, and then button-mash some more.

Sometimes you break out of the conventional arena to fight in a Sky Battle. In this portion of combat you leap into a streak-filled atmosphere where both fighters float, exchanging punches. In game terms, you press buttons as quickly as possible. A gauge shows who has the button-mashing-speed upper-hand, and after a short time, the winner will deal damage to the loser, sending both back to the ground and returning to normal combat. The unlockable, second Sky Battle mode has you pressing specific buttons in sequence to win. Of course, if you just press all the buttons a lot, you'll beat that mode more easily than if you try to replicate the specific sequence.

Earn Z Points for Jousting

The focus of the game (beyond just fighting) is unlocking new content, features and options. Every combat rewards the player with Z Points. Combinations and punches in combat will net the player more Z Points, and winning a fight untouched or engaging in Sky Battles will earn bonus Z Points. By beating the Tournament Mode or Time Challenge Mode, you can unlock new characters, or sometime just earn a big bonus of Z Points. Z Points can be redeemed to purchase Bios, Images, Songs, Modes or Settings. The Bios, Images and Songs are exactly what they sound like. New Modes unlock a new version of the Sky Battle or the single-player mode Endurance 2x (which has more enemies than the regular Endurance mode). The Bonus Settings give players the option of dramatically changing the nature of battles. You can make both fighters fade in and out of sight, reduce the duration of matches to a few seconds or even use powerful moves without consuming the energy that ordinarily fuel such moves. Around two hours of persistent button mashing should be enough to unlock the various interesting bonus modes and settings. Players can then keep going for the pictures or bios if they so desire.

The problems in Taiketsu ultimately make it a short lived experience. Aside from the fact that you can button-mash your way to victory in any situation, such that it's not worth trying to strategize or trigger specific combinations, there are glitches. As one would expect from a game with Dragon Ball Z characters, fighters can be of vastly different sizes. Unfortunately, hit detection works strangely. Characters can seem like they should have longer or shorter reach, and yet seem to hit when striking air. This turns jumping into a useful tool, particularly for smaller characters. As such, the game can feel more like the coin-op title Joust, in which the player who can stay higher in the air usually wins. Also, if a character starts one of its big, special attacks, but is defeated before completing it, that special will actually inflict damage on its opponent during the next round of combat. So, if you finish off your foe just in time during one round, you might start the next round by taking a lot of damage.

For all but the most dedicated Dragon Ball Z fans, who might enjoy just gazing at the characters on a portable gaming system, or who would want to unlock all the character information and pictures, the entertainment value in Taiketsu will quickly wear thin. The way the game is constructed, only younger players will be able to enjoy consistently winning matches over the long term. If you have a friend with Taiketsu and a Game Link cable, you can play in matches against a human, which is a little more entertaining, but ultimately Taiketsu is a brief diversion with licensed appeal.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on January 14, 2004 11:32 PM.

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