Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2

February 22, 2007

Some games – no, most games – are created with a defined audience in mind. Front Mission 4 is for those that like big stompy mechs and slow, tactics-based game play. [i]Final Fantasy XII[/i] is for gamers with an insane need to beat a boss with 50,000,000,000 hit points, and [i]Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2[/i] is for fans of the anime that want to recreate their favorite bouts at home.

As licensed fighters go, [i]DBZBT2[/i] does a lot of things right. Character models look good. Characters also have the same move sets in the game as they do in the show, no matter how unbalanced they may be. It’s nice to see that no matter how hard I try, some characters are just plain better than others. With a huge cast of selectable characters, it’s okay to have some that aren’t the world’s strongest man.

[i]DBZBT2[/i], like its predecessor, forgoes some of the conventional fighter axioms. The camera moves with you creating a constant over-the-shoulder third-person perspective. Moves are simple to pull off with both the DualShock2 and the Wii Classic Controller due to the limited number of basic moves available. Using the Wii remote, however, introduces some unnecessary and poorly-implemented motion controls. Instead of pressing down, up, back, B, you’ll swing the remote off the bottom of the screen, off the top of the screen, pull it back, and then press B. The intent is to make the player’s motion mimic the character’s motion, but it just doesn’t work well enough to warrant playing the Wii version with anything other than the Classic Controller. Veterans of more complex fighters, say Marvel vs. Capcom 2, will find the two-button approach maddeningly simple, especially when they find out that one button is for close quarters attacks and the other is for ranged attacks. Light/medium/heavy punch/kick this ain’t.

Graphically, [i]DBZBT2[/i] looks a lot like the anime. Character models are detailed and beautifully cel-shaded, and the environments in which they fight, although a bit sparse, are large and well-crafted. Trees can be knocked down, stone columns can be crumbled, and fighters can be thrown off of floating islands. The entire experience begs the player to explore a bit while fighting, which makes the blue mesh keeping the player in the battle area that much more disappointing.

Due to the over-the-shoulder camera, multiplayer is more than a little lacking; split screen just doesn’t feel right in a fighting game. Ultimately this means that you’ll probably spend most of your time fighting through the story mode where you can have the entire screen to yourself. This would be fine if the enemy AI weren’t so easy to read. The final bouts can be completed with the exact same strategy that worked in the first ones: knock your enemy back, hit him with a ki strike, power up while he’s incapacitated, lather, rinse, and repeat. I would expect this to work for, maybe, the first 10% of the game while one is getting used to the controls, but it always works. Nobody can withstand the combined assault of a slap to the face and a ki strike – except me because I’m not controlled by a brain-dead artificial intelligence.

Fans of the anime will be especially pleased with the game’s story mode as it’s very long and covers just about everything that has happened in [i]Dragon Ball Z[/i] and [i]Dragon Ball GT[/i]. These fans are also the most likely group to forgive the low-quality cutscenes using the game’s own fight animations. The place where the ball is really dropped though is in the storytelling. Key events, events that would be interesting to watch, are summed up in a few lines of text instead of recounted visually. I want to see Goku win the battle, not just hear that he did it and everything went great.

Ultimately [i]Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2[/i] will only be enjoyed by fans of the series from which it draws its characters and story. The fighting is too shallow for fighting game enthusiasts to get wrapped up in, and the controls are too sloppy for anybody to have a good time with the Wii remote. If you do pick this title up, make sure it’s either the PS2 version or that there’s a Classic Controller available to you on the Wii.

Score: 2/5

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