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T (Teen)



Q1 2003



- Uses voice actors from the TV series

- Plenty to unlock



- Plain visuals lacking detail

- Shallow gameplay

- Story mode glosses over areas of the series



Review: Super Smash Brothers Melee (Gamecube)

Review: Virtua Fighter 4 (Playstation 2)

Review: Dead or Alive 3 (XBox)



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Dragonball Z: Budokai

Score: 6.8/10

Sometimes gamers fail to realize that not all games were created with them in mind.  This is one such title.  Dragonball Z: Budokai (DBZ:B) is directed towards fans of the TV series, plain and simple.  From the gameplay mechanics to the character selection this becomes blindingly apparent good and quick.  Despite that thereís still a number of shortcomings in DBZ:B that will disappoint fans of the series and of the genre alike, such as the low production values, poorly scaled difficulty, and shallow gameplay.

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Looking at this game it absolutely boggles the mind that it doesnít use cel shading.  Itís a huge fad in the industry these days, no doubt, but in these circumstances it would look fabulous what with Dragonball being an animated series and all.  Nonetheless the developers plunged ahead with plain old, and all together bland, 3D polygons instead.  The frame rate is fine and dandy, but the general lack of detail is very disappointing.  The characters just look so plain.  Thereís nothing exciting about their appearance whatsoever, and the environments are pale polygonal approximations of what one would expect to see from the TV series.  Maybe with some luck future titles will go the cel-shaded route, but for now youíll just have to suffer through an exceptionally mediocre presentation.





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The music and sound effects donít hold up much better, unfortunately.  The music works just fine for adding atmosphere to the fights and there are a lot of tunes straight from the show to keep fans happy.  Sound effects are serviceable at best, but certainly donít dazzle.  Thankfully the voices for the gameís characters are provided by the actual voice actors from the show, and with it comes an above average level of acting for a game and the true saving grace of DBZ:Bís audio experience.  


But the general simplicity of DBZ:B is really hammered home in the gameplay.  Unlike most fighting games where the player really has to come up with combos on their own, here itís almost as though the combos are repackaged.  Simply wailing away with the punch or kick button will land a 4 or 5 hit combo, but thereís a number of straightforward 5 hit combos that mesh together punching, kicking, and energy blasts.  Unfortunately there really is no way to get much more blows in at a time on an opponent because the final hit from these combos sends him or her flying several feet away allowing only for one last ranged energy blast.  After this, players must wait to get close to the person theyíre fighting and the whole thing starts over.  It all makes for a very shallow fighting experience when compared to other fighters on the market.  Having the ability to create larger combos or not trying to cram these pre-fabricated combinations down playersí throats would have gone a long way to combat this.

dragonball-z-budokai-3.jpg (46431 bytes)         dragonball-z-budokai-4.jpg (50051 bytes)

This overly simplistic approach to combat then works its way through a number of game modes with the usual practice, story, and versus modes as well as a tournament mode with overly long pre-battle character intros that canít be bypassed by pounding away on the controller.  To the credit of the tournament mode, if you come in first or second overall you receive a cash prize, which can be spent on skills at Mr. Popoís shop.  These skills range from new attacks, to improved defense, to instant kill moves among others.  Itís a fun little diversion, especially for those who like to unlock every little thing in a game.  On top of this, not only can these skills be collected, they can be traded with friends as well.  Story mode basically goes through everything from the Dragonball Z series, though it does seem to gloss over some sections.  On the plus side this helps to avoid those three episode long staring contests that the series has become notorious for, but some of the omissions will likely grate on the nerves of ardent fans of the show.  Story mode also makes it very apparent that the gameís difficulty settings are very poorly scaled.  In most games thereís a gradual sloping increase in difficulty as you take on one fighter after the next, but here it is more of a plateau setup with a few opponents of about the same level of difficulty, then it ramps up significantly and stays there for a time, then it ramps up once more and continues this way until the end.  It makes for a jarring experience that proves quite aggravating after a time.  Story mode also unlocks a slew of characters as you progress in DBZ:B, and there really is a small army of characters to play as here with a roster of 23 warriors all together when everything is said and done.  The major characters are present with all of the members of the supporting cast that matters and then some are here to play as.  

dragonball-z-budokai-5.jpg (61611 bytes)          dragonball-z-budokai-6.jpg (46966 bytes)

All of this equates to a game that tries so very hard to appeal to fans of Dragonball Z, but the poor graphics and simplistic, shallow gameplay will just leave gamers craving more.  Only bother with DBZ:B if you are a steadfast, utterly devoted fan of the series, otherwise steer clear of this title and get your fighting game fix elsewhere.

- Mr. Nash

(March 22, 2003)

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