Dragon ball Z: Budokai (2002)
Developed by Dimps Released on GameCube, PS2
A Bad Movie Studios Video Game Review
When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Cartoon Networks television block, Toonami. It was awesome. It was full of action packed T.V. Shows and anime. Personally, this was the Golden Age of anime in the U.S. To me. You have Pokemon, Yugioh, Yu Yu Hakusho, Inuyasha, Tenchi Muyo, Mobil Suit Gundam, and many many more Japanese epics that we as young adults and children sank out teeth into like crazy. Indeed you couldn’t escape the bright, flashy visuals of anime shows and characters. Now during this Golden Age, the show that pretty much captured EVERYONE’S (and by that I mean people from the ages of 5 – 25) was Dragon Ball Z. The show was epic. Super powered characters, fights for the fate of whole planets, super high speed martial arts, and laser beams that would make Godzilla blush. God it was a fun show. And easily my favorite anime to date. Dragon Ball Z was just cool. So when they made a fighting game out of it, I went nuts. I couldn’t wait to control Goku or Vegeta and beat the hell out of all my other favorite DBZ characters. The answer to my anticipation was Dragon Ball Z: Budokai. I should mention that I’ve owned this game on both the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, so what I write will apply to both versions.
Graphics: At the time, this game looked good. It wasn’t the best looking game around, but the visuals mirrored the anime very well, and they are bright and colorful. Some of the animations aren’t perfect though, but the combat looks good. Something really cool is the between fight cut scenes that helps explain the story of the show. They’re really good, although there is NO lip sync with the dialogue. But overall, at the time, I enjoyed the aesthetics the game brought to the plate. Now however, I have to admit that it hasn’t aged as well as I would hope. It isn’t any worse of course, but those little things that I didn’t pay too much attention to as a kid because I was having too much fun, well those are things that stare me in the face like a giant sun. I just can’t help but pay attention to them. So with that in mind, I have to dock it a few points. (7).
Gameplay: This game is fun, but I guess the biggest thing about it is how shallow it is. There’s really no depth in the combat, mostly because the large majority of the characters share what are effectively the same moves. The controls are alright and fairly easy to learn. The block button functions, and there’s a really cool feature where you and the opponent can get caught in this hyper fast hand to hand sequence. It looks cool, but you win by rotating the control stick faster than the other person. And that seems to be the running theme about things, it’s fun and looks cool, but it’s just really basic in it’s execution. A staple of the show as the ability for the characters to unleash over-the-top and ridiculously powerful special attacks, the most famous being the Kamehameha Wave. Everyone who watched this show, want’s to do that move. Period. Well in this game you can do those techniques. You see you gain energy by beating on your enemy, but you also gain energy (more so even) by getting wailed on yourself. You can also charge it as well, but of course you cant defend yourself, so there’s a risk vs reward situation here that’s neat but falls short. More on that in a sec. Well anyway, once you’ve gained enough power, you start a striking combo (4 punches, 2 punches & 2 kicks etc) and hit the energy attack button and unleash hell onto your opponent. The thing that sucks about these though is that A. it’s really easy to spam a lot of these techniques, and B. there’s a tendency in the game for you to successfully perform one of these special moves, and it does absolutely piss all. I don’t know about anyone else, but there weren’t very many characters who could take a full power Kamehameha to the face and just shake it off in the show. Also you can’t preform a beam struggle so it kind of just boils down to who shot first. And on top of that, some of the beams just look underwhelming. I know this is something that I should really have talked about in the Graphics section, but I just though of is so shut up. I remember the attacks in the show being insane. These great beams of energy able to blow holes in a planet. Here, they’re honestly only about twice as big as the characters. They just look so meek in comparison. Now this brings me back to that hit and miss power up mechanic that I mentioned before. See, you’re never guaranteed that you’re going to do a lot of damage with your special attack, some are awesome, and some are bland and ineffective. So because you have to take time to gain the energy for the attack, it’s debatable whether or not it’s worth using half the time. That issue is similar to the one with powering up. Yes, if you get hit while powering up it stops you, but it’s just too easy to hit the opponent when they’re trying to charge their energy because everyone can just shoot one fast energy ball across the map and hit you. These are just dragging issues with the game. The hit and miss nature of some of it’s mechanics and the fact that every character effectively plays the same, greatly reduces the depth of this fighter. But even with that in mind, this game is still really fun to play. Going through the story mode is a blast, and beating your friends in VS Mode is an even better time. Pulling off one of those really powerful, cinematic Ultimate Moves is just too cool (watching your enemy cower before you disintegrate them) and knocking them through the scenery to another section is just rewarding. Besides that you get World Tournament Mode, in which is plays like a traditional arcade tournament fighter with randomized opponents. It’s a decent time but not great. The thing about this game’s extras that honestly truly disappointment, is the capsule system. See, all through the game when you;re playing, you collect capsules. Basically these things are to help you create customized versions of your favorite characters. It’s an interesting concept that was done so much better later on in the series. The main issue with this system of gaining capsules is that you obtain them at random. It’s annoying that your custom character will start off with absolutely no transformations (Super Saiyan forms or what have you) or Super Attacks. They’re just bare bones melee characters. So if you wanted to make a really kick ass Goku, you’re just gonna have to keep playing until you eventually get something that works. It just feels like unnecessary padding. This game is still fun to play even to this day. I occasionally enjoy popping it in just to save the world one or two more times. And of course I can’t help but revel in the feeling of wasting my friends. But still, there are FAR better fighters out there. Not perfect, but since I still come back (7.5).
Sound Design: Great anime styled hand to hand combat sounds? Check. Awesome super powered effects? Check. Cool soundtrack reminiscent of the T.V. Show? Check. English Voice Actors from the T.V. show adding authenticity to an overall well put together audio experience? Check. Might be a little high here, but screw it, (9).
Story: This game covers the first 5 or so seasons of Dragon Ball Z very well. It touches on the main events of each Saga, and lets the player enjoy the plot that they’ve undoubtedly seen 1000 times already with a new sense of interaction. What really makes the story mode is the addition of some “What If” episodes in the game that serve to hand out some great fan service. Something else that;s cool is the fact that every “episode” starts with the recap of the last one to keep you up to speed, just like the show. The story mode is really the stand out feature of this game when it comes to actually playing it. It’s just really fun to relive all those classic DBZ moments, but this time with the ability to whup Cell and Freeza’s asses like there’s no tomorrow. (8).
Overall Score – 7.8
Final Thoughts: this game was made for the fans of Dragon Ball Z. and clearly those fans answered abruptly because I haven’t heard one fan of the show who played this game ever say they hated it. And really it is a fun game. It’s a competent fighter that might not offer up much to the uninitiated of the Dragon Ball universe, but if ill still keep you entertained, at least for a little while anyway. I would however not go into playing this game looking for anything deeper than just brawling out with some interesting characters and beating up your buddies. Like I said a few times now, that depth just isn’t there. Still, this makes a great party game and if you can get a copy to play on the GameCube, Wii or the Ps2, you should definitely put it in the list for your next game night. And now you can get a copy of it really cheap, so there’s no reason to pass if you;re interested.
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