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October 22, 2005
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi - Review
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Graphics look improved...
Before we plough into this review I need to point out that while I've seen some Dragon Ball Z episodes I can't really call myself a fan. It was a TV show I never got into. Having said that I played the three previous PS2 titles despite never doing up any reviews for Future Gamez. This latest game, which was released as Dragon Ball Z Sparking! in Japan, has seen a switch from previous developers Dimps to another development company called Spike. You may know them as the company who develop the Fire Pro Wrestling titles in Japan, as well as a rather cool game called Crimson Tears which made it out here late last year.

The change to a new developer has also seen some major changes to the gameplay. The game now takes place from an over the shoulder perspective, throws in the ability to fly and also a new dash feature. That's not all of course, but they're the main new gameplay features. The change in viewpoint has its benefits and problems. It's now easy to see what's happening on screen but it also blocks items and enemies immediately in front of your character, and similarly it's impossible to see what's behind you now. The ability to fly is integral to the TV show and the inclusion in this title is most welcome as it allows you to attack from the skies, or avoid attacks. Unfortunately the actual mechanics of flying around aren't quite as easy as we would have liked as you'll often hit the wrong button and head into trouble rather then out of it. To accommodate this freedom the size of the levels has been increased to provide more scope to move around.

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...over the previous game.
The dash feature also has an impact as you can now run towards, or away from your opponent, at a much greater speed then normal. In terms of the actual fighting the game now relies more on long distance rather then close quarter combat. The punch and kick attacks have been consolidated and are now much less powerful while Ki attacks are available and are performed by pressing the triangle button. It's also possible to charge up the ki attacks for more damage on the opponent, but in doing so leaves your fighter vulnerable for a short period of time. By pressing the triangle button after charging the ki attack with L2 you can perform a finishing move. You'll also be performing plenty of 5-hit combos which are quite basic to pull off, but very effective. Of course you can use objects within the game world to hide or shield from the opponent however if you have nothing else the circle button will block attacks.

In terms of game modes and stats Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichiis loaded with single and multi-player battles. Most are pretty self explanatory with training a great place to start if you've never played a Dragon Ball Z title. Even if you have played previous games it's not a bad place to learn the new features of this title. Single battle and Duel Modes are also available the latter allowing you to compete against either human or AI opponents. Speaking of opponents developers Spike have included over 60 characters such as favourites like Goku, Vegeta, Frieza, Perfect Cell, and Kid Buu, all of which are also playable. This number is up from about 40 characters in the previous title, Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3.

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Flying now plays a major role.
The Z Battle Gate mode is the bulk of the single player game and the one which will keep gamers hooked the longest. Upon starting this mode you learn from Mr Popo that you must help regain Shenron's memories of all his battles over the ages. It's your task to enter all the major battles of the Dragon Ball Z era and relive them by acting as one of the characters in each battle. The Ultimate Battle mode pits you in a typical ranking ladder where you must win battles to rise to become the greates fighter of them all while a World Tournament is also included. There's certainly plenty here to keep you entertained that's for sure.

Dragon Ball Z fans will be thrilled with the Evolution Z mode which allows you to fully customize your character. Items can now be joined together to form new, and more powerful, upgrades for your characters to use in the various game modes, and it works much better then your typical 'purchase the item' styled upgrades.

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Most backgrounds are sparse.
One area where this game really did surprise was the difficulty level which is a lot harder then we expected. If you manage to cruise through this game even on Medium difficulty you'll be can call yourself a gaming guru. For most people even the Easy difficulty will pose a few problems. Given that this isn't a game for hardcore gamers, and most likely will be early teenage boys playing it, this difficulty will pose a few problems without a doubt. I would also have loved to see some online gameplay. Being a one-on-one beat 'em up it would have been tremendous to see some fanatics battling online, but unfortunately we're only left with 2-player split-screen action.

Graphics in Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi were always going to be constrained by the look of the TV show and the developers have remained fairly faithful with some impressive cel-shaded graphics for the main characters. The backgrounds are a little on the sparse side which is disappointing however the level of destructible items is impressive. While you can hide behind objects for a short period of time these can be destroyed by your opponent exposing you to attack. Also impressive are the visual effects. Be it for flying, or the explosions, or the special moves this game looks the part and is up there with the best of them. The frame rate also holds fairly well throughout.

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The effects are nice.
In terms of Audio the developers have been kind enough to include both Japanese and English voiceovers with the actual actors from the TV shows reprising their roles in this game. The music is generally average in quality with some good tunes, and some not quite so good. The special effects are also solid enough. Ultimately though as a non-fan of the series having to listen to some of the voiceovers was quite an effort. Sure, they may be realistic to the TV show, but that doesn't mean the dialogue nor the quality of the voiceovers is very good and it was quite a strain to listen to the game after a while.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi is the best game in the series to date on PS2, however the problem is that the game still isn't great. Sure it sticks to the series fairly well, but when you sit it next to many other current generation fighters it not only looks quite average but also plays fairly poorly too. This is one strictly for Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi who will likely get a lot more out of the title then I did.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSFaithful to the TV show, but looks average next to other PS2 games.
SOUNDReal voice actors don't ensure quality. Adequate music and effects.
GAMEPLAYThe ability to fly is cool, ranged attacks are prominant. Not bad.
VALUEIt's pretty damn tough and the 60 characters will keep you playing.
OVERALLDragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi isn't the brilliant game we were hoping for, but rather a small step in the right direction for the series. Strictly one for Dragon Ball Z fans.

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