Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection PS3 Review

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The Dragon Ball Z franchise has been spawning out games every year for a while now. In fact, 2012 is the first time since 2002 that a brand-new Dragon Ball Z fighting game has not hit the market. I am not including Dragon Ball Z for Kinect, since that is not a proper fighting game by any stretch. While Namco Bandai are promoting Dragon Ball Z for Kinect as one for casual fans, Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection, an HD release of the PS2 games that were rather good back in the day, is the game aimed for the more serious Dragon Ball Z fan. The question is, then, has Namco Bandai shown tender loving care for the Dragon Ball Z franchise by creating a great HD collection that’s worthy of shouting out, “It’s over 9000?!” Or have their power levels sunken to that of a lowly farmer? Let’s find out.

Even though the Budokai games were a trilogy on the PS2, this HD collection only includes Dragon Ball Z Budokai and Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, so that ponders the question: Where is Dragon Ball Z Budokai 2? It is an HD collection after all, and all of the games were on the PS2, so you would expect it to be there. Namco Bandai’s official statement on the matter is that Dragon Ball Z Budokai 2 was “more than a fighting game,” as it introduced elements that broke away from the focus of fighting. Even so, it would have been nice to have included that in the package, as it is to celebrate the series – no matter how different they are from one another. This collection, then, is to introduce the birth of Budokai, by including the first title, then following up with Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 acting as the swan song of the series and, as it stands, is the highest -rated Dragon Ball Z title of all-time.

Being able to experience the first in the Budokai series is a good insight to see how far the games have come, but when you have the third instalment that refined the Budokai games to their finest, then the first game seems a little meaningless to play and serves only as a history lesson or a playthrough if you never got to touch it back in the day. Included gameplay modes are Story, Duel and World Match. If there is one advantage this game has over Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, it is that it tells a deeper story, with more fancy cutscenes and a linear progression that helps keep players focused on the plot. Dragon Ball Z Budokai only covers up to the Gohan vs. Cell battle, so it makes sense to flesh out the story as much as possible to make it last longer. With only 23 characters in its roster, Dragon Ball Z Budokai is lacking some of the later cast of heroes and villains, and that makes it another reason why you will want to stick with Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 instead.

The core mechanics between the two games are roughly the same. Fighting is on a 2D plane, but you can sidestep to dodge incoming beam attacks. Characters attack with the punch, kick or Ki buttons, and have the fourth button to guard against attacks. To improve on the combat, the original developers, Dimps, decided to give the option to use special moves without having to use them as an end-move to a combo string. This means you can randomly throw out Kamehamehas and other moves when you have enough Ki metre to do so. Fighting in Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 feels more polished, refined and flashier (check out those new mechanics they put into Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3) than its predecessor, but for people who are used to newer fighting games, you might find the fighting system a little old and clunky.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 is also jam-packed with content. Not only do you have 42 characters, but the storyline stretches all the way up to the end of the Dragon Ball GT saga and also includes some characters from the movies. The story mode, called Dragon Universe, includes a world map that consists of tasks that must be accomplished to continue with the plot. Light RPG mechanics are introduced to give you a chance to grow the characters to how you like to play them. Like throwing out beam attacks? Then increase the Ki attribute. Multiple characters can also be used in this mode, and with different unlockables available that change the outcome of the story, you can end up spending a lot of time with Dragon Universe due to its replayability.

These re-mastered titles do not come with any additional content, so the only thing you are getting that was not in the PS2 versions are the trophy unlocks. Everything in the game but the menus is in widescreen, and the games are not stretching to a 16:9 ratio either, so this creates a genuine widescreen display. Graphically, Dragon Ball Z Budokai is very plain and does not look great with the HD make up. Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, on the other hand, looks incredible sharp and smooth. That game gets away with a solid look because of the improved anime-inspired, cel-shading style that translates well into HD. The backgrounds are lacking, but overall, for a shift to HD, it looks as I would have expected it to without a graphical enhancement. It also keeps the framerate rock solid.

This collection is a good investment for people who never had a chance to play these games before. It comes with a different aura compared to the newer Dragon Ball Z games on PS3 and Xbox 360, which tried to blend in a cinematic experience with the fighting gameplay, but in doing so ended up creating a fighter that felt less involving and took away time from the player. Fans will enjoy returning to this faithful, if barebones, transition to HD and will be a worthy if you do not feel too bummed about the second game not been included. As for me, Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 is my favourite Dragon Ball Z game purely because it tried to keep it simple, without adding too much of the fancy stuff, but still managing to capture the over-the-top action of the show. What Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 comes down to is me and my pals playing a solid and fun fighting game without any interruption. If you want that with your Dragon Ball Z game, then you should check out this HD collection.

7/10

by

Version tested: PS3

Also available on: Xbox 360

Developer: Pyramid

Publisher: Namco Bandai

Genre: Fighting