Super Dragon Ball Z PS2 Review
There has been a countless amount of Dragon Ball Z fighting games over the years, and there seems to be no sign in stopping them anytime soon. At least five of them exist on the PlayStation 2 system alone. The franchise is still as strong as ever, built on the success of simple, over the top fighting games. So Atari announced Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2 and said that it will be geared towards people who prefer a traditional fighter. Just how well will this change for the series go down?
Crafts & Meister, the studio behind the game was first established in 2004 by Noritaka Funamizu. The name might ring a bell as Noritaka Funamizu was the producer of the legendary arcade game Street Fighter II. He’s also worked on Resident Evil: Outbreak and Monster Hunter. So with such a well known fighting franchise under his belt, Mr Funamizu should be able to bring hardcore fighting fans a Dragon Ball Z game they can take seriously. The problem is though he doesn’t quite get that far. Super Dragon Ball Z just does not have the depth hardcore fighting games are supposed to come with.
When you initially fire up Super Dragon Ball Z the first thing you will want to do is create yourself a custom character card. This is basically a profile for you to use with your favourite character. While playing through the game with your own character card you will begin to gain experience points for the character you use. Every fight you finish you gain a little till the EXP bar is complete filled. Once you’ve reached that point you then have the ability to add a new skill from a selection to choose from. The game has the skills set out into a tree so you can never have them all; you have to select the right one for you, then it will move down onto a selection of new ones. There are a wide range of skills to select. You can gain the ability to have stronger attacks, larger special metre bars, more health, faster special charging and so on.
There actually aren’t that many options to choose from in the game. There are two main modes for single player. Super Dragon Ball Z comes with the traditional Arcade mode, which as you would guess is the mode that featured in the arcade game that was released in Japan back in December 2005. Arcade mode takes the player through seven fights, with Cell always being the last opponent. It’s your standard best-of-three round setting that you all know and love in fighters. The other option to play is Z Survivor. This is a survival mode in which the player fights random selected opponents and has to survive as long as they possibly can without their health depleting. One thing you can gain from playing through these modes while using your character card is Dragon Balls. Dragon Balls are easily collected and unlike the TV show, you’ll have all seven balls in no more time then it takes to watch an episode of Dragon Ball Z.
Once you’ve collected all seven of the super shiny Dragon Balls, you are allowed to click on the “Summon Shenlong” section on the main menu. The almighty dragon Shenlong will be summoned giving you the ability to make a wish. However you won’t be able to wish for everything, so know before you ask, there isn’t a naked female character wish. Wishes are a gateway to gaining various attacks, additional character colours, new characters and other fancy tools. After your wish is granted the Dragon Balls are taken away from you and you have to collect them all over again. If it wasn’t for the character card idea then Super Dragon Ball Z would actually be a very small game with nothing much to it, but because of this it effectively makes you want to keep playing even though there aren’t many modes to choose from. It’s a well thought out idea.
Dragon Ball Z is all about the hard frantic fights and the actual fighting itself is straightforward to learn. Super Dragon Ball Z is a one-on-one fighting game that has two attacks linked to the square and triangle buttons. X is block while circle allows you to jump and fly, you can also use the shoulder buttons to dash or throw opponents. The game lets you fight on and off the ground; you can also throw your opponents into walls and surroundings thus breaking the wall or other object coming into contact. Not everything is destructible, but things that are give a sense that the move was highly powerful. Each character comes with their original special moves, which you can find out by going through the move list on the pause menu. One thing that is noticeable is the lack of moves the characters have. It’s really a small selection and certainly doesn’t give the user all that much to play with. You can however unlock more moves for your character with the custom character card, but it still doesn’t shake the feel that this is going for a more simple approach rather than the intended in-depth fighter.
A tradition in Dragon Ball Z is the over the top energy attacks that take a whole episode to charge up. Fortunately for players, you won’t have to wait that long to pull one off. The only thing you need to do is charge up your energy metre to one of the three levels, then you can release a super special move. The super special moves have somewhat a Street Fighter Alpha feeling to them. It’s mainly because they are displayed and pulled off in the same way. Super Dragon Ball Z contains 18 characters from the show universe. Important characters that are in every game like Goku and Vegeta are joined by a redesigned Mecha Freeza. Don’t worry; the redesign was done by Mr. Toriyama himself, so it still looks grand. Compared to the other games though 18 characters is a very small number and it’s a shame they couldn’t spend more time adding the extra cast.
The game’s graphics are cel-shaded, but rather than trying to represent the anime the game instead tries and goes for the Toriyama manga look. The character models look great; the backgrounds look nice if somewhat plain because of the style – fans will be familiar with the battle arenas and locations the game has to offer. Everything featured in the game just feels very inspired by the manga. The game even presents your typical giant Japanese text flashing out on screen when you connect with a move. The character voices are done by the American voice cast crew. If you watch the show you know what to expect, and they get the job done just fine. The music and sounds all feel natural; it’s straight from the source material.
The problem with Super Dragon Ball Z is that it actually doesn’t know what it wants to be. On one side it’s trying to bash its way into the gang of hardcore fighters, but gets rejected because it’s simply too plain. On the other hand surely the fans will enjoy the game, but because it’s tried to become this serious fighting game it’s left out all the things that make Dragon Ball Z that super. All the over the top crazy action has been dubbed down to make room for the serious approach.
The game is enjoyable but it’s not the best Dragon Ball Z game and it certainly didn’t do what it set out to do. If you are serious about fighters then look somewhere else. If not, give it a go.
7.2 out of 10