Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PS2 review: Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2

Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is one of the best DBZ games released for the Playstation 2. However, while it is a decent enough fighting game, there are some issues with the controls and levels of play difficulty. Though load times are relatively short, the fact that each individual mission needs to load before players can commence it becomes annoying fairly quickly. Players are given the option to tackle each mission under three degrees of difficulty and are able to replay these at their leisure, so if a player decides that level one difficulty was too easy on a certain mission they can go back and replay it on the level two difficulty setting. However, this isn't likely to happen to many players, save perhaps for longtime fans of the Budokai series, as the three levels of difficulty are incredibly unbalanced. Level one comes off as far too easy, and after a short time with it even newcomers will feel that level one difficulty is a cakewalk. From there, one would expect level two to provide a decent challenge and level three to be for hardcore Budokai fans who have spent hours upon hours mastering the game's specifics. This is not the case, however, as level two will deliver a serious beating to anyone who attempts to take it on. Enemies on level two difficulty give players practically no time to dodge or block attacks, unleashing a most unforgiving barrage upon them. Even if players manage to hold up a block against the CPU, there's little guarantee that the CPU won't charge up its attack enough to break through the block and then render the player immobile long enough to continue the aforementioned assault. With that in mind, it's highly unlikely that many gamers will choose to even attempt level three, as the majority of level two missions have only a marginal success rate.

The fact that this is a fighting game means that players can expect to be using the same controls over and over again. However, there a number of variations on these basics that can be achieved by holding the joystick up, down, left, or right while performing an attack to get a slightly different punch, kick, or beam attack. Players can charge up their energy with the L2 button. When fully charged, their character will be able to unleash physical attacks without pause for a brief time frame, or unleash the energy in the form of a much stronger beam or rush attack. If a player is knocked around hard enough, they will be temporarily rendered immobile and must recover by repeatedly pressing the circle button. This isn't a bad recovery system, but the circle button is so out of the way in the basic control scheme that a rotating a joystick or pressing one of the trigger buttons would have been much more fluid and practical. While each character has the same basic set of attacks, there are some slight differences that make them distinctly different in their play style. For example, Piccolo can reach over twice the distance of most characters with his grab-and-toss attack, first form Cell can sap health from his foes while grabbing them, and Super Buu can release an energy wave around himself that also acts as a self-destruct giving players the option to gamble with Buu's remaining health in order to take down their opponent(s).

In regards to the characters included in Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2, there are over 120 playable, and a handful that merely show up in the single player adventure mode for the sake of the story. The majority of these characters are from DBZ, though there are a number of guest inclusions from Dragonball and Dragonball GT. Initially, players are granted use of the original Z fighters, and while this allows for a decent balance of play styles, advancing through the single player mode will result in the unlocking of more greatly varied characters and play styles. While one might think this would ultimately litter the multiplayer character roster, the fact is that each different form of the various DBZ characters is considered to be a separate character, and said different forms can be accessed from a single push of a button while hovering over a character's picture icon. So while there are technically 120+ characters to choose from, players should keep in mind that Goku, Super Sayin Goku, SS2 Goku, and SS3 Goku count for four out of those 120+.

The main story mode is every DBZ fanboy's (and fangirl's) dream. Players can advance through every story from Dragonball Z, beginning with the Sayin Saga and ending with Goku's final showdown with Kid Buu. Most of the films and specials see inclusion, though Broly's inclusion is only that of his first film. While it is a riot to play through the Freiza Saga, Android Saga, and Cell Games, the films and some of the lesser story arcs get kicked to the curb and see the same battlefield reused time and time again. A prime example would be Bojack Unbound, wherein players fight a half-dozen matches against Bojack and Zangya on the same battlefield. However, a few of the film story arcs, including Super Android 13 and Cooler's Revenge only include a handful of matches and wrap up quickly enough that it doesn't seem nearly as mind-numbingly repetitious.

Aside from the main story mode, players can compete in tournaments to earn in-game money, advance through a series of battle to level up characters, and engage in duels against the CPU or a second player. The difficulty levels in these modes make a lot more sense in regards to balance than those in the single player mode, though sometimes the hardest difficulty in duel mode can be surprisingly easy. Players can use Z fusion to give their characters health and attack bonuses in the style of an RPG, and can visit the store to buy and sell various upgrades or items.

The art style hides many of the PS2's graphical limitations from the time of DBZ Budokai Tenkaichi 2's release by giving everything a cel-shaded look. Overall this both makes the game look better and maintains a similar feel to the anime. The soundtrack is completely original, and while it doesn't use any pieces from the show's original soundtrack, it's all very fitting to the game just the same. The majority of the voice actors from the Funimation English dub provide the voices of their respective characters in the game, so players can expect the same voice acting - which, in my opinion, is top-notch. However, players are able to switch to the Japanese voice actors if they desire.

Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is easily one of the best Dragonball Z games as well as one of the more solid anime-based games released to date. A huge roster of playable characters, fluid game mechanics, and a variety of game types makes it a solid fighting game. Inclusions like the Z Fusion and level-up system make the game more player-driven and interactive. It isn't a perfect game and DBZ Budokai Tenkaichi 2's shortcomings stick out like a sore thumb amidst everything the game accomplishes well, but it's incredibly enjoyable and carries much of the anime's charm and excitement.

My rating: 7.75 (out of 10)

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