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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi

Dragon Ball Z. There are few anime series that have attained so much popularity, contempt, and fan following at the same time. It’s been years since the world was introduced to Goku, the endearingly naïve fighter with unparalleled strength and determination. His epic battles against incredible odds have won him admirers everywhere, with each bout bringing something different to the table. After all the episodes, the crappy extended filler scenes, and the last truly great fights, the DBZ series can now lounge in its success, bringing forth an unending horde of memorabilia and collectibles. The gaming world now faces the inevitable flood of video games based on the series, a deluge of fighting games that range in quality from pathetic to excellent. Thankfully, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi is one of the latter.


“Okay purple guy with weird tale, you’re mine!”

For those of you that have never seen or even heard of Dragon Ball Z, don’t worry; you don’t need to be familiar with the anime, the characters, the plot or anything else that the fans obsess over. All you need to know is that you’ve got a small army of fighters to choose from, each with their own moves and style. If you dislike Goku’s happy-go-lucky attitude, you can always switch over to Gohan, the child fighting prodigy, Goku’s eternal rival Vegeta, or even some of the villains like Cell and Majin Buu. Once the characters have been chosen, you and a friend can go mano-a-supercharged mano in massive three-dimensional environments, blasting each other with incredibly powerful energy attacks and insanely fast fistfights. As in the series, you’ll be able to wield the fighters’ signature moves, such as the Spirit Bomb, the Special Beam Cannon, and the Death Ball. However, performing these awe-inspiring moves isn’t as easy as pressing down-right-fierce on your controller. You’ll have to utilize the character’s Ki, which is basically an energy gauge that needs to be charged up and refilled. Should you feel like letting loose a few pyrotechnics, you’ll have to stop attacking, start charging, and pray you can power up enough before your foe decides to smack you through the arenas’ destructible environments. From then on out, it’s an all out brawl for supremacy.


“What are you doing over there dude?”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however. While the initial roster of fighters may seem impressive, there are plenty more waiting to be unlocked via the Z Battle Gate. Using this mission-style gaming mode, you’ll get to relieve some of the greatest battles from the DBZ storyline. You’ll get square off against Vegeta, take on the Ginyu Force, and even battle against newer faces from Dragon Ball: GT and the various movies. While fans of the series will recognize these scenarios easily, the game barely explains anything in context with battles, offering a few tidbits of character dialogue before and after each bout. Gamers may wonder why Goku’s hair suddenly turned gold, or how Majin Buu can take on so many forms. However, gamers will probably too busy trying to survive the battle to notice these little inconsistencies. Each bout will have some sort of mission of objective to complete in order to progress to the next fight. Usually it’ll involve something simple, like killing off a foe in a limited amount of time, surviving against a more powerful foe for a few minutes, or finishing off your opponent with a specific special attack. At least, it sounds simple. While these foes make the occasional AI blunder, they are still highly efficient killing machines. You’ll have to stay on your toes to get through the battles unscathed.


“I use these three magic rings here to hold my hair up.”

Should you get tired of reliving past moments of DBZ glory, Budokai Tenkaicihi offers a few other things to keep you hooked. Aside from the standard Dueling multiplayer mode and the Z Battle Gate, you can participate in the Ultimate Battle, which serves as one of the most grueling Survival modes ever seen in a fighting game. You’ll have to choose a character and fight your way up the ranks of the character roster, eventually claming victory as the greatest fighter in the DBZ universe. If you don’t feel up to the task, you can always play a few rounds of the World Tournament, which follows the more traditional rules of the older Dragon Ball battles. You’ll enter into a multi-round fighting tournament, battling your way through a few randomly selected foes. Should you manage to become the champ, you’ll unlock a more difficulty version of the tournament, eventually gaining access to the brutally tough Cell Games. But if you get tired of all the fighting and want to mess around with your characters, you’ll be able tinker with Evolution Z Mode, which allows you to use unlocked items to change characters’ stats and abilities and get as much out of your favorite fighter as you can. With dozens of characters to try out, it’s a fair bet that you’ll be busy.


“I am a leaf on the wind!”

However, it’s not just the various modes that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. This game goes to great lengths to recreate the DBZ experience, drawing from various scenes and situations to make things as accurate as possible. Everything in the game, from Majin Buu’s stupid grin to Piccolo’s antennae is depicted with some excellent cel-shading effects and animation. Many of the levels are exact replicas of their television counterparts, like the massive courtyard on Kami’s Lookout, the spaceship sitting in the middle of Namek, and even the facilities and crowds at the tournament. Nearly everything in the stage can be used for strategy in the heat of combat; you can use hills and rocky outcroppings to hide and give yourself some defense, punch an enemy through a wall, and even blast sections of the ring into smithereens. You can swat your foes out of the air with well-placed energy shots, pummel them mercilessly with a fast-paced paced offensive, and send them crashing into the nearest building all in a matter of seconds. All of the characters are depicted in accurately with excellent detail and style; you can see bruises and cuts starting to form when they get beaten badly enough, watch them start glowing when they power up, and even listen to them scream out their signature moves with their English-dubbed voices. Too bad the music is so bland and unemotional, barely adding anything meaningful to the overall presentation. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.


“Blub-blub, blu-blu-blub-blub-blub. Blub-blub?”

Looking back, it’s little wonder why the Dragon Ball Z series was so successful. It had the right combination of memorable characters, uncomplicated plots, tons of action, and just enough cheesy fun to make its viewers coming back for more. Sure, there were several boring moments, a decline in quality with each season, battles that dragged out far longer than they should have, and hilariously bad dubbing jobs, but it was still something worth watching. Ever since its arrival, game designers have tried to capture that same kind of allure and make it into a worthwhile video game. Many of those attempts have failed miserably, creating nothing but uninspired gaming. Thankfully, they’ve finally gotten it right. Budokai Tenkaichi is a wonderfully fun and addicting experience, offering tons of characters, modes, and everything else you could want in an anime-based video game. Just as its television forefather, this game has the makings for something great.

For all you fans out there, here’s a list of playable characters for you to ponder over:

Goku (All forms, including Kid, SSJ-4, Gogeta and Vegito)
Vegeta (All forms, including Majin Vegeta and Bebi Vegeta)
Gohan (All forms, from Kid Gohan through Mystic Gohan)
Piccolo
Krillin
Yamcha
Tien
Chou-Tzu
Master Roshi
Raditz
Nappa
Saibaman
Oozaru
Dodoria
Zarbon
The Ginyu Force (Guldo, Recoome, Burter, Jeice, Captain Ginyu)
Freiza (All forms)
Trunks (All forms, including Kid, Future, and Sword!)
Android 16/17/Super 17/18/19/20
Cell (All forms)
Majin Buu (All forms, including Super Buu and Kid Buu)
Goten
Gotenks
Broly
Janemba
Bardock
Hercule
Videl
The Great Saiya-Man
Cooler
Tao Pai Pai
Bojack

Take your pick…

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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