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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2

Meet Goku. He’s the hero of Dragon Ball Z, a man who has dedicated his life to martial arts and assisting the less fortunate. Of course, that’s just a euphemistic way of saying that the guy is nothing more than an obsessive martial artist with little understanding of the society around him. Few anime characters have the ability to be childishly naive and brutally lethal at the same time. Along with his merry band of super-powered vigilantes, prodigies, and rivals, our hero defends the Earth against a wide variety of villains held bent on enslaving humanity. Since Kung Fu isn’t quite enough to stop a madman powerful enough to destroy a planet, Goku and his pals learn how to fire off lasers from their fingers and fly around just to defy the laws of physics. They get so powerful, in fact, that they go from slapping around random goons to eventually saving the entire universe.

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No, I’m not kidding. That’s what Dragon Ball Z is all about: a bunch of energy beam-slinging superheroes clashing against an assortment of supervillains in a bid for the fate of all existence. It sounds (and is occasionally) epic, but the slow plot progression kills off much of the entertainment value. Thankfully, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 allows you to relive the glorious battles of the series without all the extra crap that the anime tries to shovel on you. Fans of the series will be glad to know that this game sports nearly every major fighter ever seen in the show, be it the comic relief (yet still badass swordsman) Yajirobe to the mighty Majin Buu. Since many of the filler episodes and movies are included, you’ll find that the game roster sports well over 100 playable characters with unique attacks and fighting styles.

“Few anime characters have the ability to be childishly naive and brutally lethal at the same time.”It’s not like they’re all clones of each other, either. While the previous title simply recycled the same attack animations and maneuvers for almost all the characters, Tenkaichi 2 prides itself on differentiating characters based on their abilities in game. Piccolo, for example, can stretch his arms during certain combos. The game goes further by featuring different attacks depending on a character’s form; Gohan can hardly string together a few combos in his default body, but is Super Saiyan form grants him the ability to pull off a flurry of fast-paced punches and kicks. That’s on top of all the variations of basic attacks and signature moves that come along with the different bodies. Unlike in the first Tenkaichi, which forced you to select a character’s form before entering a battle, this game allows you to transform a character in the midst of battle, granted that they store up enough energy beforehand. It’s little upgrades to the established gameplay that make Tenkaichi 2 a huge improvement over its predecessor.

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It’s the more blatant changes, however, that make the game far better rounded. No longer will you simply trade blows with an enemy until they fall back and give you enough time to charge up an attack. Punch and kick combos have gotten a much higher emphasis, balancing your offensive tactics between using your super-powered fists and shooting highly powered laser beams into your opponent’s gut. You’ll even be able to execute long chains of throws and tackles, effectively giving you the power to treat your enemies like living pinballs. Such fast-paced use of both regular and special attacks lends itself well to the Wii’s unique controller style. Instead of pressing a button to urge your cel-shaded warriors forth, you’ll have to get them to move by thrusting the Nunchuck attachment in the appropriate direction. Depending on how you finger the control stick, you’ll be able to send your foes flying in different directions and even defend different sections of your body against precise attacks. The only truly gimmicky thing about the WiiMote controls is executing a character’s signature attack; you’ll have to loosely imitate the anime version’s body movements to fire them off correctly. In case you haven’t seen the anime and don’t have the patience for the game menu’s wordy explanations, waving the WiiMote frantically can work wonders.

“There’s still something magical about watching Goku turn from downtrodden warrior into a golden haired, green-eyed, brightly glowing superhero for the first time.”Yes, the controls are confusing and difficult to master. But once you do figure out how the game mechanics work, you can give the Tenkaichi 2’s different challenges a shot. The main story mode follows the anime series to near perfection, including plot explanation, snippets of pre-fight dialogue, and featuring the same sagas in chronological order. The game also boasts multiple tournament modes, be it fighting up the ranks of the entire game roster or simply claiming victory in a traditional tiered competition. If you’ve hand enough with the game’s frequently brutal difficulty, you and a friend can clash against each other in Duel Mode, which allows both human and AI-controlled players to duke it out in brief skirmishes. Considering the game’s confusing control scheme, the training mode proves remarkably helpful for both newcomers and Budokai veterans alike. The only thing that has remained truly the same is the item system; you can still equip your characters with hard-won items to up their stats and give you the edge in the fight. With so many characters and options, you’re going to be busy.

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That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything for the obsessive Dragon Ball Z fans to enjoy. The game’s cel-shaded graphics work well to recreate the experience of all those battles, be it sending your foe crashing through the nearest office building in the ruins of West City or thrashing the tiled and palm tree-lined grounds of Kami’s Lookout as you fight against Garlic Jr. There’s still something magical about watching Goku turn from downtrodden warrior into a golden haired, green-eyed, brightly glowing superhero for the first time. The game even shows the wear and tear of the fighters as the battles wear on; wounds will open and bleed, and freshly washed uniforms and flowing cloaks will turn into tattered and stained ruins before the combat is finished. Since the game includes all of the American voice acting from the anime, you’ll get to enjoy the surrogate father-son dynamic between Piccolo and Gohan, see how Vegeta’s pride is his greatest strength and weakness, and Trunk’s rise to prominence. With the all the glowing bodies, swooshing sound effects, and incredibly fast and fluid animation of its animated counterpart, Tenkaichi 2 is as close to the real thing as a game can get.

Indeed, this is a Dragon Ball Z fan’s dream come true. The game boasts a incredibly large roster of fighters hearkening from every obscure movie and saga in the series. The gameplay has been modified to balance out offensive and defensive strategies, making the combat far better rounded. The controls, while incredibly difficult to comprehend at first, make the fighting far more intense and fast-paced than seen in the previous game. While the game’s extras allow you to take on a variety of challenges, the story mode follows the anime to near perfection, right down to the infamous Freeza killing spree. Besides, shooting bad guys with flashy laser beams is always fun.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

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

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