Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit
Another year, another Dragon Ball Z title. Being the first current-gen title based on the incredibly popular anime and manga series, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is quite different from its predecessors in many ways, trying for a much more accessible approach this time around. Dimps, the studio behind the original Budokai and Shin Budokai series, has returned to the helm, taking over for Spike, the team who did the Budokai Tenkaichi titles. With the original team in place as the series’ developers once again, as well as fresh visuals and more refined gameplay, is this the game fans have been waiting for?
Instead of covering the entire series for the nth time, what we have now in the singleplayer mode, aptly named the Z Chronicles, is something that glosses over the first main three arcs of the storyline, including the Saiyan Saga, the Frieza Saga, and the Cell Saga. Also, the issue of having too many battles represented is finally fixed, with only significant ones being used for missions. This alone makes Burst Limit a lot more approachable given that you won’t be playing dozens of hours just to unlock everything, which is one of the main reasons the Budokai Tenkaichi series never appealed to me. Still, it does seem awfully short, and you can complete all of the missions in a few hours. There isn’t much story explanation going on either, though it seems to be more like a highlights reel of the first 200 episodes or so of the TV show. From a fan’s perspective, it does the job quite well, but for somebody who has no idea what’s going on, it could be problematic.
Other than the Z Chronicles mode, the standard versus, survival, and training modes are included as well. There is also a tutorial mode, surprisingly, which will help you get the basic mechanics down easily if you’re new. Perhaps one of the biggest additions to the game is the new online mode, which has never been attempted in a Dragon Ball Z title before. Players from all around the world are able to fight one another, including global and regional rankings, as well as basic customization options for matches. The netcode seems fairly well-implemented, though there’s still room for improvement when playing opponents from different countries. It’s still only the first release to include it, though, and it does its job competently, if not coming of as a little rudimentary.
The core gameplay seems to be based around the Budokai series, and more specifically the PSP-exclusive Shin Budokai games. Basic attacks and combos are able to be executed without much thought or practice, allowing anyone pick up and play. Special and Ultimate moves are also easy to pull off, and linking everything seems much more fluid. Charging up has been removed, and instead energy is recharged automatically as you play, which allows for fights to keep momentum in lieu of having to stop and power up every few seconds. Dashing is also absent, so getting rushed down doesn’t happen nearly as often when your opponent is half-way across the screen. Overall Burst Limit has fairly polished controls that could be seen as dumbed down compared to the recent Tenkaichi games, but in this case the simple controls work for the game rather than against it.
Something entirely new to the series this time around are Drama Pieces. With these, you are allowed to choose a single ally character with certain abilities that will come into play at certain points of a match, all determined randomly. The easiest way to describe these is to say that they’re like helpers that affect the match in the player’s favor. For instance, some will give your character more health if they fall below a certain level, or others will block attacks entirely. It’s interesting that this concept was pulled off so well with Burst Limit, as it really does change everything up quite a bit. Drama Pieces don’t feel like they get in the way and ruin the gameplay, nor do they feel broken or cheap. It seems like a genuine effort to actually advance the way the game plays without changing it drastically, and it works very well. The only annoyance is that you can’t skip the cut scenes, which can get irritating after you’ve seen the same one many times.
There aren’t many characters included in Burst Limit compared to Budokai Tenkaichi 3, with only 21 total. There are still transformations for almost half of them, and some contain more than one. While this may disappoint some fans, I myself am glad that the game didn’t just have every character for the sake of having them. It just seems like an artificial way to extend the game by having them, even though many of them weren’t even balanced correctly, or were different enough to warrant their being. Since the story runs from the Saiyan Saga to the Cell Saga, most of the major characters from these eras are included, though some of the choices seem a bit odd. Secret characters Bardock and Broly are also unlockable in their own storylines. There don’t seem to be many stages included, but at least the more important ones are here. There certainly is a lack of content, and if just a little bit more had been added it may have made the game that much better, but at least there isn’t too much this time around.
Visually, Burst Limit is stunning. There have been many attempts at making Dragon Ball games look like the anime, but not even the last Tenkaichi title can compare to the quality of models and effects in this title. Backgrounds are blurred to make everything focus on the characters, which is an interesting idea. Overall, the framerate is great, with no issues in regards to lag. The music is decent, with a few tunes sounding nicer than others. I would like to see some of the original music from the TV show next time, but having new music for a change is nice as well. The option to choose either Japanese or English voices is available, though I tend to use the Japanese if given the choice.
After a torrent of Dragon Ball Z titles being released year after year, Burst Limit seems to be the first one since Budokai 2 to really do everything well. After going through so many changes, the core fighting mechanics have finally returned. It still has some problems as a true fighting game, and until button mashing is toned down it’s hard to really put it up on the same level as even Dead Or Alive, which is the bare minimum of 3D fighting gameplay. At this point, it may be better to just separate games based on the series into two genres, fighting and adventure, instead of mixing the two together. There are clearly markets for both types of games, and there’s no need to tack on a bunch of unnecessary ideas onto a series that originally started as a fighter. While it comes off as a tad bare-bones, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is definitely worth getting if you’re a fan, or if you just like fighting games without a great deal of depth, and the newly added online mode will keep the replay value high for quite some time.