Don’t laugh when I tell you this but I’ve not bought a beat ‘em up since Mortal Kombat 3 on the Super Nintendo back in 1996. Obviously I’ve played a couple of fighting games since then, Smash Bros and Soul Calibur for example, but overall I’ve had no interest in the genre for many years.
So having been a bit out of touch for a while I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3 Wii. The first thing you notice about the game is its name. It’s certainly a bit of a tricky one to pronounce before you’ve had your morning cup of coffee, I even have problems saying it after my morning glass of whiskey.
Unknown to me until recently, the original Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT series are a very big deal to many people and has its finger in many pies. There is the Dragon Ball Anime cartoon with over 500 episodes, 17 Dragon Ball movies and of course, quite a few Dragon Ball Z video games.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (maybe I’ll just say DBZBT3 from now on) is an anime inspired 3D beat ‘em up. Even though the consoles are powerful enough, I haven’t actually seen many real 3D fighting games about, sure most of them have a small 3D arena which are usually circular in shape, but it’s because of this (small circular arenas) that the fights usually fall back into a 2D battle, this is because the characters can’t really break out of the one fixed position the engine keeps them in; facing the opponent. DBZBT3 is different in this respect, the arenas themselves are big wide open spaces and it is possible to fly many meters away from your foe, this gives you a chance to hide behind obstructions such as rocks and trees, or charge up a power move or simply buy yourself some time.
It’s very much how I pictured video games might handle big fight scenes (like those in movies such as Superman IV, Power Rangers or The Hulk) in the past but never did.
As in any fighting game, the main objective is to choose a character and battle your way through a myriad of different and steadily harder opponents and become the ultimate champion. DMZBT3 is no different, but with over 150 characters and even a customize character mode, you won’t be finishing this game with every fighter in a hurry. There are several different modes but they are all pretty similar; fight people, earn Z points, upgrade your character and then fight more people. It’s ok but doesn’t score many Russ Greeno points for originality there. The fighting engine itself is ok; battles are long and tough but can be cut short if one of you is knocked out of the boundary for the arena.
There are many combos to create and spectacular special moves to perform, so many in fact that it can be a bit daunting. But the Ultimate Training centre might be the place to go and learn the basics. It seems a bit boring but you won’t progress very far with just button bashing alone (believe me, I tried).
A while back I mentioned the 3D arenas (20 in all, some of which have destructible elements) and how the size makes it feel less 2D in nature when battling. The same can’t exactly be said to be true of the game characters which even though are 3D models, look very 2D due to the ‘Japanesey’ hand drawn style. This doesn’t detract too much from anything though, just a little observation.
As usual I was quite excited to hear that it’s not only possible to play a regular two player battle on the console, but you can actually play the game online with a friend (or with random people from the world). I’m quite sorry to report that with the many net battles that I tried, all of them were so laggy that it made the game totally unplayable. I do not know if I was just rather unlucky and happened to be playing people who had a very high ping or that the Nintendo WiFi connection servers were just having a bad week, what I do think though is that of you’re only looking to buy this game for the online mode, I advise renting it from Blockbuster first.
Arcade fighter fans will be pleased to hear that it’s possible to use the Gamecube pad and Classic controller with this game. For those of you without retro pads you can play ‘Wii Style’ with gesture controls using the Wiimote and Nunchuck. I don’t mind a bit of Wii haggling but personally I chose to use my Gamecube pad for this one; I can’t quite get my head around Waggle beat ‘em ups yet.
It’s odd; I find this an interesting yet quite frustrating game at the same time. It could be that I’m just totally rubbish at it, but I found that the CPU opponents were either incredibly stupid (flying out of the arena by themselves and gifting you the win) or super tough (just performing combo after combo) not giving you the slightest chance.
The graphics are actually pretty good and well animated. The special moves all have nice effects and everything runs crisp and smooth on the Wii. All of the characters wouldn’t be amiss from a proper hand drawn Japanese cartoon, once again I’m not really a fan of those, but you can’t knock the artistic talent behind them. Noise wise the game is very typical to the genre, lots of grunts, crashes, thwacks and explosions for you to listen to. Out of everything in the game it’s the voice samples that I find the most irritating; it seems every nook and cranny, every character and every menu screen is full of kiddie speech and pseudo macho overtones (it reminds me of awful ‘Gladiators Train 2 Win’ series from CITV, look it up on YouTube).
This game has its good points such as the large 3D arenas and room for strategy, but I find that is weighed down by the repetitive combat, lack of real control and cringe inducing voice acting. If you’re a fan of the series no doubt you’ll have this already, for those who haven’t got this and fancy a beat ‘em up while you’re waiting for Super Smash Brothers Brawl or the next Street Fighter game, by all means try this game but be warned, like Marmite and those Street Charity Workers you get in city centres on Saturdays, you’ll either love it or hate it.
Over all I give this an average 4 out of 10.