Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Developer: Spike
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-2
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‘Unique’ or ‘different’ are certainly two words you could use when describing this latest Dragonball brawler. I’ve certainly not played anything quite like it before...

Dragonball Z (pronounced “Zee” not “Zed” for those who don’t know) is one of those things I’ve heard about but never really explored, and in the beginning Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is all very confusing! In typical Manga style there is lots of brash dialogue and very little explanation to the uninitiated.

From the main menu you’re presented with a long list of options and game modes it can be difficult to know where to start. An extremely comprehensive training mode helps prepare you for what lies ahead. Counters, power bars and special moves are all explained in detail, which is useful, because the game is so damn unforgiving at times.

Basic fighting modes are usually a simple one on one affair (although teams can also be used) with your player up against a variety of different odd and distinctly Japanese characters. You float around the fairly barren terrain, much like the robots in Zone of Enders, knocking ten bells out of each other with impossible kicks, punches and the always-reliable fireballs. Realism certainly wasn’t a factor.

Initially there doesn’t seem to be much depth to the fighting style and most of the 161(!) characters seem to play in more or less the same way. Tapping X will cause your player to dash around the screen, the triangle button sends out fireballs, and the other buttons deal punches and kicks. Delving a bit further however and you’ll learn to charge up your “Ki meter” which lets you unleash further special moves. You’ll also learn Z-Countering and special finishing moves.

The difficulty level is a touch too high for beginners, and because of this and the obscure style of the game it’s hard to get into. On many occasions I was been battered around the screen with wave after wave of punch and kicks before I knew what was happening. Fair enough when you get to pummel the enemy in a similar fashion it is satisfying but this happens so rarely to begin with that those with little patience will fail to get the most out of the game which is a shame as there is so much on offer.

As well as the standard brawling modes there is also an option to customise characters. Distributing z-points will allow you to alter their powers and skills. Once you’re happy with your creation you are given a password, which you can pass onto friends who can then input this on their copy of the game to fight with your character. In the days of X-Box Live and the PS Network it all seems a little bit old school to be inputting passwords instead of swapping online but at least there is an option I suppose.

You can enter tournaments and indulge in a basic RPG training mode – where you train for 10 days before going on to brawl with the enemy. For people not ‘in the know’ like myself there is even the option to learn the background history of the main characters in the Dragon History section. Granted you may not care but for fans I’m sure it is a welcome addition.

Everything looks ok and the distinctive anime style of the source material has been transferred relatively successfully and despite being in 3D, fits in with the series. It never looks exactly stunning, but the special attacks fill the rather bland environments with all the bright lights and over-the-top action you’d expect from a game of this type. Whoever said Eastern developers were starting to pander more to Western audiences tastes needs to play this. It couldn’t be more Japanese if it tried.

It’s clear a lot of love has gone into this title and I’m sure the hardcore fans will appreciate the amount of depth in which developers Spike have gone to regarding characters and storylines. For the rest of us however the game is the equivalent of being shouted at by a small child. Loud, annoying and not that easy to get along with.

Best Bits

- A bundle of different game modes
- Faithful to the series
- Plenty to do
Worst Bits

- Hard to get into if you’re not a fan
- Too many options?
- Awful Japanese rock soundtrack
- High difficulty curve to begin with

by: Pedro

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