Over the years, I’ve continued to play the large collection of Dragon Ball Z games both because of the entertainment they bring, and that the games allow you to play as your favourite characters and re-live the series at your will. There has been a huge number of games over the years, some have been very weak some very good. The most recent release before Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection, Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi was an annoying game, and I am pleased that Bandai decided to go back and look at what made their DBZ games great.
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Fighting//3D Fighter, Fantasy
Platform: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360
Release Date: November, 2012
The HD collection consists of two games from the original Budokai series: Dragon Ball Z Budokai and Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3. The game excludes Budokai 2. The first of the two titles is identical to the original, except with additional detail on the character models. Click for Budokai HD, Budokai 3 HD, and The Collection sections.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD:
As per the standard for Dragon Ball games, the story follows series protagonist Goku’s story through the various sagas of the series. Unlike the rest, the player may only play through the campaign with additional characters after the initial run. Some campaign stages also consist of mini-games, such as the scene in which the player must hold one of the antagonists, Raditz, in the correct position for another character to kill him with a charged attack.
Budokai requires some form of skill from the player, unlike most recent releases. Between using the abilities appropriately, choosing the right moments to power up, and blocking in time. While Budokai is relatively simple, that’s also a testament to the decreasing quality in these titles as of late. At the very least, there is challenge to be found in this aged title. In the world tournament stages on the Advanced Level, the enemy usually try to ring the player out rather than beat them with brute force. This title is all about improving the player’s skills, something that has been missed lately.
Playing through the first game reminded me of the original Budokai game, except with just slightly more detail on the characters. The game plays through exactly the same way as the original title did in the past. Players follow the story through series protagonist Goku’s perspective, battling their way through the various sagas of the TV show. Upon completing Goku’s campaign, more options will become available for the player to participate in other battles throughout the story, such as playing as Vegeta while fighting Android #18. Some stages are also comprised of mini-games, with one example with the playing having to hold antagonist Raditz in the right position to be slayed by character Piccolo’s “Special Beam Cannon” technique. It was extremely enjoyable being able to play a Dragon Ball Z title again, particularly one that actually requires some semblance of player skill.
The most impressive thing about the original game is the character balance. Although many fans would prefer that a human character such as Krillin shouldn’t be as powerful as the transformed Saiyan character Goku, the game continues to balance each character so that the player may select their favourite and still have the potential to win. The title itself offers the standard side-view two-dimensional fighting game style, with players employing a light or heavy attack and stringing them into combos. Similarly, the player is also offered an energy attack and a button designated for blocking. Popular techniques, such as the Kamehameha used by many of the characters, require various button combinations to pull off successfully. Rather than more recent titles, this requires a little bit more skill to be able to take advantage of the player’s most powerful techniques and prevents spamming so easily. Additionally, timing the block button allows players to dodge oncoming attacks. Sadly, this system isn’t entirely fluid. It just felt like the character was jumping side by side rather than actually dodging the attack properly.
Of course, the voice acting for Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD is up to the standards of the TV show, recognisably using the voice actors from the series. Fans of the series should appreciate the voice acting, regardless of whether it was the original Japanese version or the English dubbed version, as the title offers the player to swap to either version. The soundtrack was pleasant, but it didn’t really stick out as much as the other titles in the franchise.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 HD:
Moving over to Budokai 3, this game allowed you to take control of the character even further by flying around the world and landing in particular spots. The graphical enhancements in this title truly impressed me. There’s a lot of detail, far more than Budokai HD has. The gameplay remains the same as the original release, and the challenges were as tough as I remember. Budokai 3 only progresses from the start of Dragon Ball Z to the end of the Buu Saga, extending further than the original. Unlike the previous title, players may follow the campaign of many different characters, unlocking them as they go—even unlocking additional scenarios from outside of Dragon Ball Z too. Players who accomplish fights similarly to the way the TV show did will also be met with a few surprises.
The character selection in the title is much greater than that of the previous title. This is to be expected of a successor, but it’s worth noting that more characters were included anyway. Similarly to the original Budokai, each character is balanced to ensure that they are roughly just as useful when at the same level. Speaking of, the title introduces the ability to progress a character’s abilities through levelling up, which does grant higher level characters a larger advantage over lower levelled characters. Additionally, Budokai 3 offers more convenience to players, enabling “super abilities” to be used without having to rely on the button combinations that the original relied on.
Supporting the campaign, Budokai 3 also has three mini-games to participate in: the World Tournament, Cell Games, and the Dragon Arena. Both Cell Games and World Tournament are a standard tournament fare in which the player must compete against other foes to become number one; however, the World Tournament also has a gimmick—players can be knocked out of the ring and lose by default. Dragon Arena is the most interesting of the three, requiring players to fight against progressively higher level CPU characters with the goal to level up their own. These level ups improve a range of statistics, from health to attack to ki, and are relevant in the main campaign; however, Dragon Arena sees the player levelling up at a much faster rate than they would in the campaign. Interestingly, players can share passwords generated by the game so that other players may be able to fight against their customized character.
Just like with the first title, the voice acting follows that of the TV show. The soundtrack was also good to listen to, but doesn’t really seem to impact the game very much.
Unfortunately, it was sad not to see a re-make of Dragon Ball Z Budokai 2. This game was quite different from the other two. While the original Budokai offers a list of scenarios in which the player fights during the storyline, only progressing as far as the Cell Games, Budokai 2 consisted of a board game that would play out to the end of the Buu Saga. Perhaps the board game style of progressing between fight scenarios didn’t seem valuable enough for Bandai to port into this HD Collection?
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection suffers from its age, too. While this shouldn’t be a huge issue, the implementation of a block button feels like a particular waste. The controls are also very different to modern Dragon Ball titles, requiring some readjustment to get used to the controls once more. Additionally, Budokai HD Collection also lacks any online multiplayer support, which feels like a wasted opportunity.
Overall, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection is an excellent remake and retelling of the original Dragon Ball Z Budokai titles. Sadly, it lacks one of the three titles in the trilogy to make it a definite release, and the lack of multiplayer is disappointing. Despite this, it’s nice just to be able to revisit the old games and play a proper Dragon Ball game, as opposed to Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi—the most recent release