Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 Review (Wii)

The cartoon series Dragonball Z is still extremely popular with kids and twenty-something bedroom-dwelling virgins nearly a whole twenty years after its original release. Due to this, there has been a steady stream of videogame releases over the last few years, including the popular “Budokai” series of fighting games. The second instalment, “Budokai 2” was released last year on the Wii with the sub-header “Tenkaichi”, which was a decent brawler but an absolute essential purchase for fans, as it covered absolutely every fight from each of the 291 episodes. As a pretty comprehensive package, it leaves one wondering where they could possibly go with this third version?

The answer? Well, it hasn’t really gone anywhere. It has everything that made the previous game so much fun – the fast paced action which has more in common with Smash Bros than say, Tekken or Virtua Fighter and great, colourful graphics – but also features the flaws.

Goodness gracious, pink balls of fire! Play nice, boys.

You see, this is the Wii version; therefore it has a fair bit of motion control to get to grips with before you can really get into the game. The basic punches and kicks are as easy as hitting a few buttons, but some of the more complicated special moves involve throwing your arms in the air (and indeed, waving them like you just don’t care) and some pretty intimidating button combos. A bit of dedication and practice will have you duelling Kamehameha blasts within an hour, but it is enough to put off a chunk of the casual gamers who own Nintendo’s mega-popular console. For those who have played one of the previous games, a few new defensive manoeuvres have been added to the control system, allowing players skilled enough to learn them to use a few new techniques in battle.

As before, the meat of the game is in the “Dragon History” mode, which takes a slightly different approach in this year’s edition. As opposed to the obsessive compulsive detail in Tenkaichi 2, where absolutely every single battle from the shows was there to be played, here only the more important scraps are to be played, with everything else being filled in with in-engine cutscenes. These scenes are straight from the anime, with all the appropriate dialogue and voice acting to boot, which again is really something for the big fans of Dragonball. A weird quirk is that only two characters ever appear in these sequences at any one time, with all off-screen characters only appearing through spoken dialogue. This doesn’t ruin the cutscenes, by any means, but it is a bit disappointing after all the effort gone into making this instalment a far more cinematic driven title. Long time followers of the series may see this as something of a disappointment, as there is simply less of the actual gameplay in the single player mode this time around, but newcomers will certainly enjoy the in-depth romp through the Dragonball universe.

I have no idea what could be happening here. There are plenty of pure mental characters on offer.

Another thing added this year is the inclusion of a mind-blowing 161 characters from the series, which is pretty much everyone, from stalwarts Goku, Vegeta and Piccolo to some less likely characters and a few made up exclusively for the game. With the exception of special moves, the difference in characters is really down to their speed and strength, picking one that suits your play style will help win tougher fights, but for fans, the sheer amount on offer is great to see.

Tenkaichi 3 also represents the series’ first steps into the online arena, but unfortunately, it stumbles and falls quite badly. Whether it is playing people from your friends list or anonymous strangers, the lag is absolutely atrocious. For a game this fast-paced, the online mode is completely unplayable due to this problem, which at the time of writing hasn’t been addressed. It’s frustrating, as the local multiplayer is a great laugh between two players of equal skill, if you are prepared to deal with more flailing limbs and shouting this side of your average street fight. Wear those wrist straps, kids.

It still looks excellent, with the vibrant cel-shaded fighters zooming around terrain ripped straight from the anime, smashing each other through mountains and driving each other into the ground. Guitar solos wail over the battles, fighters shout ridiculous fireball names at each other and the atmosphere of the television show is captured perfectly.

The dreaded fingerpoke of doom in effect. Clearly, he means business.

Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is something of a confused game. On one hand, it features almost everything a fan of the series could possibly want, wrapped up in an entertaining package with enough depth to keep them interested for a month or so – more if they fix the multiplayer. On the other hand, it isn’t much different from a game released just under a year ago, but the changes they have made, such as the simplified story mode that is richer in storytelling (a story fans will almost certainly already know), seem geared towards the more casual gamer. But then, of course, your average Wii Sports and Big Brain Academy buyer isn’t exactly likely to pick this up off the shelves of your local game emporium.

Much like Gohan, this series is full of potential, but is dangerously close to falling into the dreaded “yearly update syndrome” instead of realizing the full extent of it. Newcomers will find plenty to have fun with here, but it is hard to recommend to those who played the previous instalment. Hopefully, in twelve months time we’ll have a tremendous fighting game on our hands, but right now, we’ve just got a good one.

Top Gaming Moment: A lot can be said for raising both arms up in the air, before throwing them down and hurling a huge “Spirit Bomb” at your opponent. Pretty empowering stuff, no?

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