With legions of pimply-faced teenage Dragon Ball Z fans out there, you
have to wonder why it’s taken quite this long for DBZ games to
begin hitting these shores. Gamers on the other side of the Pacific,
needless to say, didn’t have this problem, nor were they forced to
spend exorbitant reserves of cash to buy untranslated imports,
converters, and console modifications. Of course, they did get
to go into epileptic fits watching Pokemon, and do have a
tendency to spend said monies on vending machine-dispensed used
underwear, so I guess it’s an even trade, all told.
That aside, all you little Dragonball obsessives (need I mention that
said fan base is comprised of an almost exclusively male population?
How long did you think the rest of us could put up with episode after
episode of constipated grunting, sweating and straining? The entire
cast appears to be in dire need of a high colonic…) can finally relax:
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai has come to the Nintendo GameCube at
last. Of course, it did appear on the PS2 almost a year ago,
but I’ll credit you with more taste than owning such a poorly designed
On that note, let’s hang our hats for a few. For those who need it
spelled it out and spoon-fed, while Dragon Ball Z: Budokai is a
port of it’s PS2 counterpart, the GameCube version has a few
improvements graphically (like you needed to be told that – hello, GC
and Xbox actually have rendering engines…) and otherwise.
There are still 23 characters to choose from in the game, almost all
of who need to be unlocked by playing through either the Story or
World Championship modes. You can also win “capsules” (i.e.
abilities), either by playing through Story mode or by purchasing them
from Mr. Popo’s shop. This way, you don’t have to settle for a given
set of fighting moves and abilities, but rather can build up your
character of choice to be the most powerful of Super Saiyans (or what
have you – personally, I’ll stick with Android 18 to win, or Mr. Satan
(“Hercule” for the philistines), for laughs).
Fans of the DBZ series will be glad to know that Atari and Dimps were
very faithful to the series, doing a creditable job of re-creating
several key scenes from the show. Hell, they even dug up just about
the entire cast of the English dub to provide voices for the
characters. The downside to this is that they’re a bit too faithful
to the series: you get no less than 3 fights in a row with Raditz
(snore), and have to fight your way up through several of the ilk of
his Saiyan pals, the Ginyu Force, and one Android after another in
your battles. It would have been a nicer touch to condense all this
nonsense, and hit on several series highlights (Goku’s death and
training in the afterlife, the high school hijinks of “Super Saiyaman”
and Videl, Majin Buu, etc. etc.) rather than a painstakingly literal
recreation of some of the series’ dramatic low points (or if you’re so
inclined, “action highpoints”). Nonetheless, hardcore fans should be
ecstatic at their shot at playing through some fairly direct lifts
from the show. Some scenes even appear, to my imperfect memory, to be
following the original script line for line!
As fanboys should have figured out from the above, Story mode drags
you, playing as clueless series “hero” Goku, kicking and screaming
through the Saiyan “Saga”, the Namekian “Saga”, and the Android
“Saga”, at what amounts to a painfully slow pace. Upon completion of
this mode, several new “side quests” are opened up, allowing the
steadfast gamer to unlock even more characters, and occasionally
offering the opportunity to fight portions of the mode as the “bad
World Tournament mode should be rather self-explanatory for even
casual viewers of the series. Essentially, you take on one randomly
selected computer opponent after another in your fight for the crown.
Unfortunately, the computer likes to play cheap. Rather than a battle
of skill or strategy, World Tournament mode consists almost
exclusively of which of you is more skilled in knocking the other out
of the ring. Maybe this is some weird sumo thing, I don’t know; but
it pretty much adds up to dirty pool in my book. Needless to say, the
computer is extremely good at this exclusive “victory by ring out”
maneuver; amounting to some serious frustration on the gamer’s part.
This is particularly annoying, as World Tournament mode must be won in
order to unlock Mr. Satan (once again, “Hercule” to the uninitiated)
and the very amusing Legend of Hercule mode. Your best bet is to let
the computer knock you to the edge of the ring, then quickly maneuver
behind your opponent for the ring out it intended for you.
Once again, one of the biggest disappointments of the game revolves
not so much around what is present as what was left out.
To wit, the choice of characters in the game. While I was perfectly
happy to play as Trunks and Android 18, it would have been a much
better experience if given the option to play as Master Roshi or
Videl. Instead, we get treated to dozens of loser characters that I’m
sure every DBZ fan will be just panting to play as. I mean, come on,
does anyone really have some deep, dark inner longing to play
as each and every member of the Ginyu Force?
In a slightly misguided attempt at keeping that cash cow anime feel,
Dimps made the unfortunate decision to go with some fairly nasty cel
shading graphics. Although the game looks fairly nice visually for
what it is, the lack of borderlines around characters makes it look
extraordinarily fake, cheesy, and ephemeral, as if the characters are
about to fade into the background. While this becomes less noticeable
during action sequences (you really aren’t paying attention to such
things during the fights), such an approach fails miserably at its
intended goal of seamlessly aping the anime it is derived from. This
becomes horribly apparent during screenshots and sequences taken
directly from the anime – the poorly animated opening credits alone
should be enough to turn away the casual gamer from parting with
his/her hard earned money. Trust me, you never realized the guys
behind the DBZ TV series were that good.
Controls come across as a bit awkward, due to the odd button placement
on the GameCube controller. There are four basic moves in Budokai,
punch, kick, block, and “ki attack”. By building up your ki gauge you
can perform those ridiculous and overblown attacks the series is
infamous for, such as the criminally overused “kamehameha wave”.
Budokai also throws several “Burst Zone Battles” at you at random
points. These sequences, where the characters seem to be moving at a
furious pace, require the unfortunate gamer to spin the control stick
in a circle as fast as possible, likely leading to an unforeseen
investment in a new controller in the near future (scam alert!).
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai
may not break any new ground in its genre, but all told, it’s still a
decent fighting game, and despite all the misgivings noted above, is
really not too shabby for a licensed product. It’s been a long time
coming, but a decent, non-import Dragonball Z game has finally hit
North American shores. The Dragonball Z anime series is known for its
outrageous, several episode long fights, and if that’s what you’re
looking for, Budokai delivers. But the rest of us, who watched
both Dragonball series for their lowbrow humor and character
interaction, should expect to be sorely disappointed.
characters to choose from…though maybe not the ones you’d expect.
cheesy, borderless cel shading, approximates the look and feel of
the show fairly well
The presence of Mr.
Satan, much less a whole mode dedicated to him, just makes the game
that much better
No Master Roshi,
Videl, or Bulma
Scenes from the
show, particularly the opening credits, come across laughably
cheesy by comparison, both stiff and poorly animated.
- The computer
plays things cheap in World Tournament
The bottom line is, there aren’t a lot fighting games out there for
the GameCube. If you’re a series fan, or just desperate for a decent
fighter for the system, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai would make a
nice addition to your collection. Although hardly as well done as
some other fighters in current release (we won’t even get into DOA),
the easy-to-pick-up controls make the game enjoyable. DBZ fans
should find themselves reasonably satisfied, if not better: Atari and
Dimps remain steadfastly faithful to the show, doing a creditable job
at making the gamer feel like they’re actually taking part in the
show. DBZ fans and GameCube owners looking for a good fighting game
shouldn’t pass this one up for the holidays.