Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection|
Okay, Iíll admit it; there was a time in my youth when Dragon Ball Z was pretty awesome. There was a time in my youth when my friend and I stayed up all night to play through the very first Dragon Ball Z: Budokai game, and I remember thinking it was pretty awesome. Granted, there are a lot of mediocre things that seem awesome to an eleven-year-old kid (Yes, I was only eleven in 2002. I get it, Iím young). So, because of this, I still have some weird nostalgia for the insanity that is Dragon Ball Z, but, thankfully, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection has come along to destroy my childhood memories.
Actually, thatís a little harsh. Itís mostly my fault for fooling myself into misremembering the Budokai games as something more than button-mashy nonsense designed to play off the idea of controlling the incredibly powerful Super Saiyans, but Iím getting ahead of myself. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection is the re-release of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai and Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 in one package with some updated graphics. The second Budokai game isnít included because it was a wild deviation from the formula set in the first game, while the third one was a return to form for the series. Also, the first and third Budokai games are probably the best Dragon Ball Z games youíll find, so itís not surprising Namco Bandai decided to give these games an update.
The Budokai games are simple 3D fighting games with all the Dragon Ball Z characters you know and...love? Theyíre four button fighting games with a punch, kick, block, and Ki button. The Ki button is used to shoot energy blasts and execute special moves like the kamehameha. In order to execute moves like the kamehameha there are capsules that need to be equipped to the character that allow him or her to use those moves. These capsules can be bought in the capsule store or earned throughout playing story mode. Thereís also a Ki meter to go along with the health meter that determines what special moves can be executed, along with what level of Super Saiyan(or whatever the alternative happens to be for a non-saiyan character) the character can achieve. On their face, these mechanics arenít inherently bad, but the implementation is not all that great.
The first Budokai game is fairly basic because the story mode only goes up to the defeat of Cell, which doesnít allow for the cast of characters and special abilities, like fusion and Super Saiyan 4, introduced up through the Kid Buu Saga covered in Budokai 3. Mashing the punch and kick buttons to dole out combos while shooting an occasional kamehameha wave is enough to defeat most opponents. Blocking is mostly optional considering your opponent will rarely have time to attack you if you just stay close to him and execute combos as soon as he gets up from being knocked down from your previous combo. Itís really not that fun to play against the computer opponents, but playing against actual humans is pretty fun. Thatís why itís a shame there isnít online multiplayer, but Iíll get to that later. Overall, the first Budokai isnít terrible, but it just doesnít hold up that well and itís really not challenging at all, but at least itís not frustrating like Budokai 3.
Budokai 3 mixes things up with its introduction of teleporting and some extremely annoying systems that rely completely on luck rather than skill. The special moves like Spirit Bomb require the character to go into a rage mode when the player presses all four buttons at once. The characters ki then starts to drain while the player tries to execute the special move by pressing all four buttons again, or knocking the opponent into the air. What follows is a series of quick time events that determine the outcome of the special attack. One of them requires the defender to guess which button the attacker presses, and the defender takes damage if the guess is incorrect. These special moves are a laborious lull in the fighting that goes on for way too long and happens way too frequently due to the computer opponentís love of these attacks. They get really annoying after a while, but they arenít nearly as bad as the added teleport system.
To teleport, you need to press the guard button and the direction of the opponent right before an attack hits you. This teleports your character to the other side of the opponent and kicks them across the level to knock them down. This can be done back and forth until one of the players runs out of the ki energy required to teleport. Teleporting basically makes the arena modes completely pointless because they are either extremely easy or almost impossible depending on whether or not you choose to teleport. This is because the arena modes are played in a ring, and if the character gets knocked out of that ring, itís game over. So, the easiest strategy is to just dash with your back towards the edge of the ring and wait for the opponent to attack so you can teleport behind him and knock him out of the match. On the other hand, the computer will almost always knock you out of the ring by teleporting if you choose compete in a straight up fight. The teleporting and special move systems donít make the game fun, they just make it way more frustrating than the first Budokai. That is until you level Goku up and get the Super Saiyan 4 ability.
Another system Budokai 3 has that the first one doesnít is a leveling that allows characters to improved stats like health, attack, and dodge over the course of playing through the story. Combine this with the skill capsules and there are many more ways to customize characters in Budokai 3. Leveling is a nice addition to the game that gives the player reasons to replay story modes and fight in the other various modes. However, like most things in the Budokai games, the leveling system isnít very balanced by eventually leads to fights being so easy theyíre boring. My strategy was spend all my points in attack, and by the time I got Gokuís Super Saiyan 4 ability I was able to take out over one whole bar of the opponentís four or five bars of health with one kamehameha. The overall theme of the Budokai games seems to be that theyíre fun on the surface for those that are into Dragon Ball Z, but they donít hold up to much scrutiny.
Only those who already know theyíre into the Budokai games should consider buying this HD collection, but even those considering it should know what theyíre getting into. The amount of effort put into the package seems minimal. The menus havenít even been remade to fit the whole screen, instead thereís just borders on the edges in most menus. Thankfully the actual game is in fact widescreen, but the only other meaningful feature is the required achievements on Xbox 360 and trophies on PS3. Thereís no online multiplayer, no extra modes, nothing other than the two games pretty much as they were originally released with a decent visual upgrade.
Itís kind of sad for fans of Dragon Ball Z that the games based on the series have always been fairly disappointing. Those who know the story will find that they simply retell the same basic story beats in jumbled, hard to follow format by sectioning off different story arcs for different characters. Iím sure anyone coming into these games without previous knowledge of Dragon Ball Z will gain almost nothing from the story elements of these games. Although, Iíll say it again, these are probably the best Dragon Ball Z games available, and itís a much easier sale at $40 than it would be at $60, but I still donít recommend Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection for anyone other than those who have nostalgia for these games, and even then itís hard to recommend.