The massively popular Dragon Ball anime series once again gets a console outing, showing that no matter how many times you retell the same story; there is always someone who wants to play it again and again.
Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi is a mash up of both the Dragon Ball Z and Dragonball GT stories, to many fans that will make sense, to others it will mean nothing and even when playing the game it is still not clear just what is going on. The basic jist is that a young boy from another planet called Goku crash lands on Earth and is adopted by an old man who then teaches him the way of the warrior. After years of training Goku comes across a strange being who is aware of Goku’s past and warns that an invasion will begin in one year. True to his word, other Saiyans appear and start causing havoc all around the globe. Personally the Z and GT elements don’t really mean much other than lots and lots of fights against a weird and zany group of aliens and warriors.
Dragon Ball Z is mainly a 1 vs. 1 beat-em-up and you control one of many characters and fight over a variety of environments. The controls are very simple, allowing easy to pull off combos with just one button, with a light attack used for combos, a heavy attack for those one off powerful punches, a block and a rush move. The battlefield is completely 3D, allowing for you to move freely all around the arena, getting behind your adversary to get a few easy hits in there. Action is split into two main areas, ranged and close. The controls are identical for both, with ranged throwing fast bolts of Ki and close allowing for fists and feet. Combos come very easily, with three landed attacks allowing you to start a massive chain of combos, with you linking them with either a press of the light or heavy attacks and a direction to send their pummelled bodies flying. The action is intense and very fast, with explosions and flashing going off all over the place with it feeling like a firework has just been thrown through your letterbox, it’s that noisy. Special attacks also come in a couple of varieties, first charging your Ki by holding down on the d-pad and then just flicking the right stick to perform a move, to a more powerful finishing move which can only be unleashed when the enemy is at a certain health level. The resulting damage around you is quite impressive at first, with enemies being thrown into the ground, creating craters and special moves ripping the ground apart, sadly only to be replaced by green grass seconds later, the worst case scenario is when a special power with an explosion so powerful it can be seen from space gives your character a few nicks and scrapes on their face.
Even though there are plenty of environments to fight through they are very bland, with lots of things around you but you can’t destroy them unlike in other DBZ games. They do look good though and this is even more so with the characters, with the cell-shading effects making the game more like an interactive cartoon than ever before.
Presentation does let this game down in other areas as well, the loading screens can be as long as some fights and have a rather strange mini game of shooting blue and orange canisters whilst you wait (this must mean something to DBZ fans). The biggest crime however is the Story Mode, which does have some rather cool anime straight from the show at certain points of the story, however the rest of the time you are reliant on a very boring and slow scrolling piece of text, telling you what has gone on. It gets very confusing at times mentioning loads of names and giving no background info on what I assume are great stories dealt with in a couple of lines, like the death of certain character and the moon getting blown up, I would of liked to have seen that.
The main story will take you through key points of the DBZ and GT storylines, chopping and changing your playable characters with little or no explanation, only fans will get the most of this. In between fights you are able to travel around on your nimbus cloud and fly over the earth, looking for the next battle or even have a go at the World Tournament. It would have been nice to have better cut scenes and more use of the anime so this area is for the fans only.
The Hero Mode however feels a lot more accessible for both fans and newcomers, with the game being set on a parallel earth where an evil force has collected the 7 Dragonballs which granted them the wish of global domination. You stand against him and the world he has created, a young Saiyan hoping to return peace to the world. The setup is pretty much the same as the Story Mode however here you start with hardly any powers, which can only be boosted by defeating the many familiar DBZ characters dotted around the earth. Again you can jump on your nimbus cloud, seeking fights and also a few secret areas that grant plenty of styles and clothing to customise your character. The more fights you have the more you rank up, making it a lot easier against some of the tougher enemies, with Piccolo and even huge monkeys bosses to battle, thankfully if you find yourself under equipped you are able to travel back and fight them when more suited, with you even meeting masters who can train you to boost your stats even more.
Away from the single player you also have a simple 1vs 1 online mode plus a decent World Tournament Mode where a group of players can fight for the top podium place from either the huge roster of characters you have unlocked or your own creations.
Even with all these modes available the real problem the game has is it gets repetitive very quickly. Every character you play has the same move sets and all the fights tend to be the same, start ranged, get in close, set up a combo, bash light or heavy and repeat then charge your Ki. The biggest crime is that a lot of the time the fights are won purely by chance, with the game seemingly picking at random the chance of you winning a combo or not, if you win it’s all good, just sit back for the next 30 seconds and watch your character hand out a beating, however if you lose you will get a smack in the face. The same occurs if you are on the receiving end of a combo, with a button bashing mini game that rarely works required to break free of the combo and pray for a well-timed counter.
Where previous DBZ games attempted to cater for all, the nature of the story mode and the overly repetitive action makes this one solely for the fans.
Rating: AverageReview Policy
Dragon Ball Ultimate Tenkaichi is out now on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. You can order your copy here (PS3), here (Xbox 360).