Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z – Ambitious, But Falls Short Of The Mark

By Thomas . March 2, 2014 . 9:31am

Dragon Ball Z needs no introduction. The phenomenon from the ‘80s and ‘90s still continues to push out new releases such as the Battle of the Gods movie last September, the announcement of the upcoming reveal of Goku’s mother, as well as the just announced continuation of DBZ Kai covering the Buu saga airing this April in Japan.

 

Fans have plenty of screaming and ridiculous power levels that are over 9,000 to look forward to even after the conclusion of the manga in 1995. The franchise is a nostalgic staple now, and the newest game, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, knows this well, for better and for worse.

 

Battle of Z moves away from traditional fighting games and is more of a beat-em-up in a 3D arena. You travel around the field in a team of four until you find enemies and then duke it out with Ki blasts and punches, as well as dash while on the ground or fly through the sky. Depending on if you are on the ground or in the sky, and your distance to your enemies, gameplay changes up a bit.

 

Each character has their own move type that ranges from Fighting (the melee specialty characters), Ki Blast (the long distance shooting characters), Support (health regenerators), and Interference (the characters that stop enemy combos). Alongside that each player also has his or her own special move such as Goku having his signature Kamehameha attack. You are also rewarded with cards in game that can be placed on your fighters to give them special bonuses and stat boosts. With these four types, alongside character-specific specials, and the minimal character customization via the cards, building a team offers the player a decent level of customization and strategy depending on what they want their team to play like. This is a good thing, since the game places importance on your team.

 

That’s right, the name of the game is having the best team that you can use. On the top of the screen is a giant energy gauge that is communal to your whole team. You and your teammates can place energy into the gauge or draw energy from it to resupply your own energy meter. And if you manage to fill up this communal gauge, you can unleash special attacks.

 

Moving away from the gameplay and getting back to how the game knows its audience, the first thing you are greeted with before the start screen is a brand new opening anime theme song featuring our favorite heroes and villains from Z duking it out over an auto-tuned version of the classic Cha-La Head-Cha-La theme and then topped off with Super Saiyan God Goku fighting God of Destruction Beerus—emulating the film that just came out.

 

Now, this opening theme is a pretty apt set up for what you can expect out of the game as it really does try to pull at your nostalgia for the franchise while at the same time trying to be something new. It’s not hard to understand why such an approach is used, and while it may be somewhat lofty, ultimately the end result is a bit of a wash. The game really tries to charm the players with the classic music, the cel-shaded graphics emulating the show’s look, and having dialogue and acting from our cast. But ultimately, it really doesn’t manage to do much of this right.

 

While the graphics do look nice, the camera can become awkward. It really is trying its darndest to keep up with the shifting fast hits that send characters flying across the levelm but you’ll usually get a nice look at someone’s crotch or the ground, and not so much the characters in the game or the action going on around you. The camera is serviceable in most situations, but after these combos the player is just disoriented and trying to escape the CPU— who will no doubt pounce and spam as many cheap attacks as they can on you, which is frustrating. Even the targeting, while once again serviceable— isn’t great. Switching between targets especially had me slipping up a bit in the early segments of the game. It’s a nice enough world to look at, sure, but moving around in it and trying to fight in it can be bothersome.

 

Even the dialogue falls a little short of the mark. It’s always nice to hear the cast from a TV show or movie return to voice the video game, but honestly you can’t hear much of any of it. It all becomes white noise behind you, as the chaos in the battles unfolds. Multiple characters talk at once, or a character keeps talking to you while you’re trying to escape an enemy combo and can’t really focus on any of what they’re saying. It’s an audible mess of unfocused conversations that really don’t even matter much in the end anyways. The execution and mechanics constantly gets in the way of the nostalgia, and even worse, in the way of the gameplay.

 

This is the key problem with the game—while in theory it provides a decent set up for some DBZ action, with some competent gameplay ideas, and knows its own audience well, it falls short in execution. The fighting is a little choppy. The early levels can be won with simple button mashing while later levels suddenly step it up in difficulty and knowledge of gameplay is finally needed and stat. The camera, while it works, just isn’t good at its job. Obstacles get in the way, the quick action of combos gets you disorientated, and adjusting for flying doesn’t feel as natural as it should. The levels while being pretty just aren’t designed that well. Not only are there obstacles in the way of the camera, I usually found myself running around trying to catch up with enemies over actually doing something to them. This happened far more often then I would have liked.  And control of the characters, especially the flying, never felt as natural as it should, making getting around even more awkward.

 

The game does offer a Co-Op mode as well as battle modes, which include normal battles, score attack, a battle royal, and a capture the bag like “Dragon Ball Grab” mode. Co-Op can be fun when you get a match going and it is much nicer to have a team of real life people over CPU teammates, but the battle modes are merely distractions at best. The real meat of multiplayer is no doubt enjoying Co-Op missions with a friend. The worst part of these other modes, though, is that the game requires online play, so you can’t play the game with a buddy at home. That’s just such a missed opportunity and a darn shame in a game that touts team play.

 

In one word, Battle of the Z is ambitious. It has a decent set of ideas and concepts but falls short and delivering those concepts, and then wraps itself up in a nice bow of good presentation values and nostalgia. It can be a fun game to play at times, but it is just not that good. The shortcomings really outshone the concepts for most of my play through, and the learning curve initially takes some time. Even to hardcore DBZ enthusiasts, I would be wary recommending this game at full retail price. While the Dragon Ball Z franchise has always seen a fluctuating quality in its games, there are still far better ones out there then this. It is an honest effort, and by no means bad or unplayable, but it still never quite lives up to its own ambitions. If you’re still interested, I would really suggest waiting for a sale or price drop first.

 

Food for thought:

 

1. The game offers dual audio with both the classic Japanese cast and an English voice cast. As far as I can tell, all the actors for the English dub are from Funimation’s dub of Dragon Ball Z Kai.

 

2. The opening anime theme is quite nice to watch with some real good animation, even if Cha-La Head-Cha-La is a bit auto-tuned.

 

3. Hilariously enough, Yamcha was the first teammate of mine to die in the game.

 

4. The game came included with a DLC code to redeem Super Saiyan Goku wearing Naruto’s Sage outfit.


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  • Paul Rodriguez

    They need to go back to the 2D style gameplay. The fighting and flying in these types of games are sloppy. The camera sometime has a hard time keeping up. Dimps nailed it with the Budokai (Burst Limit and Infinite World as well) series.

    • Arcana Drill

      I dont think so, Budokai teikaichi 3 was amazing! even with its flaws is one of the best DBZ games that i played.

      • Paul Rodriguez

        It was a fun game and I did play the heck out of it but the camera still had a habit of getting in the way at times.

        • Arcana Drill

          Even with camera issues i think i prefer the 3d games, it gave a sense of freedom by flying the stage, something that really combined with the atmosphere of dragon ball.

          But opinions are opinions, i cant make you agree with me. The best we can do is hope for the next game be great.

          • Crimson_Cloud

            Agreed, I don’t know why people keep wanting a ”Street Ball Z” kinda game. I liked Budokai, but come on, freedom of flying is what makes DBZ unique. Nothing better then to take it on with AI on the hardest difficulty in Tenkaichi 3. ˇˇ

    • Namuro

      Speaking of a 2D DBZ game, I really enjoyed Ultimate Butouden. Have you tried it?

      • British_Otaku

        I’m not the person you asked, but I loved that game and am greatly disappointed that the developer closed down shortly after they made it… Instead we got Dragon Ball Kinect that year iirc.

    • freestylinyoshi

      If I wanted to play “2-D Dragon Ball” , I’d play Street Fighter.

    • KyoryuOrange

      I’d rather they take this and make it better. There’s potential here for an amazing series (I personally think this was already a fairly amazing DBZ game) and I’d hate for them to just give up instead of trying to improve.

    • Reanau

      If they did I’d like it to be where each characters fighting animation was different. I found the budokai series lacking and non-faithful to the series because of it. So I still had fun playing them but i don’t get much from the game modes. Its why I prefer the Tenkaichi games. It never gets dull or boring.

  • charles addow

    Sadly for the vita users in NA we got complete garbage. No dlc whatsoever and the game is so damn short. I wish they added more missions and more ultimates thats what really pissed me off. Lack of content but i hope they learn from this mistake.

    • KyoryuOrange

      I’m not really sure how we got garbage. Other than missing the DLC (which was preorder only anyway), we got the same game.

  • Paul Rodriguez

    Has anyone ever played Saint Seiya: The Hades (also from Dimps)? It was quite good. That is what I wish the DBZ games were like in terms of gameplay.

    I also miss the what if stories from the older games. Like the ones that featured the fusion of Goku and Mr Satan (Hercule), and the one with Cell absorbing Krillin.

    • Arcana Drill

      Oh yeah, these games (SS and older DBZs) occupied a lot of my time in childhood.

    • subsamuel01

      It was a lot like the Naruto Storm games, which isn’t a bad thing. This game was fun for a while, but its gets repetitive so fast because every character is so similar, that and the lack of depth in the actual combat.

  • WolfDuo

    I was completely disappointed with this game. I feel as though they intentionally miss out stuff and leave errors in the game, just to having something to add in a sequel.

    Camera problems, Poor Ai, bad connection online, no multiplayer…

    *sigh*

    • KyoryuOrange

      Given this studio, I wouldn’t bet on any sequels just yet.

      While I disagree with your non-online issues, I do sympathize with the connection ones. Those were a pain. And not being able to type in the lobby? Ack!

      • Reanau

        I’m aware that they’re made some of the Gundam games on PSP so they could?

  • Hagaren

    I hope the next DBZ game is either Budokai 4 or Burst Limit 2 or an actual port of Zenkai Battle Royale. (though they should add more characters to ZBR first)

    • British_Otaku

      Arcade to console transitions always come with more content and modes, not that I think they would be able to jump up by that much without a good amount of time.

      At the very least, ZBR seems to have good mechanics and function much better than Battle of Z and closer to Tenkaichi Tag Team with fluid movement or something…

      • Hagaren

        Yeah, ZBR looks like it plays really nice. I’d really like to try it out!

    • BalmungX

      By Budokai ,you mean Budokai or Budokai Tenkaichi? I’m up for either since i liked both

      • Hagaren

        I meant Budokai, as in Budokai 3. Though, honestly, I wouldn’t say no to Tenkaichi 4. I enjoyed both.

    • http://blackstar2661.deviantart.com/ SilverSpades

      I always felt Burst Limit was more of a spiritual successor to Budokai 3

      • Hagaren

        Pretty sure that’s what it was supposed to be. I’m kinda surprised they never released another, especially seeing how the first one only reached the Cell saga.

    • Spider-Man

      Burst Limit had such a beautiful art style. Super Saiyan eyes looked great, too.

      • Hagaren

        Yeah, it looked really nice!

  • http://s932.photobucket.com/ usagi_san

    Personally, I couldn’t see a local multiplayer working for this game unless it went one of two ways: split screen or remote play multiplayer (similar to FF: Crystal Chronicles on the Gamecube).

    I really wanted to enjoy this game but the demo showed me otherwise.

    • KyoryuOrange

      Vita version would work and it didn’t have it either as far as I know.

  • nonscpo

    I wasn’t really that excited for this games localization and to make it worse DIGITAL ONLY…ugh, hopefully the next big shonen game gets a little more love and attention from the localizers.

  • Masa

    Wish some other company would pick up the license for the DBZ games.

    • British_Otaku

      Bamco has had a stranglehold over the Dragon Ball license for nearly 30 years, they aren’t going to let go of it as long as it makes money and especially when it is a bigger cash cow or at least a longer term one than their recent Mushibugyo, Kuroko no Basket and Toriko games.

      The most we can hope for is that they give the rights to make a game or series to a good developer and give them the time to make a masterpiece.

      • Masa

        We can only hope and to be honest i don’t really see the game series as much of a cash cow as it used to be, they sell horribly with each title.

        • British_Otaku

          If they sold that poorly for the returns they expect, they wouldn’t be afraid to let go of the license. I won’t assume that Ultimate Tenkaichi, Kinect and Battle of Z were successes, but they definitely are going to hold onto the license.

          Dragon Ball Heroes has probably done well consistently in arcades and the 3DS release Ultimate Mission sold over 88K first week and almost 250K by August (the movie probably helped). They can sell well and there will always been tens of thousands of people lined up for anything with the DB/Z license on it.

  • Ooh Bee

    I have 25+ hours on this game so far and never once thought the camera was a problem. My only complaints are that it’s lacking characters for a DBZ game, modes, and the combos are basically just mashing triangle. I’d like to see a sequel that isn’t so bare bones. The game is fun as hell when you get a full team of competent players.

    • WolfDuo

      The characters weren’t that bad. They only left out one or two forms of a few character and GT chars. And in all fairness, they are sub-par at best anyway…

      Modes and comob’s I comepletly agree i with though. ESPECIALY combo’s. I feel DBZ games have just become very much luck based.. Skill requirement has seriously become a non-factor.

      And would of killed them to add costumes!

      • KyoryuOrange

        There are actually quite a few characters that got left out, especially counting some movie ones. I’m kinda glad GT was ignored, but there are some Z characters/forms that really needed to be in that weren’t.

        I’m not sure how you get luck based out of this game. The only luck issue I ever deal with is what cards I get after missions.

        Costumes would have been nice though. It’s nuts that Vegeta still has his tail in the Buu saga!

    • KyoryuOrange

      I agree about characters, but how the game plays is based entirely on, well, how you play. I plày with ki using characters, so I rarely use triangle except to knock people around or when I’m especially close to someone. In fact, I think that’s one of this game’s strong points – you can play however you want.

  • Steven Higgins

    played the game, beat it, unlocked every character, never picked it up again. That being said, if they made a DBZ:BoZ 2, I would gladly buy it if they fixed the issues this game had and allowed the characters to transform in battle as they should.

    • KyoryuOrange

      I actually think the system here works much better in that transformations are different characters. You’d have to rework a lot of BoZ’s fundamentals if you allowed transformations, and they’re really not necessary with how you game plays.

      • konsama

        This, adding in game transformations tend to make a goddamn mess of fighting games, even budokai tenkaichi, that is one of my favorite fighters and best DBZ game IMO, was pretty unbalanced with evos.

        And i remember how bleach heat the soul 4 was epic, and 5 fucked the saga so bad with assist stupidity and in fight transofrmations that i never bought 5 and 6. Terrible games after 3 and 4.

  • Zer0faith

    Having played the demo this didnt quite catch my attention but I hoped the final product could deliver.
    A shame indeed, as for me I’ll stick to playing this little gem from the past. http://1.1.1.1/bmi/www.everyeye.it/public/covers/10132010/dragonballzbudokaitenkaichi3_WII.jpg

    • SaiyanJedi_Trunks

      I loved this one and #2 for the Wii that I grabbed a launch. Very fun in deed.

    • Revorse

      My favorite Dragonball Z game. I personally think it’s one of the best.

    • Crimson_Cloud

      Yup, still playing it actually. They are idiots for not perfecting that formula.

    • Ty Austin

      It’s not really fair to compare this game to any of the DBZ fighters because BoZ is not a fighting game.

      Play it with a mindset that it’s more of a Monster Hunter style game and you’ll get way more enjoyment out of it.

      • http://www.reviewersunknown.com/ Ozzie Arcane

        I don’t think most care whether it’s a fighting game or not. They just care about whether or not it’s good and to most it isn’t so they’re going to get their DBZ fix elsewhere.

        As far as I’m concerned, Tenkaichi 3 and Raging Blast 2 are the only DBZ games worth my time after a single playthrough.

    • Sergio Briceño

      Torn between BT2 and RB2.

    • leingod

      Loved this game. Hated it on the Wii, though.

  • Robert Hendrie

    I feel that flying feels way more natural if you play on control scheme C, and just plays all around better with it, should have been default.
    And for Cha-La Head-Cha-La, isn’t this the flow version that for was the movie?

    • British_Otaku

      Well I find the time to go through all of the licensed games I missed, I’ll try out Control Scheme C for Battle of Z. Of course, I have a ton of them to go through from the PS2/GameCube/Xbox generation before all of the ones from the PS3 and company.

      It is the FLOW cover for the Battle of Gods movie from last year.

  • SaiyanJedi_Trunks

    Question to any DBZ fan. Where would you like to see DBZ games go from here? We have had our fill our fighting games for HD systems, one such as DBZ sagas and the GBA games.

    I would love to see an RPG style game or an action adventure game with an original story…maybe with new Saiyans or enemies.

    • KyoryuOrange

      I’d like to see more of this, but with original content as well as more of the missing content this one left out. A lot of characters were missing and a lot of the story was rushed, putting like five fights from the series into one stage. It arguably made the stage better for it, but in turn meant less stages overall.

      HD remakes of the Legacy of Goku games would be pretty cool. Another thing I’d like to see is more what if stuff (and this gets back to more original content). Shin Budokai 2 on PSP took place in Trunks’ future, the Supersonic Warriors games had drastically different story modes depending on who you played as, and the various fighting games have different fusions and transformations that canon never saw. Let’s see more of that included!

    • Bio438

      Fighting game again. I want something similar to the storm series in concept. It cares more about feeling like its source material than being some super gimicky fighter. Also I don’t want an original story, we have yet to get a good version of current story.

  • KyoryuOrange

    I honestly couldn’t disagree with these complaints more. Ignoring the lackluster attempt at staying true to the show via cutscenes and battles, the gameplay was superb. I never experienced any of the problems described here, except for lag in online (which admittedly was pretty hefty when you had eight people in a room).

    I also don’t know how you could find the flight controls off – this the first game in which I’ve ever liked them. All the other 3D attempts felt like a confusing mess, but this was just perfect. As for the camera issue, didn’t see any of that either, except once in a blue moon when I beat a stage and one of my allies was too close to me when the camera turned to show the winner. Other than that, no problems there.

    Obstacles getting in the way you say? That’s… kind of the entire point of obstacles? You can blow most of them up anyway.

    Honestly, besides for the online’s lag issues and the story scenes not being accurate, this could easily be the best 3D DBZ game ever if you ask me. Supersonic Warriors and the second and third LoG games still rank up there, though, but still. This wasn’t as polished as I would have liked, but it was an excellent experience for both fans and people who just might want an addictive co-op game to play. Highly recommended by me.

  • http://youtube.com/RyeANDRinGaming B-Dazzle

    Super Dragon Ball Z in HD. Or a standard port of it. That’s all I gotta say for anything they need to do.

  • ZetaSiren

    Why can’t we just have a budokai tenkaichi 4 D: 3 was perfect. And yet it seems like we’ll never get anything as good as that again :(

  • urbanscholar

    *deep breath*

    I honestly feel DBZ Hyper Dimensions(favorite DBZ to date) & Burst Limit were good ideas design wise.

    When DBZ plays like a more traditional 2D/2.5 fighter it really shines. Why don’t we have this return to form I’m not sure?

    Honestly I’m still hoping for a console release of DBZ zenkai battle royale

  • Lalum

    Give me Budokai or Budokai Tenkaichi over this any day.

  • ifidontwhowill

    This game was truly the worst DBZ game I have ever played. The combat is flat out boring, the roster stinks, the supers were laughable, and to top it all off the online was terrible. I wish they’d get their act together and get some good DBZ games out.

    • KyoryuOrange

      I really don’t know if we played the same game. Combat felt like you were really playing a DBZ game (instead of just some other game with occasional flying and shooting), it was fun and it varied greatly depending on your play style and the role you wanted to play on the team.

      The roster could have used work, that I’ll admit, and the online definitely needed help, but the gameplay is some of the best I’ve ever seen out of a DBZ game.

      That said, “they” have never made a DBZ game before. So if you didn’t get this, it’s not like “they” could have defaulted to a different type of game like many seem to think – also, it’s actually somewhat similar to some of their recent games (Madoka and Gundam SEED on the Vita), but heavily tailored to DBZ. And personally I think they did a damn fine job.

  • Lifestreamer

    DB Kai Ultimate Butouden >>>>>>> Battle of z, and the later is a DS game, a pretty good one to say.

  • leingod

    Every single DBZ game from the past generation was a dissapointment, this one included. The PS2-era ones were the best.

  • Yan Zhao

    “Yamcha was first teamate to die”

    That made me lol

  • Revolver Jesus Super Pimp

    Looked promising but failed to catch my attention upon playing the demo, it beats UT by a long shot I’ll admit. I’ll just stick with Raging Blast 2. Hopefully one day we’ll have another RPG like the Legacy of Goku.

  • Sean Johnson

    The game is just awful.

  • Ryumoau

    This game was a decent gamefly rental but i couldn’t imagine anyone spending a full $60 on this lazy game.

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