aka Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi outside of Japan.
The Dragon Ball Z games have been going uphill since the abysmal PS2 titles. Last years Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 wasn’t just a great Dragon Ball game, it was a great fighting game all around. This year a new team takes the helm of designing Dragon Ball Z: Sparkling (aka Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi outside of Japan) in the hope of topping all the previous Dragon Ball titles to date. From the screen shots it sure looks like that Spike is on the right track.
Compared to all the other DBZ games Sparkling looks the best. An all new graphics engine makes the characters look even more like their cartoon counterparts. While fighting there is an ever present aura around each warrior. The glowing ki energy fits right in with the Dragon Ball Z universe. In action the game is pure eye candy. Energy blasts can demolish mountains leaving a trail of rubble behind. Want to get close up? Then grab your opponent and spin throw them into the nearest river. Yeah, the Dragon Ball Z: Sparkling gives the feeling of being an ultimate warrior.
Although, being an ultimate fighting machine while just pressing one single button isn’t that great. All of the combo mechanics from the Budokai series and every other fighting game out there are thrown out of the window. Every single combo can be done by pressing square and then finishing up with an energy blast by pressing triangle. It’s limiting even for the Budokai series, which has already been slandered for not having a deep fighting system. Punching and kicking won’t win many battles. You would barely scratch a Saiyan warrior with a punch to the gut and Dragon Ball Z: Sparkling acknowledges this fact. Instead you need to focus on launching super moves like the Kamehameha or the Final Flash. Powerful energy blasts like these will deal 25% damage to a life bar compared to 1% from a single punch. What ends up happening is battles are reduced to charging up your super meter to see who can unleash their ultimate attack first. What is missed from DBZ: Budokai 3 is how ultimate attacks were handled. When Goku summoned a spirit bomb players would need to mash buttons in a competition to see who can hit a button more times. The whole thing is similar to the Narutimett Hero series, but it works and keeps players in constant competition. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi throws this out for a simple animation. The pro to this is battles move faster, at the cost of fancy animations with button mashing battles. Personally, I like the over top animations more than a simple blast.
There really isn’t any combo system to pick up, but there is something original about DBZ: Sparkling’s setup. Areas are huge. So large that there is even a search feature to hunt out your opponent is hiding by pressing R1. To close the distance you can air dash by pressing X or if you’re really aggressive players can do a homing dash by pressing L2+X. Sky combat expands the battlegrounds with even more space. By pressing the R shoulder buttons you can take to the sky or slowly descend back to earth. The role of distance ends up turning most battles into full range energy blast fights. Dodge, fire, rinse, repeat. It takes sometime to get used to compared to in your face fighting games.
While the fighting system is a letdown, fans of the series will dig the Z Battle mode. You can play through a number of Dragon Ball story arcs starting with the first battles against Raditz all the way up to the Buu Saga. Beyond that you can enter movie battles, mix it with fights from Dragon Ball GT and try your skill in “what if” story arcs. The “what if” story arcs are something that series fans will like. One battle pits Vegeta up against Brolly and another has Bojack versus Mystic Gohan. There are a few more battles in the series including another arc just for Vegeta. With so much of the Dragon Ball Z universe covered, DBZ: Sparkling packs in over fifty characters spanning the entire series. Each character can be upgraded similar to the capsule system from the Budokai series. By purchasing accessories you can boot Krillian all they way up to a killing machine.
As you can see Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi is a fan service. It has goes beyond all the mandatory content to please fans. Because of this most Dragon Ball Z fans probably have this game reserved or on their Christmas wish list. It’s not a bad choice for fans, but for everyone else looking for a good fighting game should probably look elsewhere.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2
Figuring out how to fight and select characters shouldn’t be a problem. Z-Battle mode is easy to figure out too. Where early adopters are bound to run into problems is with the character customization system. This isn’t a mandatory part of the game, but it does require some level of Japanese reading skill.
Atari is releasing this game lighting fast under the name of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi in October 2005.
+ Pros: Encompasses the entire Dragon Ball Z series with a shiny new graphics engine.
– Cons: A one button fighting system.
Overall: What Dragon Ball Z: Sparkling ends up as is a good game for the millions of Dragon Ball fans out there even though it doesn’t have the general appeal of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3.
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