Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 – Is it REALLY Over 9000?


    dbzbt3a.jpgI love the Budokai Tenkaichi games. Plain and simple. I know there's constant debates among fans over which series is better, the Budokai series or the Tenkaichi series. Personally I've always preferred the Tenkaichi series. Which is why I was so anxious to get my hands on a copy of BT3 for the Wii. I loved the Wii iteration of the second game in the series. So much that I'm unable to go back to playing it with a standard controller, such as the PS2 controller. The new controls added a lot of immersion to the game. Now the Tenkaichi series is back, and has a completely different control scheme, deeper gameplay, and an online mode, as well.


    I've been playing the Tenkaichi series since it began, and I've been playing Dragon Ball games even longer than that. So of course I've played through the various sagas of DBZ numerous times. I'm beginning to feel like I know them like the back of my hand. It's starting to feel like a chore having to play through every single saga again every time a new DBZ game comes out. Mercifully, the Dragon History mode in BT3 is substantially shorter than it's BT2 counterpart. Sagas have on average anywhere from three to six stages each. And instead of the story being told by cutscenes between fights, this time around it's told during the fights. The part of these fights that can get annoying is the way they're handled. They're "survival" style fights. Sometimes you might have to fight three or four opponents per stage. So if you get to the last opponent and lose, you'll have to do the entire fight over again. This can make the stages a little more time consuming than they really should be. One thing that may anger hardcore DBZ fans about this mode is the number of fights that are left out. Fights like Vegeta taking on Androids #17 and #18 and Trunks taking on Mecha Frieza and King Cold are completely skipped over (that's right, they add King Cold to the game, for the first time, and he's not even present in the story mode). For me, though, this is a positive. Frankly I'm tired of playing through the story of DBZ over and over again. Also, Spike decided to freshen up the story mode by sometimes putting you in the shoes of the villains. Like, instead of fighting against Broly with Kid Trunks and Goten, you'll play as Broly, and deliver the beatdown to the two Sayian tykes. I like this, as it adds a bit of freshness to an otherwise stale formula.





    There's still a plethora of other game modes, as well. There's your standard duel mode, which now has a "Dragon Points" mode. It works a bit like the ratio system in Capcom vs SNK, with characters being assigned a DP value based on their strength. Then there's Ultimate Battle mode, where you can fight pre-determined sets of enemies, or play the Sim-Dragon mode, which is surprisingly fun. You'll take part in seven fights, each harder than the last. But between these fights, you'll have ten "days" (turns), in which you can train your character, rest, or explore and interact with various characters throughout the DBZ universe. Don't expect too much from this mode, though, as the presentation is confined to a static screen. You won't actually do any manual exploring. That is, you won't be moving your character around a city or anything. Still, it's a really fun mode, and surprising to see in a game like this, as well. Next is Dragon World Tour mode, which is where all the Tournaments are held (Cell Games, World Tournament, Otherworld Tournament, and all that). However, this mode is completely flawed and frustrating this time around. Instead of being able to choose what tournament you want to take part in, you're limited by an in-game clock. Certain tournaments are open at certain times, and you can only play a tournament if it's open. The clock isn't affected by real-world time, though. It simply advances by an hour every time you leave and re-enter the Dragon World Tour mode. Also, you cannot choose the difficulty level of the tournaments. It's completely random. Add to this the fact that some characters and stages are unlocked by playing certain tournaments at certain difficulty levels, and it becomes really, really frustrating. And then there's Dragon Net Battle, BT3's online mode. But I'll go into that later.



    Aside from gameplay modes, BT3's controls have changed, as well. Whether for better or worse comes down purely to how much time you put into learning them. The biggest change is to the super moves. Instead of being pointer-based, and using the sensor bar, they're now completely motion based. That's right, no more annoying cursor to have to keep track of on the screen. Instead, when you're ready to do a super, you hold down either left, down, or right on the D-Pad and perform a motion, which is shown in the form of a little figure in the bottom left corner of the screen. This new method works surprisingly well, and the game's recognition of your gestures is, for the most part, spot on. Make no mistake, though, those of you who are well-versed in BT2's Wii Remote controls will have to take some time to learn BT3's setup. Almost everything has changed, and while it may seem difficult at first, with some practice it becomes second nature. The only thing I really don't like about the new control scheme is having to press A+B to block. But other than that, the new controls are great. And of course, you can still play the game with a GameCube or Classic controller as well. But come on, where's the fun in that?



    And of course, the biggest addition to the Wii version of BT3, online play. The feature that had Wii owners rejoicing and PS2 owners nearly rioting in the streets (or at least, rioting on the message boards). Finally, a chance to play the BT series online! How does it work out, now that it's here? Unfortunately…not so good. The first time I logged onto DBZ's online mode, I couldn't even find an opponent. Of course, it was 5 AM, so that's probably why. I tried again later, and found a match. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best as the match started. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed soon after. Online play is slow. And not just periodically slow with intermittent bursts of playability. It's slow through and through. Laggy hardly even describes it. It's even worse if you're using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controls. The lag affects the game's recognition of your motions, making it harder to do super moves. Fortunately, both Nintendo and Atari have been made aware of this issue, and are  reportedly working on a fix. But as of right now, the lag makes BT3's online virtually unplayable. Which is a shame, since it's really the Wii version's big selling point. Let's all just hope for a fix, and hope it comes soon.


    And of course, it wouldn't be a new DBZ game without new characters. While there aren't as many new characters this time around as there were in the last game, there's still enough to make DBZ fans happy. We finally get GT Kid Goku, King Cold, and Nail, as well as a lot of new Dragonball characters as well. Android #8, Nam, Chi-Chi, General Blue, Tambourine, and more. Fans will also be delighted to see King Vegeta, Spopovich, and Babidi present as well. The game also has the characters that were added to the European Wii release of BT2. There's over 160 characters this time around. At this point it'd probably be harder to name a character who's not in the game. You'll also get three different base versions of Goku, representing his growth throughout the series, and two different versions of Piccolo. The roster definitely won't disappoint DBZ fans, that's for sure.



    I won't go too far into the technical side of BT3. Graphics have been polished up a bit from the previous game, and the music is the same good, if not a bit generic, anime-inspired stuff that the series has had since day one. You still have the option to switch to Japanese voices, as well, however the long-rumored option to be able to switch to the Japanese music is still absent. Overall the game looks better than ever, and still sounds great, as well, though if you're a veteran of the BT series, you'll undoubtedly notice a lot of recycled VO work. Also, the game's overall presentation is a step up from the Wii version of BT2. BT3 doesn't feel like a port of a PS2 game, like the previous game did. It really feels like a game made from the ground-up for the Wii (probably because it was!). 


    When it's all said and done, recommending this game is a bit of a waste of time. If you're a DBZ fan, you're going to get it. And rightfully so, as it's probably the best 3D DBZ game ever (though some will still argue Budokai 3's superiority to the BT series). More characters, more stages, a deeper fighting system, and a (albeit broken) online mode make this game a must-own for DBZ fans. Non-DBZ fans would do well to check it out, as well. As long as time is taken to get over the admittedly large learning curve the Wii Remote controls pose, players will find one of the best fighters the Wii has to offer.  


    < Spencer's Note: While Levi's been messing around with the DBZ: BT3 Wii (3×3!) I have the online-less PS2 version. The bonus PlayStation 2 owners get is the disc fusion system, which lets players unlock extra modes with older Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi games. If you have DBZ: BT1 lying around you get the ranking mode, DBZ: BT2 gives players the course mode. It's a neat feature, but you have to run through the disc fusion dance each time you want to play the ranking mode. This would have been much better if you could permanently unlock ranking mode, but it's possible not all of the data is contained on the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 disc. The feature isn't really comparable to having online play, even laggy online play with no one in the lobby at 5AM. >


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