Dragon Ball Z Battle of Z review: They really dropped the Dragon Ball on this one

Kuanyi Twang

Bandai Namco (formerly known as Namco Bandai) has been mass publishing and developing pseudo-competitive games based on popular anime series at a rate that would put the automobile industry to shame. Just off the top of my head, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, One Piece Pirate Warriors, and Naruto Shipuuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm were some of their latest offerings, and all of those games have one thing in common: while they accurately captured the feel of the works they were based on, they were pretty terrible games by traditional standards, having little to no appeal to anyone not already familiar with their respective series.

Sadly, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z (DBZ: BoZ) is no different from its predecessors, and that really is a letdown because the game has a lot of potential to be something great, but is chained down by repetitive and wonky combat mechanics, artificial difficulty and an A.I. that will have you raging so hard you might just go Super Saiyan.

The good: It’s bad, but not ugly

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For real, this game looks great. The character models and backgrounds look pretty darn accurate in comparison to the anime and manga, and while the graphics are not cutting edge or next gen-level, the game looks, and – more importantly – feels like how a Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) game should. The sound effects and music are also spot on, and everything combined really helps to create an immersive experience. You know, if being immersed into a game that isn’t very enjoyable is your kinda thing.

There are, however, a few core parts of Dragon Ball Z that are sadly missing in this game. One of the big ones is the ability to transform. In the DBZ games of old, transforming was a gimmick, where you had to fulfill certain conditions during battle in order to perform, and every time you powered up your character would be noticeably stronger and, even more noticeably, cooler looking.

In this game, each character form appears as a separate character, and there is no way to transform in the middle of a fight. I’m pretty sure the reason is so that they can boast about having a larger roster by having six different Goku forms, but it’s really a bummer, because everyone knows that transforming in front of the enemy is cool. The Power Rangers do it all the time and they are pretty much the coolest people ever.

Also, in this game you can’t do the DBZ signature ‘Power squat while screaming’, to raise your ki levels and make the pebbles around you shake violently. To people who don’t follow DBZ, this may seem ridiculous, but every DBZ fan knows that deep in their heart they want nothing more than to scream for ten minutes, while onlookers gape in awe of their incredible power while sweating.

Squats and oats, every day.

Squats and oats, every day.

All that glitters is gold, but gold isn’t always better

You might be thinking, if Super Saiyan 3 Goku and regular Goku are both on the roster, why would I pick the original Goku? Bamco’s answer is that there is a penalty system for using more powerful characters, where ‘weaker’ characters are allowed to respawn more times during a fight as compared to the more ‘powerful’ ones. Why am I using inverted commas? Because after playing the game for eight hours I came to the conclusion that the power difference between these various forms is negligible, and in fact, sometimes I found that the ‘weaker’ character forms had better movesets and utility than the supposedly more powerful ones.

I say that the difference is negligible because, although being initially a breeze to play through, the game quickly becomes excruciatingly difficult, regardless of which character you pick. Playing through mission mode, there were some enemies who I had to combo over 15 times just to kill, and that isn’t even the worst part.

The most painful part of this game easily is that, if I had to liken this game to playing competitive DotA, the enemy A.I would be Na’Vi, and your team A.I. would be a rag tag group of ten year-olds who somehow got on their brother’s computers, each with a ping of about 500. Often times you will find your A.I. simply standing around doing nothing, even after being given in-game commands to launch a full-scale assault or to focus fire on one enemy.

However, the enemy A.I. brutally targets you, and boss characters seem to have super armor, the ability to escape a combo even when getting hit, and other strange techniques that are not listed in the game manual nor explained during the tutorial. (I did figure out that you can effectively dodge while blocking by pressing a directional button after blocking an attack, but I had to learn to do it all on my own, like a chimpanzee watching his mother smashing a walnut open with a rock.)

Bad mechanics make this game too ka-me-ha-me-hard

Only one of these 5 characters is not named after a vegetable. Yes, it is the one which actually looks like a vegetable.

Only one of these 5 characters is not named after a vegetable. Yes, it is the one which actually looks like a vegetable.

 

There are also numerous combat mechanic issues that really make the fights tedious. One of the big systems in the game is known as the ‘Meteor Chain’, where you and your teammates take turns sending the opponent flying over large distances in a chained combo. The problem with this is that you can’t choose the direction in which you send your opponent flying, so more often than not the chain is broken simply because your character decided to slam the enemy straight down into the ground, ending the chain.

Another problem is that the lock-on system is pretty flawed. The battles are pretty fast-paced and there are situations where there are up to eight enemy characters to cycle through when choosing which to target, and the flawed lock-on can get pretty irritating, especially when you’re coming under enemy fire. I found that I had to start every match holding down block, simply because I had to block while choosing which foe I wanted to attack so I wouldn’t take heavy damage at the start of the match. The camera angles also sometimes change due to you hitting your enemy or you getting hit, and you lose your lock, which is beyond frustrating.

The lock on system seems to choose the next target based on horizontal enemy positioning, not who is closest to you, so it won’t automatically help you choose targets who are the biggest threats. I think you have to play the game to truly appreciate just how frustrating this can get at times.

This last issue I have with the way combat works is really a combination of the two main issues I have, concerning the retarded A.I. and the poorly fleshed out combat mechanics.

I can think of at least four characters in this game who are literally monkey’s uncles.

I can think of at least four characters in this game who are literally monkey’s uncles.

 

One of the big mechanics in the game is reviving; when you lose all your hp, a timer will count down, and if a teammate manages to get to you in time and help you get up, you respawn with less hp but no additional team penalties. If the timer counts down and no one comes to your aid, you respawn with all your hp, but it costs your team a revive point. Your team loses the match once you run out of revive points, so technically, if you and your teammates keep helping each other up, you can’t lose.

But when you factor in how stupid the A.I. is, they revive you about 20% of the time, sometimes instead choosing to simply stand around doing nothing like they do best. And because when the A.I. die it costs you revive points, more often than not you spend a large portion of the match playing medic, flying around the map reviving teammate after teammate instead of doing any actual fighting. This really ruins the fun of the game for me. I’m not sure how others who enjoy playing the Medic on Team Fortress 2 feel about taking on that team role.

In conclusion, this game really is a letdown for me because I know Bamco can do better. I’m a long-time fan of their Gundam Vs. series, which is well known for its impeccable balance and enjoyable gameplay. I wish that they would put that level of effort into making all the other anime/manga IPs just as polished and competitive play-worthy, and although this game is a step in the right direction to capturing how a DBZ game should play, it simply falls short in too many areas to be enjoyable for more than a few hours to even the most hardcore DBZ fans.

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PS Vita.

(Photos: Bandai Namco)

The post Dragon Ball Z Battle of Z review: They really dropped the Dragon Ball on this one appeared first on Games in Asia.


The post Dragon Ball Z Battle of Z review: They really dropped the Dragon Ball on this one appeared first on Games in Asia.