Review: Just a few ki gauges short of a Spirit Bomb
I'm truly torn about Dragon Ball Z as a series. For the life of me, I just can't understand why I keep coming back to the show, especially considering how discriminating I am of my anime plots. For some reason, there's just an addictive quality to the mythology of Goku, Vegita, Piccolo, and the others. Perhaps it's the loose ties the original Dragon Ball had to the Chinese legend of Saiyuki and Goku, the Monkey God. Maybe it's the endless drama of the Earth being in peril. Us Dragon Ball-ites really can't explain it, suffice to say, we just can't get enough big hair and flashy fireballs. Whatever the reason, Dragon Ball Z fans can now rejoice that one of their favorite series has now gone portable and is more than a success. It was only a matter of time before developer Dimps brought their popular Dragon Ball Budokai series to the small PSP screen. But don't just write Shin Budokai off as a simple cliff note to the Dragon Ball mythos. Where the other Budokai titles rehash the plot of the entire Dragon Ball Z series, Shin Budokai focuses on one of the movies (?Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn?), and for better or worse, the game gives players something a little different from the console games.
Since the console Budokai games used roughly every button on the big controllers, PSP was going to be in for a challenge with its limited input options. This in mind, Dimps changed around the control scheme. The solution is that while the four face buttons are mapped nearly the same way (the kick maneuver was replaced with power hit), the L button simply powers players up, and the R button works as a sort of context sensitive speed controller, letting players give chase to the enemy. Super moves have been simplified immensely. Players can shoot their minor projectiles (Kamehameha waves, Galick Gun, etc.) using only the forward and circle buttons. Powerful super moves are mapped to the up and circle buttons, transformations are performed using down and circle, and remote area attacks are performed using back and circle.
Also unlike the console Budokai games, Shin Budokai gives characters every possible move in their move set right from the start. Capsules have been done away with, which means that character editing is nonexistent. For some this may be a good thing, but it does hurt the game a bit considering that all characters are roughly the same despite the aesthetic differences, and all strategy that went into character editing is now gone. Still, with the control changes in place and the fact that players can't get ridiculously over powered, Shin Budokai does feature a more reasonable challenge than its console brethren, and challenge is always a good thing.
Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai features three modes of play- Dragon Road, Survival, and Arcade. The Survival and Arcade modes are pretty much self-explanatory, and if you've ever played a fighting game before, you will know what they consist of. Dragon Road is basically the story mode of the game featuring text dialogue scenes surrounding several series of battles. Unfortunately something must have been lost in translation. The dialogue rarely ever makes any since, so unless you've seen the movie Shin Budokai is based off of, you won't have any idea of what is going on. The plot features something about rifts in time and space, and Hell (No, not HFIL, Hell). After certain battles, players can choose what path to take in the story, but it really doesn't matter seeing as the story just plain doesn't make since anyway.
With the absence of the familiar Budokai capsule systems, Dimps added a lame card edit mode. Each player gets their own card, and the card is only seen in multiplayer mode. This basically means that the card is pointless. You can spend the zennie you earn in the game modes to purchase new images to place on the card in order to make it look cooler, but it isn't half as rewarding as the old capsule system used to be. The card system is definitely an afterthought that needs to be reworked for (hopefully) future installments of Shin Budokai.
Visually Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai looks fabulous on the PSP. The backgrounds are sparse, as is to be expected with a Dragon Ball title, but the character models look great. From what I've seen, no slow-down can be found anywhere in the game.
In the audio department, Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai pays perfect homage to its console brethren. Electric guitar rifts play during every fight, and all of the character voices are intact during battle. It's probably a good thing that there aren't voiceovers during the dialogue scenes- it probably would have turned the game into a proverbial Zero Wing if there had been. Not everyone will love the audio, but if you've seen Dragon Ball Z, or played any of the Budokai games, you know what to expect.