Review: Fight just like Goku- only with just as much training involved!
Dragon Ball Z is probably one of the most successful anime series here in the States. With more games than one can count, it's amazing that developers can keep making games based on the exact same story over and over. The original Dragon Ball Z Budokai series developed by the folks at Dimps managed to keep things fresh enough that de ja vu never really set in. To spice things up, the series eventually moved over to a new developer, Spike, who made a massive change from simplistic anime brawler, to unique 3D fighter. For all of its faults the original Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi at least continued to keep the series fresh. Unfortunately while Budokai Tenkaichi 2 manages to pull a few tricks of its own, it suffers from some serious issues that make it fall short of greatness.
Now, before we dig into the review I should point out that Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 allows players to use either the Wii remote with nunchuck, Classic Controller, or an original Gamecube controller. The game's training mode only teaches players to use the Wii remote and nunchuck. This basically means that the game is going to be a different experience using either of the other two controllers. Also, players will have to look online for the list of controls. Gamefaqs.com is a great website for finding such information. For the sake of this review I will primarily focus on using the Wii remote as the controller.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi for the Playstation 2 attempted to take the 3D fighting game genre as we know it, and flip it on its head by giving players a unique, behind-the-back perspective. Unfortunately this lead to some very poor control issues, as can be seen in the daunting training menu. It isn't so much that Tenkaichi had bad controls, but there was just too much to learn and concentrate on, making it a very unfriendly fighter to newcomers. Tenkaichi 2 manages to take the already complex fighting system and make it harder and less intuitive on the Wii- which always struck me as being a system that was all about simple and intuitive control. This is primarily where the game falters.
For starters simple things such as dashing must be performed by shaking the nunchuck attachment. This takes quite a bit of time to get used to- especially considering that you will need to hold the analog stick and shake the controller to evade attacks. That can be hard for someone who is not left-handed to learn to do. Blocking is performed by either pressing the down button on the Wii remote, or by pointing the Wii remote above the screen. It's a bit too much of a stretch to hit the down button, and it's all too confusing to have to point the remote up when it comes to a split-second action like blocking. This is all further marred by the fact that players then need to anticipate which direction to block using the analog stick. To sum it all up- you probably won't be able to block or evade without ample practice.
The control setup also fails big-time when it comes to jumping and flying. Players are supposed to press the C button to jump and then move the nunchuck up or down to fly, but it is just too easy to shake the nunchuck, causing the fighter to jump and fly up and down uncontrollably. It's just not very useful.
To make matters worse, the more technical the game gets, the more ridiculous the controls become. Throws are performed by holding up on the control stick and shaking the nunchuck. Some specials are performed by holding up on the control stick while pressing the Z and B buttons. Others use the hard-to-reach D-pad on the Wii remote. Knock-backs and chases just get more insane, mixing the control stick with nunchuck movements and other random button presses. Perhaps on paper it makes sense, but in the heat of battle where every millisecond counts, the last thing you want to do is have to remember how to do simple things like jump, block, and throw. It's almost as if they created the game solely for ambidextrous basketball players.
The only really intuitive controls of the game were the standard punch (mapped to the A button), and the standard Ki shot (mapped to the B trigger). Also, by holding A and shaking the Wii remote, players can perform a charge attack without waiting for the charge, which is a benefit. That's really where the benefits end.
The real selling point for the game is supposed to be the motion controls for special moves. While this sounds good on paper, I found this method of attacking to be little more than a bothersome gimmick. For better or worse, there are really only a handful of different movements that result in attacks, and each movement is shared between all of the fighters. For starters, to begin a special attack, players will have to charge up their power meters and hold the Z and B buttons. After that, they simply move the Wii remote in a given direction to perform the attack. Attacks like Kamehameha Waves are performed by moving the Wii remote away from the sensor bar, and then thrusting it back towards the bar. Other attacks are performed by moving the Wii remote above the screen, below the screen, or to the right of the screen. It's good that the movements are universal to all of the fighters, but I found that the level of satisfaction gained by actually going through the movements was marred by the amount of work that goes into actually performing the attacks. One thing is for sure, you can't expect to lay down on the job when it comes to playing this game- you must get up and move.
Tenkaichi 2 does have a few welcome additions that the original was lacking. For instance, players can now transform mid-battle between Saiyan levels. This is one omission that angered many fans of the first Tenkaichi. I will say that it definitely makes the fights more interesting, and it just feels right in the game. Tenkaichi 2 also lets players tag-team during fights, much like the ?Capcom vs.? games. Usually tag-team matches force weak players against strong opponents, to keep things fair. Unfortunately both of these are mapped to the number buttons way at the bottom of the Wii remote and very much out of the range of anyone's thumb.
The Z-item system from the original is back. Players will receive Z-items from shops and missions. Certain Z-items can be equipped, giving characters stat boosts. Some Z-items need to be combined with other Z-items to unlock characters and arenas. If you've played the original there really aren't many surprises here.
The real meat of the game is in the Dragon Adventure mode, or as most games would call it- the story mode. It's essentially a cross between the Z Battle Gate mode from the original Tenkaichi and the story mode from Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3. Players choose which chapter and mission to play, then are dumped out into an overworld map. From here, players can fly around the world and enter the main fight, towns, shops, or sub-missions. As missions are passed, players will gain EXP and other prizes such as Z-items. To be honest the overworld map just felt like a weak attempt to make the game feel more like an RPG. Otherwise, it's a very long mode offering story elements from the Dragon Ball Z and GT series and movies. If you haven't already played the story modes in the other games, you'll have plenty to get excited about here. But of course if you're already familiar with the story, there isn't much new that one hasn't seen before.
The Ultimate Battle mode returns for this sequel. Basically you pick a course (set of enemies) and fight through them until you win. There isn't much of a penalty for losing, so you can retry as many times as you need. The only caveat is that once begun, you must play through the entire course, or else forfeit and lose points. Each win grants EXP points to the player's character, giving them more strength as the game progresses. That's about all there is to it. I thought it was a little reminiscent of Mortal Kombat in the way enemies are stacked up in a totem. That's about where the similarities end.
Tournament mode is the same as any other game in the series. Fight through a series of battles and come out on top to win Zennie, but just beware of getting that ever obnoxious ring-out (that is, obnoxious if you're the one going out of bounds).
Duel mode lets players take on either computer controlled characters or other human players. It's your basic 2-player mode, and unless you're playing with multiple people all the time, you probably won't find yourself using it much. If you do play with 2 players, just know that the game uses split-screen, and it isn't pretty since it cuts down your field of vision.
Training is where you'll be spending most of your time in Tenkaichi 2. As one can gather from the above examples, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to playing the game. I found just going through the training took the better part of an hour and a half. When I was done, I was still very confused, and promptly got destroyed during my second fight. If you do not practice, you can't expect to win. This goes double for anyone attempting to use the Wii remote.
Those people who are patient enough to play through the entire game can expect to unlock over 120 characters, and several different arenas. Tenkaichi 2 definitely gives fans more of what they want. The standard characters like Goku and Piccolo are here along with some odd choices like Yajirobe and Goku's grandpa Gohan.
Visually the game uses the same cel-shading as every other Dragon Ball Budokai game before it. It does look a bit nicer than the original Tenkaichi by featuring some good blur effects while flying around the map-screen, and just all around colorful graphics. The opening movie is also really well done, much like the first Tenkaichi. Still, this is a next generation machine, and considering that it's supposed to be at least twice as powerful as the GameCube, the visuals just don't show it. The game doesn't look like it was improved much over the Playstation 2 build. Still, anyone who knows anything about gaming will tell you that the Wii's appeal never has been its graphics. DBZ Budokai Tenkaichi 2 does run in progressive scan and widescreen for those of you who own the Wii component cables, so at least it will look nice on the majority of TVs.
Audio isn't anything different than what we've come to expect from a DBZ game. The game uses the same voice actors as the show, and features the ability to choose between Japanese and English voices. Sound effects are all clear, and all taken from the show. The music is same-old same-old. It's not bad, but it's nothing spectacular- it just works for the series.