Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 ReviewRush Montgomery III
With a name like Dragonball Z - Budokai Tenkaichi 3, you expect bold things, and boy does this game deliver. I am about to step forth and utter the ultimate blasphemy, but I was never a big fan of Dragonball Z. I know there are many of you who will immediately blacklist me from your cool list, but I will say that although it looked very interesting and the anime was really nice, I was just never really into it. That's not to say that you necessarily have to be a fan of Dragonball Z to love this game, which is where I find myself now.
Even without prior knowledge of the Dragonball Z Universe, it's still pretty easy to pick up on the storyline of this game. This guy hates this guy, etc., etc. and they all come together to do battle. There are at least 150 characters to choose from. They certainly don't skimp on dealing out the characters and sub-characters of DBZ. From what I gather, one of the main DBZ characters is Goku (see? Complete DBZ noob). There are plenty of individual storylines for each character, so if you're a fan of DBZ you can know that it's very possible that your favorite character is represented here. If you're not a fan of DBZ, just know that you totally don't have to know the storyline to fully appreciate this game for what it is, a very pretty, fluid and fully-entertaining fighting game.
Before I get into how this game plays, I have to say that it looks fabulous. As is the norm in this day and age, everything is 3D polygons, but it has a really nice flat shading and a simple texture look which makes it very true to what I've seen of the cartoon. In honor of this game review I took the time to go back and watch a little bit of the Dragonball Z series. I'm helplessly lost since there appears to be around 1.5 million episodes of Dragonball Z, but I can say that many of the characters and special moves in the show have made it to this game.
Besides the standard Duel mode and a story mode (called Dragon History) there is a section of play called Ultimate Battle, which includes options to level your character's stats, play 100 unlockable missions, Survival Mode and a "Disc Fusion" system which allows you to insert older versions of Dragonball Z : Tenkaichi to unlock game modes from those older versions. Throughout all the various modes and mountain of menus and submenus, there is a metric ton of replay value. Pretty much everything you could ever want in a fighting game is represented here in spades. The fighting system is intuitive and shares a lot of style with Street Fighter-style fighting games. There are standard punch/kick moves, special moves, super attacks, and staggering combos that can go on seemingly forever. The fights are extremely fluid, featuring some really dynamic and impressive camera work. There are lots of air battles, massive effects for special moves and combos, teleportation and trash-talking galore. I really can't say enough how beautiful this game is, but I also want to make it clear that this is a really great 3D fighting game.
Duel Mode is your standard versus fare, with two players duking it out for supremacy. The camera system really does a great job keeping everyone on screen even when things escalate to the air and start to get frantic. There are 20 levels to fight on, and each sets a mood that gives each fight a fresh feel. The music goes a long way in building the tension of the matches, and the sound effects for the different moves are really nice and share a lot of sounds from the Dragonball Z series. I tend to consider myself somewhat of a fighting game snob, and there aren’t many games that I would consider great fighting games and - believe it or not - this is one of them. Two-player battles are intense, a lot of fun.
Dragon History breaks the story mode up into Sagas from different eras of the Dragonball Z series. I don't think I can stress enough that I am a DBZ illiterate, but I know enough to realize that they are attempting to reenact scenarios from the series. Each match represents a different major battle from DBZ lore, with plenty of dialogue and intense, bone-crushing conflicts.
I very rarely like games based on popular properties. Either I don't know anything about the property and it messes up my enjoyment of the experience, coming in knowing that there is a ton of back story that I feel left out of, or it's a property that I am obsessed over and I feel the game never lives up to my expectations. The great thing about Dragonball Z : Tenkaichi Budokai 3 is that I found myself in a position where the game was great enough that I really didn't even need to be concerned with the back story. I am sure that with this much attention to detail, if you're a fan of DBZ you're going to be well impressed.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.