Ultimate Tenkaichi is easily the best looking Dragon Ball Z game I've ever seen. The characters look just like the popular anime series, complete with intense action and all of
the characters you've come to know and love. On the surface it looks like it has everything going for it. There's just one problem -- Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is one
of the worst fighting games to come out in the last ten years.
While I wouldn't call myself a super fan of the series, I have found a lot of enjoyment in a number of the past Dragon Ball Z games. They might not be the deepest fighting
games, but they generally have enough characters and charm to make them worth taking a look at. I expected Ultimate Tenkaichi to be more of the same. Boy was I wrong.
Bandai's newest fighting game is so shallow that it makes last year's Tenkaichi Tag Team look like Virtua Fighter 5. The game is so shamelessly simple that I started to wonder
if I was missing something. Sadly I wasn't.
Even hardcore fans of the series will agree that Dragon Ball Z has never been known for its complex fighting mechanics. The fun of the game is flying around huge environments
and wielding almost superhuman special moves. You didn't have to worry about learning character specific moves or any of the nonsense found in other fighting games, because in
this series everybody controlled exactly the same. The developers would make up for this shortcoming by giving people exciting stages and tons of characters to choose from.
Unfortunately, Ultimate Tenkaichi throws all of this out the window.
Despite its beautifully rendered polygonal graphics, this newest Dragon Ball Z game is basically a 2D fighter. Oh sure, the camera likes to swoop all around these two
combatants, but that's just for show. When it comes down to it you have very little control over where you go and what you do in a fight. You no longer have to worry about
flying around the level, hiding behind the environments and all of the things you've come to expect from a Dragon Ball Z. In this game the two fighters are never more than a
few inches from each other.
What makes this even more frustrating is the simplified gameplay. Even though the training mode talks about a smash attack (the "Y" button), you really only need to worry about
the rush attack (the "X" button). Just as long as you keep mashing the "X" button you will keep getting hits. I never once had to worry about any of the other buttons; I just
kept hammering that one button until my opponent had enough.
It's common to rack up a 30 - 40 hit combo by only a few button presses, none of which require special timing or button combinations. From time to time you'll punch your
opponent across the screen, but that's okay because the game automatically shoots you to his location to keep the combo alive. Even the combo breaker is extremely simple,
making each player choose between two types of attacks. If you guess the same move as the attacker you'll break his combo and have a chance to start your own assault. Like
everything else in this game, the combo breaker is more about luck than actual skill.
Having spent much of my life learning to count animations, perform incredibly complicated combos and memorize special moves, I was horrified by how simple the combat in Ultimate
Tenkaichi is. It's not a stretch to say that there were battles where all I did was hit the "X" button. I ended up having more fun seeing what I could do at the same time as
playing this Dragon Ball Z game. Even when I was in the kitchen, checking email and generally keeping my eyes off the TV, I still had no problem beating the endless parade of
familiar faces. For as exciting as the action looks on screen, it requires almost no input from the player.
Speaking of the excitement on screen, I found myself growing bored with the same special moves, same levels and same action. Even when I was fighting new characters, all of the
action ended up playing out the same. There are some explosive events that happen in the middle of the rounds (including massive fireballs that blow the world wide open), but
all that got boring after seeing it several times in a row. There's simply no variety here. The fireballs all look the same and the hand-to-hand combat is unsatisfying. For
as exciting as it looks, this is often a very boring experience.
Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is an incredible looking game that is marred by one of the worst fighting engines I've ever seen. If you're a fan of lengthy (and unskippable) conversations, fights that go nowhere and button mashing, then this is the game for you. It's as if the developers went in and took out everything that was good about past Dragon Ball Z games. You don't need Super Saiyan powers to know to avoid Ultimate Tenkaichi!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!