Between Raging Blast, Burst Limit, Ultimate Tenkaichi and even an ill-conceived Kinect entry, Dragon Ball Z has been all over the place in the past few years. With so many variations, it's starting to feel like Bandai is flailing around throwing ideas at the wall hoping something sticks. Every new title is trying to recapture the magic of the PlayStation 2-era Budokai games, yet constantly coming up short. With this generation of consoles coming to a close and so many ideas already tried, what is a company to do? If you're Bandai, you quickly toss together Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Originally released in 2002 on the GameCube and PS2, Budokai was something of a revelation. Not due to being a stellar fighting game that could rival Soul Calibur or Virtua Fighter, but rather because it was the first Dragon Ball Z game to not be an epic failure. Up until that point there had only been a few adventures starring Goku, and not a single one of them was worth playing. Budokai changed that, giving fans of the popular anime series some hope.
Although presented using crisp polygonal character models and not 2D sprites, the original Budokai is essentially a 2D fighting game. Players are given the usual punch, kick and block buttons, as well as an energy attack that shoots fireballs. Moves are pulled off by completing a series of lengthy button combos, usually leading to an impressive animation that blasts a good chunk of heath off of the opponent's life meter. While it's not a perfect system, I'll give it this: Budokai is one of the few 2D fighting games that does not feel like a blatant rip-off of Capcom's Street Fighter II.
The story is told through a series of cleverly constructed summary videos. They tackle three different sections of the "Dragon" tale, including the Saiyan Story, Namekian Story and the Android story. The cinemas don't mince words; they are quick and to the point. They do a good job of setting up rivalries, establishing motivation and then throwing the characters into one fight after the next.
You start out as Goku, fighting bad guys and earning new moves. Along the way you'll switch between other fighters (including Piccolo and Kid Gohan, among others) and fill in different parts of the story. All told, you're looking at several hours of Dragon Ball Z storytelling (significantly less if you decide to skip all of the cut scenes).
Playing through the long-winded story is how you unlock new characters for the two-player versus mode. Here you'll have a choice between 21 Dragon Ball Z favorites, including Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, Raditz, Krillin, #17, Ginyu, as well as the protagonists found in the story mode. Each of these characters is equipped with their own unique special moves, though a lot of them share similar combos and attacks.
Even though it was technically sound, Budokai feels a bit shallow in retrospect. None of the characters are very deep and the roster is surprisingly small when compared to newer Dragon Ball Z titles. There isn't much to the gameplay, either. Outside of a few combo moves and a few throws, there isn't much to do here. What it did right was mimic the TV show, giving fans hope that eventually Bandai would get it right.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 is Bandai getting it right! Wisely skipping past the poorly-received sequel, this third installment ditches the animated cinemas in favor of an emphasis on character building. You choose one of a handful of popular characters, each with their own stories and fights to undertake. They fly over a giant map, getting into random fights and traveling through time and space. Along the way they'll earn experience, level up their characters, add new moves and ultimately collect all of the dragon balls.
This HD collection gives players the Dragon Ball Z game they've been asking for ... and also brings the original Budokai along for the ride. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection delivers the action you expect, and not much more. A few questionable design decisions, shallow fighting mechanics and a complete lack of online play makes this yet another disappointing HD compilation!
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!