The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Developer Artdink’s first take on Dragon Ball Z easily separates
itself from the Budokai and Tenkaichi games of Dimps and Spike. It
expands the spectacle of the combat, making it feel closer to the show
than ever before. What Battle of Z gains in scope, however, it loses in
depth and technical proficiency.
Battle of Z is a fighting game by genre, but it is not a technical
fighter. You won’t be doing quarter-circle forward movements to fire off
a Kamehameha or differentiating between high and low kicks or punches.
You can fire off energy blasts, hammer a single button for melee combo
attacks, and pull of a few special attacks, which are different for each
of the 67 playable characters. Some specials are direct and focused,
while some are wide and can push fighters away. Others, like young
Gohan’s, can provide support and health to teammates. The special
attacks afford room for some teamwork since you can have a crew of
offensive and support fighters, but Battle of Z is far from a
class-based fighting game. In the Vita version of the game, the special attacks are moved from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360's triggers to tapping specific quadrants on the screen. The preference is pressing buttons, but the touch screen controls get the job done without interrupting the flow of fights.
Combat takes place in large arenas where players have full
three-dimensional movement. You can run along the ground or fly through
the air in any direction. The action is flashy, offering a worthwhile
emulation of the fighting seen in the show from a presentation
perspective, but it gets tiresome quickly. Without the technical depth
of other fighting games, or even those of past Dragon Ball Z titles,
battles lack depth and are based on building up your meter from tapping
the same buttons repeatedly to eventually fire off a strong special
Battle of Z feels closer to an action game, but the campaign and
versus structures have you duking it out against singular enemies like
you would in a fighting game. Through the course of the single-player
mode, it didn’t take long for me to lose interest and begrudgingly
wonder how many more missions I would have to complete before reaching
the end. You can also fight alongside (or against) your friends, but
with a catch: you can’t do it via local multiplayer. This decision is
confusing considering the competitive nature of the game, and the
prevalence of comparable modes in previous Dragon Ball Z fighters. If
you want to play with others, you have to go online.
The online Battle Mode offers all-for-one and team modes for up to
eight players, but my favorite mode is the Dragon Ball Grab mode. Seven
Dragon Balls are placed in a large arena and players must grab them,
prevent them from getting knocked out of their hands, and try to knock
them out of the hands of others. This mode removes the focus from pure
fighting, adding variety to the repetitive formula. After hours with the
game, I was happy to play a mode where I could do something different.
Online play is chaotic, especially when up to eight players are
present. Energy blasts fly in every direction, characters who are
punched across the map crash through structures, and competitors can zip
behind and punch you in the back while you’re in the middle of slamming
another foe to the ground. It’s a lot to take in, but feels appropriate
for a Dragon Ball Z game. Every one of the single-player missions is
available to play online in co-op, and teaming up to take on Vegeta in
his gigantic ape form with other players is a dream come true for fans
of the show.
If you are more concerned about recreating the spectacle of Dragon
Ball Z than playing a refined game, you will have a good time here.
Battle of Z values style over substance, but for an anime about super
humans fighting super aliens while flying through the air, maybe it is
the appropriate direction.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.