Dragon Ball Z’s Console Lineage
Dragon Ball Z first appeared on Japanese television in 1989. It took nearly seven years to make its way to North America. The show first showed up on American television in 1996, but a lack of interest forced the show’s cancellation prematurely. It wasn’t until Cartoon Network began to broadcast the series in 1998 that it found an audience and became the important part of North American anime culture that it is today.
Dragon Power (1988) – Dragon Power is not based on Dragon Ball Z. Instead, it is based on the prequel series, Dragon Ball, which covers the adventures of protagonist Goku when he was a child. It’s worth bringing up, however, because by an odd series of technicalities, this is the first Dragon Ball console game that came to North America.
A bizarre series of changes were made to the game before release that effectively hid most of the direct Dragon Ball references, and the box art for the game was changed entirely. Character and object names were changed from things like Bulma and Dragon Ball to Nora and Crystalballs. The music was also re-recorded and the Kamehameha became the Wind Wave. North American children were not familiar with Dragon Ball, so some localization was understandable, but most things were changed to equally unknown things. I can’t imagine the concept of Crystalballs being more or less understandable than the concept of Dragonballs to young players.
We played the game recently on an episode of Replay. We start playing Dragon Power around 23:24
Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout (1997, re-release 2004) – Another confusing release, Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout released in 1997 during Dragon Ball Z’s first stab at American television. The game covers an era that takes place much later in the Dragon Ball Z timeline, one that wouldn’t air on TV until much later. Even if there were a few fans seeking out a Dragon Ball game at that time, they might have been confused to see a version of Goku partially covered in red fur on the cover of the game.
Final Bout eventually saw a re-release in 2004, after the show had garnered a signigicant fan base of players.
Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 (2003) –Ultimate Battle 22 released in Japan in 1995. When the show started picking up steam, publisher Namco Bandai saw an opportunity, and localized the game for North America. It released here as a new PlayStation game nearly three years after the PlayStation 2 ‘s launch, and it received terrible reviews.
PlayStation 2 and GameCube
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (2002) – The first Budokai marked the beginning of the Dragon Ball Z video game frenzy in North America. Japan had a number of Dragon Ball and Z games for the Super Famicon and PlayStation that never made it over here, but 2002 marked the year that Dragon Ball Z would become a video game staple for English speakers and become an annualized (and then some) franchise. The game featured a measly (by Dragon Ball Z standards) 23 fighters and the typical fighting game modes.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 (2003) – With the release of Budokai 2, Dragon Ball Z began its yearly release schedule. The game upped the roster to 31 characters, changed the single-player structure by adding a board game element, and offered fused fighters for the first time.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 (2004) – Budokai 3's roster jumped up to 42 fighters and was the first Budokai game to dive into Dragon Ball GT storyline.
Dragon Ball Z: Sagas (2005) – Sagas was not a fighting game, but was instead an RPG developed by Avalanche Software, which would later go on to create Disney Infinity. Despite moving into a genre that seems perfect for the Dragon Ball Z storyline and characters, Sagas proved to be a disappointment with poor reviews. Game Informer gave the game a 5 out of 10.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi (2005) – Dimps created the Budokai series, but with the addition of the word Tenkaichi developer Spike took over. The game nearly doubled the roster of the previous fighter with 81 characters. The camera for battles also shifted slightly sitting at an angle behind your fighter. Its camera would become a staple for the series.
Super Dragon Ball Z (2006) – Super Dragon Ball Z was an arcade game that received a port to PlayStation 2. It had a smaller roster with only 18 characters a shifted focus on its fighting mechanics as opposed to a storyline.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (2006) – Tenkaichi 2 had 129 characters and added additional storyline modes for secondary characters.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (2007) – Tenkaichi 3 had one of the largest rosters of any fighting game with 161 characters. Dan Ryckert and myself played a round of the game during the first Super Replay Showdown. The match begins around 14:16.
Dragon Ball Z: Infinite World (2008) – Things moved back to Dimps for Infinite World and marked Dragon Ball Z's last PlayStation 2 release. Despite the lack of the Budokai subtitle, the game was very similar to that series.
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit (2008) – Dimps continued its work on Dragon Ball Z, and oddly released Burst Limit before Infinite World on PlayStation 2.
Dragon Ball: Raging Blast (2009) – After a successful run with the Budokai Tenkaichi series and a two year hiatus, Spike returned for Raging Blast bringing back the atypical for a fighting game camera angle.
Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 (2010) – Raging Blast 2 changed the story structure by adding more choices, but basically retained the same fighting engine of the original Raging Blast.
Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi (2011) – Despite Raging Blast and its sequel retaining many of the same elements of the Budokai Tenkaichi series, and being developed by the same team, it wasn't until 2011 that Spike decided to recall the Tenkaichi subtitle.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection (2012) – Despite being called the Budokai HD Collection, it only includes two of the three Budokai games. Developer Dimps didn't find Budokai 2 worthy of inclusion as the game only includes HD re-releases of the first and third Budokai games.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z (2014) – Battle of Z is the first Dragon Ball Z game from developer Artdink. It has made games from other popular anime series like Gundam, but this is its first take at Goku's adventure. You can check out a recent video preview for the game below, which releases this month.