Dragon Ball Z video games are nothing new in the U.S.1 and Japan, but fans have long been waiting for a deep, 3D fighting game that does justice to the frenzied action of the animated series. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, a new fighting title from Infogrames, should kick off a new era of button-mashing brutality on the PlayStation 2.
The game covers the DBZ saga from its inception to the Cell period, and includes enough playable characters to satisfy even the most ardent fans of the anime. Any arguments about who is the most powerful fighter will soon be settled on your television screen.
Budokai offers many of the standard features you’ve come to expect from fighting games, but adds a DBZ twist to each of them. For example, the energy meter that allows you to perform special moves is actually a “Ki Gauge” that measures your power levels. If you want to, say, transform into a Super Saiyan or execute a Spirit Bomb attack, you’d better be sure you’ve got the Ki to spare.
The primary goal in each battle is to deplete your opponent’s Health Gauge. Your secondary goal is to prevent him or her from doing the same thing to you. As you take your licks, the bar will change color from a healthy green to orange–the internationally recognized color of poor health.
Moves are executed by hitting a combination of the action buttons and directions on the control pad. The control pad allows you to jump into the air to continue a fight above ground, or to rotate around the opponents on the ground.
The “Burst Zone” feature offers a fighting technique unique to the genre. Should two combatants strike each other simultaneously with energy punches, the game will enter a hyper fast fighting mode that requires each player to rotate the control stick. If you rotate the stick faster than your opponent, you’ll land a devastating punch upon exiting the mode.
Most players will begin in Story Mode, which introduces each fight with a cinema scene featuring voice talent from FUNimation’s English-language version of the show. As you defeat your opponents, you’ll unlock playable characters and new moves.
The special moves themselves–along with other useful items–are contained in Capsules that you can either earn or buy. You’ll have to earn the money, or Zenie, by winning World Tournaments.
World Tournament Mode is the centerpiece of the game–it is subtitled Budokai, or “martial arts tournament,” after all. Each single-elimination tournament has a randomly generated draw that you must fight through to win your spending money.
You’ll probably find yourself going back to World Tournament mode again and again to prove your mettle–and to pick up new skills. More importantly, you’ll need a lot of Zenie to purchase the most valuable items of all: Dragon Balls. Try to come up with a wish quickly–Dragon Ball Z: Budokai comes out this winter.
■ 6 Game Modes
■ 23 Playable Characters
Androids 16, 17, 18 and 19
■ 9 Battlegrounds
Cell Games Ring