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Dragon Ball Z Budokai (GameCube) artwork

Dragon Ball Z Budokai (GameCube) review

"I love Dragon Ball Z and I always get harassed by my parents and my girlfriend about it. It’s something that seems to be part of my life nowadays and no matter how many times I get the third degree about my pile of video cassettes and Graphic novels I still find myself reading them or watching the show quite frequently. However, when it comes to playing Dragon Ball games, I’m usually a little wary. I’ve played a good few of them on various systems, some of them have been great fun like DBZ: ..."

I love Dragon Ball Z and I always get harassed by my parents and my girlfriend about it. It’s something that seems to be part of my life nowadays and no matter how many times I get the third degree about my pile of video cassettes and Graphic novels I still find myself reading them or watching the show quite frequently. However, when it comes to playing Dragon Ball games, I’m usually a little wary. I’ve played a good few of them on various systems, some of them have been great fun like DBZ: Hyper Dimension on the SNES and DBZ: Ultimate Battle 22, which stands today as the best Dragon Ball Z fighting game of all time.

Budokai was the first next-gen DBZ game which was released on the PS2. I heard mixed opinions, people saying that it was a fantastic step up for the series and was an original fighting game with lots of innovative features. Others said that the game was rife with flaws and needed a stack of improvement to make it a worthy fighter. When the Gamecube version came out, I tasted it for myself and I wasn’t that impressed. I’d tasted the superior sequel and the flavour was a lot sweeter , so this game landed in my doomed collection of licensed games.

The flaws of Budokai start to form at the very basic parts of the game. Budokai’s control scheme is so slippery and rusty that pulling off moves is hell. Unfortunately, the layout of the Gamecube controller is also a little awkward as well, which doesn’t’ make things any easier. To perform a decent Ki move, such as the Kamehameha the you have to press A four times and then press the Ki button. It takes time to pull off the move and you can get clobbered when pulling off the combo, which doesn’t help. Some moves need a directional punch or kick in the combo. If both fighters connect with a physical attack at the same time then they go into burst mode. This is seen in the show a lot, when two characters throw punches at each other for ages and dodge the shots coming at them. In the game, it’s so boring as the two characters will attack each other for ages but nothing really happens, leaving the player out of the fight for a while.

In order to pull off moves you need to gather a considerable amount of Ki, this can be gathered by performing physical attacks or doing the constipation move than Dragon Ball Z is famed for. Unfortunately, when you charge up all it does is leave you wide open, the chances are that you’ll just get a kick in the face for doing it.

At the top of the screen, near your health bar you have a small yellow bar which tells you your energy level. This allows you to pull off better specials and can allow certain characters to transform into more powerful incarnations. Goku can use the Kaio-Ken and turn Super Saiyan, while Vegeta can also go Super Saiyan and then transform into Super Vegeta. Some characters, such as Freeza or Cell, can transform into their ultimate forms when they get past level six. The problem is that gathering Ki is so awkward to pull off and even more awkward to maintain. If you pull off the constipated headache position for long enough you can max out quite quickly but your Ki will go down after you pull off an energy attack or is you transform into a higher form.

The main mode in Budokai is the story mode, which allows you to play through the key events in the Dragon Ball Z story, from “The arrival of Raditz” to the demise of Cell. To unlock characters, you must defeat them in story mode. For example, after the battle with Raditz is over, he becomes a playable character. This happens with all secret characters, excluding Mr. Satan, who is unlocked if you win the stressful Tenka’ichi Budokai. Some concepts in the story mode are great and capture the manga/anime vividly while others are just beyond stupidity. Just take a gander at this lunacy:

~ Kuririn is accidentally absorbed by Cell because he pushes #18 out of the way of Cell’s tail. Cell suddenly shrinks into a small orange Cell Junior with Kuririn’s face and the Kame Sen’nin emblem separated between his bug like wings. Then, he is bullied Tenshinhan and Yamcha, the weakest Z fighters.

If you thought that was bad, and if you didn’t then I don’t know what’s wrong with you, look at this next heart rendering moment:

~ Vegeta gets upset because Nappa died, (even thought Vegeta killed Nappa). After Vegeta avenges Nappa’s death by destroying Goku, Kuririn and Gohan, in a challenging series of three matches, where not even a chunk of his health was restored. He gets upset because Yajirobe says he doesn’t want to “end up dead like that Saiyan”. His insolence increases Vegeta’s rage, transforming him into a Super Saiyan.

This is flawed because Vegeta didn’t really give a crap about Nappa after he destroyed him. Even in the kiddie anime, Vegeta cared little about Nappa’s demise.

Apart from these main flaws the story mode is accurate enough but the faulty controls with their annoying layout make fights very dull and rusted. . It’s a no win situation with what’s good being dragged down by the awkward fighting mechanism and the bad stuff is moulded to a macabre representation of all that is Dragon ball Z.

If you want to be tortured some more then you can choose “World Match,” a sticky recreation of the Tenka’ichi Budokai. There are three modes of the tournament, each has a different number of entrants and the difficulty level is also changed. In Novice, you fight in a small three battle tournament, in adept you fight a four battle and in advanced you go into a five battle. The tournament fights are little different than regular battles because you can be eliminated if you are knocked out of the arena. The problem here is that the opponent can hit you three times and sent you flying out. You can pound the opponent with combos, special ki attacks or just random kicks and punches , after they get the beating of their lives they can get up, kick you once and eliminate you from the contest. It’s hardly fair, especially when you’ve struggled all the way to the top and get eliminated with one kick.

If you do win or get a runner up spot at the tournament, you’ll be awarded with a large amount of Zeni, the currency of the DBZ world. If you collect a nice sum of Zeni, you can go over to Mr. Popo’s capsule shop where you can buy moves and accessories for characters. There are three types of skills, physical skills are mainly punching combos or throws, while Special skills include transforming and new attacks. Finally, you can also collect Support capsules which hand out items like the Senzu bean or armour. You can also edit the skills of all of the unlocked characters to build the perfect fighter. If you want you can shuffle moves around to a certain extent but you can’t change every move, for example, Piccolo cannot learn the Kamehameha and Raditz cannot learn the Spirit bomb.

You buy new moves and add it on to a particular character and when you have built your character up by giving him his greatest moves, you can try him out in the tournament by selecting “custom” at the character selection screen. It’s a handy feature but the appeal dies quickly after you’ve tried it a few times. Also, if you purchase a few capsules you can also collect all seven of the Dragon Balls. With all of these you can successfully use all of their physical and their special moves, it’s a shame that you have you have to go through all of that for everyone.

One feature of the game which is relatively fun is “The Legend of Mr. Satan, ”which goes through the basic story of the Cell games but changes it a lot, letting the foolish Mr. Satan take the spotlight. In this mode, you have to fight a number of foes one after another. Some fights are just basic one on one fights while others will have a certain stipulation, such as defeating Vegeta before your health runs out or defeat Tenshinhan and Kuririn without recovering any health. After clashing heads with all of the top Z warriors and ripping through a stack of Cell jrs, you’ll go be eventually thrown against Cell . Don’t let the crap controls ruin Mr. Satan’s rise to glory.

It’s a shame that Budokai’s graphics were no saving grace for the shoddy gameplay. The graphics are really blocky and the polygons are reasonably messy on occasion. They tend to be bright and cartoony which go well with the anime but the basic layout looks rusted. The animation can be choppy on occasion and sometimes the characters look very stiff and cranky. They move like robots most of the time and jerk around slowly. The layout of the characters is a little too bright and colourful for my liking and the polygon layout really makes the fighters look ugly. The fighting arena range from all of the hotspots from the series, Namek, the desert on the Saiyan saga and the Hyperbolic Time Chamber are here but they look plain and lifeless, capturing the authenticity of the series and doing nothing else. They almost look as riveting as a cardboard cut-out, placed behind the characters. The only life they get is when a character uses an all powerful move which wipes out the field, this is replaced by a different picture of a smouldering crater, a little more compelling but not by much.

The dialogue in the game is entirely in Japanese, which can be a blessing or a curse. If you’re a hardcore fan then you may prefer the use of the original Japanese voices instead of the American dub version. This may please the fans but it may annoy anyone who has never seen Dragon Ball before or anyone who has a headache. They sound good but they can get really annoying, especially in the World Match since the announcer doesn’t shut up through out the break between matches. The cut scenes in the story mode are also in Japanese but luckily we have subtitles to fill us in on the goings on. If there were an option to change from English to Japanese then it would’ve helped a bit but at the end of the day, the difference wouldn’t have helped the game that much.

Budokai is stacked with so many flaws that it can be unbearable to play. The control system is so rusty that it makes performing combos a nightmare to do. The “gathering chi” technique is hard to pull off and can lead to you getting the crap kicked out of you. Unfortunately, the skills shop was a good idea as it allowed you to build up a character to his maximum ability but it was boring and it took so long to buy every move for all of the characters. Budokai remains for the hardcore fans only and even hardcore fans may find this game beyond poor. When I play a fighting game, I want action, slick and easy combinations, varied character controls and a solid fighting engine. Budokai possesses none of these qualities so stay well away and play Budokai 2, which was a great improvement.

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Community review by goldenvortex (January 07, 2005)

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