"The previous games, while encyclopedia-like in scope, were pretty ho-hum as far as actual playability. They ran the gamut of problems from being hardcore button mashers to having an awkward camera. When your fighting game has an awkward camera, it's probably time to start over anyway. And in this case, they went right down to the basics..."
With every new release in the DBZ fighting game franchise, we are rapidly approaching the day when there are as many games as there are episodes in the show. It seems especially redundant given that each game retells the entire story of the anime, and in so doing unlocks nearly every location, character, and technique for the player's use.
But that is actually the draw of the games.Dragon Ball Z itself is often looked down upon, but it's biggest problem has never been the ideas it presented, but the way in which they are presented. To that end, it lends itself to fighting games pretty well, as all the characters share similar core powers, and then branch out into some pretty cool side abilities. It doesn't hurt that it's about large angry men beating the tar out of each other. Unfortunately, a lot of that is gone now. Burst Limit's single player campaign is a shadow of the some of the older ones. There are only about a third as many characters, there's only about a third as much campaign, and all the abilities from the parts of the series that got cut are unsurprisingly absent as well.
But all of that 'fluff' was pushed aside to make room for a more polished multiplayer experience. The initial disappointment gives way under the weight of substantial improvements to the engine.
Firstly, the game is gorgeous, having some of the best cell shading to be found anywhere. It really has a substantial animated cartoon look to it, even though everything is 3d. Everything from the lighting to the debris caused by bodies smashing through layers of rock perfectly capture the tone of the show.
More importantly, however, the previous games, while encyclopedia-like in scope, were pretty ho-hum as far as actual playability. They ran the gamut of problems from being hardcore button mashers to having an awkward camera. When your fighting game has an awkward camera, it's probably time to start over anyway. And in this case, they went right down to the basics.
Like all fighters, the ki gauge (super bar, infinity meter, butt kicking gauge or whatever in other games) is at the center of the strategy in Burst Limit. It provides you with many options, all suited to different things at different times. Whereas the meters are often reserved for limiting your ability to use game breaking special attacks and nothing else, here it also provides you with potent defensive abilities, transformations into different forms, or teleportation powers, all as you see fit. Of course, there are also game breaking super attacks for those who like big explosions, but the point is diversity. At any one time, you have a lot of options.This turns fights into more than a game of "Should I use my super move now, or try to hit them and then use my super move."
Management of the ki gauge, therefore, becomes a primary concern during battles. The bar refills by itself at a fixed rate during combat, so neither side will ever have a massive advantage in ki over the other. Like it or not, you're going to have to learn to deal with your opponent's ki abilities if you want to win. It's kind of a seesaw of mutually assured destruction. Each player jockeying for the right moment to spew ridiculous powers at the other with minimal retaliation.
Quite enjoyable overall.
Beyond that, the rest of combat has seen substantial improvements from the old dial-a-combo mantra that everything fell into in the past. Gone are the days of hitting "punch punch punch punch ki" to shoot a generic beam. No more "punch punch kick punch kick kick ki" to unleash your super. Some moves can be chained into attacks in a way similar to the above, so long combos are possible, but but it's not required in order to do everything.
Even the most potentially annoying parts of combat, the drama pieces, are completely optional. Drama pieces are short cut ins that provide stat bonuses for you and penalties for your opponent, at the cost of making you watch a brief cutscene. They can add a little more depth to the combat, but if frequent pauses in the action bother you, just don't use them.
So then the biggest stumbling block becomes the learning curve. There are only three attack buttons, but then there's a guard button, a button to activate your aura spark. There's a button for throws, one for transformations, a button you hold down to make certain attacks hit harder, for breaking guards and knocking your opponent into the air. Your first few matches will leave your fingers tied in complicated knots. The tutorial is almost mandatory.
After some practice, though, the controls end up being as responsive as other fighters. The game makes use of all the buttons on the controller, but none of the game's attacks require quarter circles or half circles, which some might dislike, but it makes for attacks that come out in an instant.It all feels very clean once you understand the lay of the land.
There really isn't too much to complain about. The game has a bumpy start because of the layout, and the oddly small character select screen. The biggest step back the game takes is in removing a lot of content, but unless the sun rises in the west tomorrow, there's going to be a Burst Limit 2. With the combat itself successfully revamped, additional content is the most likely focus of such a sequel. Still, with such a pool of content already implemented in previous games, it seems almost a slight to see so much removed, but polish is polish and this game certainly plays better than anything else in the franchise.
Freelance review by Josh Higley (July 31, 2008)
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