Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Welcome

We are the media organization that does things ranging from reviewing TV shows and video games, analyzing news in the entertainment industry, and writing a little essay on our opinions of certain subject matters within the media. We originally intended to do videos only but we didn't (and still don't) have the equipment to do so.

Now, we decided to start our organization with written material. Our organization was inspired by other people who were doing the same and I thought "We can doing the same" cause we like entertaining people while making them think at the same time. We planned to keep it real as possible while being professional.


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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkachi 3 Review - The third wave of the 360° movement

Release(s):
                 October 4, 2007 (Japan)
                 November 9, 2007 (Europe)
                 November 13, 2007 (North America)

Platform(s): Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Spike
Publisher(s):
          Bandai (Japan/Europe)
          Atari (North America)
Player(s): 1-2






Overview

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 was in improvement from the first game in just about every way thus leading to become a fan favorite and it received slightly better reviews as a result, but the sales still continue to dwindle. Spike then has decided to pull out all the stops In order for the series to fully escape the shadow of the much more successful Dragon Ball Z: Budokai titles. With a huge marketing campaign and a roster boasting of 160 characters total (including transformations and fusions)... was it all worth it in the end?


Gameplay



Once again the innovative combat system from the last two games. However, Tenkaichi 3 is not the massively overhaul that Tenkaichi 2 is from the first game (not that was even needed) but it still does a lot to improve the combat for a much deeper, more refined experience. Characters now automatically lock onto their opponents so moves designed around fucking around this feature aren't nearly exploitable. Smash Attacks can also done teleporting briefly towards the opponent by charging it then releasing it the moment your character flickers bright to confuse opponents. Several character specific combos have also been added as well as several more button mashy combos from the last game being fixed or removed.

Along with the new offensive moves, tweaks, and character specifics... new defensive maneuvers and movement options have been added. A new dash mechanic called Z Burst Dash can performed during the standard Dragon Dash to travel at much greater speed and move around the stage to appear behind the opponent. Super Guard has been replaced with Sonic Sway which is similar to the counterattack combo chain only this move makes you automatically your opponent's melee combo if it connects draining their ki and smack them away. Not a huge loss though as rush Blast 2's are no longer unblockable... though they still can break an opponent's guard thus making them lose ki. A new counter move has been added called Z Counter which is difficult yet very satisfying to pull off. It allows you to teleport behind the opponent like the defensive teleport to knock them away but unlike said teleport, Z Counter costs some ki and has to timed exactly when the opponent attacks (it's also only effective against melee attacks).

Lastly, the AI has been improved drastically. They now actually provide a reasonable challenge.


Content



With another DBZ game comes yet another new single-player campaign. For this game it is called Dragon History and it goes back to it's roots of simply going from one scenario to another. However, this mode does something different from the others before it as it actually makes you feel like you're in a battle from the show by having the characters exchange dialogue during gameplay and events are predetermined. You also play as the villains occasionally when they win in the actual story instead of beating around the bush by sticking you with the losing heroes this time. On paper this mode sounds great but the execution leaves much to be desired. Firstly, while some may have found the Dragon Adventure in Tenkaichi 2 too long, Dragon History is also too short. Many key battles are mysteriously left out and the whole thing can be completed in 6 hours. Also once you're done with it there's not much reason to bother playing it again except maybe to collect the dragonballs. Most of the characters are already unlocked. Dragon History does promise alternate paths which you can discover during battle but it doesn't take advantage of that concept and there's no reward for it either. At most you just get a different (underwhelming) cutscene at the end.

Tenkaichi 3 also has it's own take on the Ultimate Battle mode from the previous games. The main course here is the Mission 100 where you fight up to 100 different battles against sets of opponents based on a certain theme and they all have different rules. The others challenges are Sim Dragon which is a battle simulation where you are to prepare for a fight in 10 days (the cycle must be completed 10 times without losing) and Survival which is pretty self-explanatory. There is also a feature exclusive to the Playstation 2 version (to make up for the lack of Netplay) called Disc Fusion where you can play through the Ultimate Battle from the first Tenkaichi and Ultimate Battle Z of Tenkaichi 2 if you have working discs of the respective games. Pretty gimmicky if you ask me.

The World Tournament mode has also been changed drastically and is now called Dragon World Tour. It is sectioned off to two sub-modes which are World Tour where you get unlockables but it only allows one player and a tournament is only open at a certain time, and Free where you can mess around with friends. Aside from the that, the 3 tournaments from the last game have returned plus two new ones which are the Otherworld Tournament which is pretty much the Big Martial Arts Tournament except you fight Pikkon in the end instead of Hercule and the Yamcha Game which is pretty much the same deal except your character is randomly selected for you (something the game even acknowledges is stupid).

Training mode is just as barebones as ever with the tutorial (Battle Training) going back to teaching you mostly through cryptic text. Also, as I hinted before the Wii version of this game offered online play though it suffered majorly from lag so it's not a huge loss for PS2 players. The Character Encyclopedia from Tenkaichi 2 has been reduced to just Character References where you look at character bios and their models.

Evolution Z has returned but the customization setting has been revamped to be much more balanced. Character stats can't be beefed up massively like in Tenkaichi 2 and the level up system is gone. Each character start off with a certain amount of slots but can increased up to 7 by generating more with Z-Points (this game's currency) and items can take more than 1 slot depending on their effects. The real upsides to this revamped system is that a bunch of more useful ability improving yellow Z-items have been added, the redundant Z-Item Fusion has been removed, and the Item Shop has been streamlined so you don't have to buy the same item more than once. Once you buy said item it will be available for every character and you don't have to deal with the membership card silliness.  

The Data Center still allows you to insert custom characters via password but you can also view recorded battles from the Dueling mode with Action Replay.


Graphics



Just like the gameplay, the graphics for Tenkaichi 3 isn't massively different from the last game though I would say the character models do appear less block this time. One thing I do have to say is the beams, auras, particle effects, etc. look a lot better in this game. It has much more pizzaz and resembles the anime more closely.


Sound

Once again the voice clips and sound effects are recycled from the last game barring cutscenes, menus, and of course the new characters. More sound effects from the show have been picked up though,

Just like the last game, the Japanese version has remixed tracks from Shunsuke Kikuchi's soundtrack for the original anime series while the international versions of the game gets another original soundtrack by Toshiyuki Kishi. It's not as good as the soundtrack for Tenkaichi 2 but it does it's job well enough plus a few memorable tracks.


Aesthetics



In terms of storytelling in Dragon History, it also falls flat. It's done through in-game cutscenes but the characters are limited to their standard animation during gameplay thus leading to some really awkward scenes like Gohan tagging in just to have Piccolo die at Nappa's hands. It's a  shame that Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, a game that predates this one by 5 years, completely shits all over it while basically doing the same thing.

Storytelling aside though, the look and feel during combat has improved greatly. Every sequence is much more dynamic, all the ki blast attacks feel painful, and all supers/ultimates are catastrophic. it also uses more visual cues from the anime overall.

The menus also continued to get better and better. The character select screen now makes perfect sense (no 'up is down and down is up' mess), the dialogue is more memorable, more bells n' whistles, and there are more than one mini-game during the loading screen (dat loading time tho...).


Overall

Just when you thought Spike was done they still managed to impress with their third installment in the Budokai Tenkaichi series. However, I can't help but feel they have hit a wall with this title.

Now this game gets an 8.1 out of 10...   

Sunday, October 8, 2017

One Piece: Grand Battle Review - Set Sail For a Battle Royal!

Release(s):
    March 17, 2005 (Japan)
    September 7, 2005 (North America)
    October 7, 2005 (Europe)
Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Ganbarion
Publisher(s):

    Bandai/Namco Bandai Entertainment
    Atari (Europe)
Player(s): 1-2






Overview

Ever since it's debut on the Weekly Shonen Jump in 1997, One Piece has proven itself as a juggernaut of a franchise. It's comic has sold over 300 million copies worldwide making the best-selling manga series of all-time and it's one of the biggest money-makers for Toei. In many ways, it has arguably dethroned Dragon Ball from top of the shonen empire. Unfortunately, this success never really caught on with North America (and we know why...) but we did manage to get a few video games at least.

One of those is the game I'm reviewing right now called One Piece: Grand Battle, originally released as One Piece: Grand Battle! Rush in Japan as the fourth and final installment of the Japan-only Grand Battle series. This version is significant different as much of the content is altered and removed as 4Kids hadn't gotten that far with the anime at the time it was released.

But anyways... is the game a buried treasure or a load of barnacles?



Gameplay




The gameplay of One Piece: Grand Battle is similar to that of Power Stone... a 3D arena fighting game where players can interact with the stage by using parts of it as a weapon either it be environmental hazards, objects, or pitfalls but first onto the core combat. The left analog stick allows the play to move his/her character and the face buttons allow you to do jumps, grabs (both opponents and objects), straight attacks, and up attacks while the right trigger allows you to guard. These buttons can be combined to do even more stuff such as basic combo moves, ranged attacks, and specialty moves. Likewise, the left trigger in junction with the face buttons will execute a Super art (which take at least a whole Super Gauge) like tapping the guard button twice will summon a support character to help lay on the damage. They attack in various ways ranging from being aggressive and in the opponent's face to launching projectiles from afar. You can also perform one of two Super Attacks with a 1+2 combination of the face buttons (always involving the front attack) and even a trump card called the Secret Art (which takes all 2 gauges).

The control scheme is pretty much the same for every character though that doesn't mean they don't have their own set of tools to work with and somewhat varied playstyles. As you can tell the combat of Grand Battle is quite simple and it works in it's favor... but at the same time I fear it may be a little too simple. Several moves can be spammed unfairly like the Secret Art move that every character has. It has a fairly long-range, it only consumes Super Gauges if it lands, and it can wipe out more than half the opponent's health if the user is low on health themselves.

Now with all that said and done about the combat, let's talk about the stage interaction aspect. Each stage is has all sorts of obstacles and hazards either it be a wild cow or Alvida going on a rampage if you hit them, or pirates throwing shit at you but items are typically found in treasure chests, crates, and barrels that randomly appear. The chests carry all the goods like Ham to replenish health, running shoes which increase movement speed but makes attack weaker, a shield which increase defense and makes you harder to knock down but you move slowly, a sword which increases strength and makes attacks unguardable but you can't guard yourself, and a gem which makes Super Arts more powerful and allows you to perform a Secret Art perfectly while barrels and crates come with objects for more means of offense like a Poisonous Mushroom, a Beehive to disorient opponent's movement, a Bonfire, a Bomb, and Gaimon who you can use to shoot pistols along with throwing it like all objects. These elements makes the gameplay very chaotic and that's where most of the fun is had. My only complaint is that some stages have a little too much going on within them plus there's no real option to turn any of this shit off nor is there a special stage like Final Destination in the Smash Bros series where there's next-to-no obstacles getting in the way.


Content


One Piece: Grand Battle sports a healthy selection of game modes to choose from. First being Grand Battle which is the standard versus mode where you can either fight the computer or duke it out with a friend with adjustable setting and a stage of choose. 

Next is Story Mode where you pick a character to play through their story and there are 5 battles in total however this game doesn't seem to follow an overarching story. The cutscenes before and after matches do nothing to explain the situation, and the dialogue/reasons that characters have for fighting are pretty damn stupid (not in a good way). Story Mode is also where you get all the unlockable characters which is doable by playing through the mode with all the starting characters but are actually only unlocked through beating it on higher difficulties with certain characters (Luffy and Zolo/Zoro to be more precise). It won't take very long as there's not that many characters (only 14-16 total with 10 being available from the start) and like I said, there's only 5 battles plus a box-destroying challenge bonus stage. 

Third game mode of selection is Mini-Games where you play through a variety of Usopp's Pirates' minigames (originally Davy Back Fight's minigames) with a team of 3 (your choice of course...) such as the box-destroying challenge from Story Mode, cleaning off the snow pile on Drum Castle's rooftop, breaking Don Krieg's armor, a boat racing competition where you must stop the opposing team from cheating, tossing Gaimon into the opponent's goal, and a custom battle. You play 2 of them at random before facing off against Captain Usopp (Foxy in Japanese version) himself. These minigames are pretty fun and make great use of the game's core mechanics plus they can be unlocked to play at the players' leisure (with the exception of the final duel) after winning the game a certain number of times.

Fourth, there is Grand Tourney which is a tournament mode similar to that of the one in Smash Bros. You can set up a tournament with up to 32 contestants (at least 1 human player), adjustable settings like in Grand Battle mode, and a stage where the tournament takes place. You don't gain anything after completing the tournament so it's really all just for bragging rights.

Last but not least, we have Training which you can guess is the standard practice mode and it actually takes place on a stage with no real obstacles. Your options are pretty standard- you can make the computer either be a training dummy, guard while being attacks, or fight like an opponent during Grand Battle but you can also successfully perform all of your character's to earn extra unlockables for them.

Game modes aside, Treasure and One Piece Art serve for the game's extras. Treasure is basically a character database stuff like belongings, voice data, portraits, and profiles while One Piece Art is frames taken straight from the anime. These features will no doubt be appreciated by hardcore One Piece fans.



Graphics


One Piece: Grand Battle is a very pretty game. It makes expert use of the cel-shading technique which gives the game a color, vibrant, and detailed cartoony-look with character models that look just like their anime counterparts albeit chibi-fied. The animations accompanying them are also fun to watch although one thing I don't get about it is the mouth movement. They either move like the characters are chewing gum or don't move at all even when characters are clearly talking.



Sound

This is certainly one weak aspect of the game. The one elephant in the room has to be mentioned is the voice acting. It's pretty bad but what else can you expect from 4kids and their abomination of a dub they gave for the anime? The music is also pretty forgettable. Sure it's fitting towards the game well enough but none of the tracks stand out for me.



Aesthetics


If One Piece: Grand Battle has one thing going for it, it is definitely in it's presentation. Each Characters' signature moves from the anime are here and they represented quite well. The Secret Arts in particular are so over-the-top flashy making them fun to watch and cathartic to pull off. Several familiar areas from the anime are also available to fight in during this game like Arlong Park, Alabasta Kingdom, Loguetown, and Baratie which have all sorts bells n' whistles hidden within them. Monkey D. Luffy and and Sanji's demeanor even change while facing certain characters. Luffy is more angry and serious in tone against a great adversary while Sanji acts lovestruck facing Nami and Ms. Sunday (Nico Robin).

Outside of combat, the game's menus always have something going on either it be characters interacting with players while other characters are messing around in the background or artifacts from the anime serving as a template for the menu structure. 

The cutscenes for the Story Mode are lack though. Aside from the aforementioned nonexistent story they are demonstrated through speech talk in front of an anime cut-out for the character that is speaking. 


Overall

For an anime-based fighter, One Piece: Grand Battle is surprisingly good but it's still lacking the depth and complexity for those who want more out of their fighting games. This game is definitely worth checking if you're just looking to mess around with friends especially if they're fans of One Piece. Not so much for anything beyond that.

I give this game a 6.8 out of 10.




Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 Review - The 360° power movement still goes on

Release(s):
    October 5, 2006 (Japan)
    November 3, 2006 (Europe)
    November 7, 2006 (North America)
    November 9, 2006 (Australia)
Platform(s): Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Spike
Publisher(s):
          Bandai (Japan/Europe)
          Atari (North America)
Player(s): 1-2






Overview

Despite the extreme innovations, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi was a step back from Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 in just about every way and even though it did quite well on it's own, it didn't do nearly as well commercially as any of the Budokai games so I was (and probably many others were) genuinely shocked to hear that the game was getting a sequel over Budokai 3. That wasn't a total loss as from the detail that were revealed through the year of 2006, Dragon Ball Z: Budoaki Tenkaichi 2 (Dragon Ball Z: Sparking Neo) was definitely shaping up to be an improvement over it's predecessor... but just how far does it take the relatively new formula?


Gameplay


Budokai Tenkaichi 2 returns the unique fighting system from the first game but here, Spike actually addresses complaints fans had of the rather bare-bones combat. For one, the combo system has been revamped as you can now charge smash attacks freely regardless if you're at Full Power or if you land consecutive rush attacks successfully (though doing so would make them charge faster) and the combo chains for rush attacks are all done by pressing the ki blast button but what chain will come out varies between characters. Sure it's still basically the same combo chains shared throughout the roster added with some new ones but the way it's handled in this game gives melee combat the much needed variety that the first game lacked (even though it still could use more). Most of the combo chains can now be charged like the smash attacks and the silk-like smoothness of controls from Budokai 3 has also been brought whatnot with combos actually connecting like they should. The Wii version of this game has super moves execute through specified movements via the Wii Motion but no Nintendo controller is supported aside from the Wii Motion.

Budokai Tenkaichi 2 not only adds in a bunch of new stuff for greater offensive play but it gives you more defensive options as well. You can now steer your movement while doing a Dragon Dash and there's a new technique called Sway will allow you to "dive-in" while at close range. This move would allow you to follow up with any of the combo chain moves and if you time it right, it can used to dodge most physical attacks. Another new technique is been added called Super Guard which is a guard impenetrable to pretty much all attacks but it comes at a cost of gradually losing ki and it starts up somewhat slow so use with caution.

A bunch of character-specifics have been added into the mix like how certain characters can't stay airborne as long as they want and will eventually fall from the sky (which is honestly annoying to deal with). You can now transform during combat and the customization you have set for the characters' base form will be carry over to the transformation but the transformations still fight as though they are their own character. Some characters can transform to any state or revert back to base form if they want while others have permanent transformations that are done in linear order (like Frieza or Cell) and a certain number of blast stocks filled are required in order to transform. Speaking of blast stocks...  each character now have their own maximum amount of blast stocks that can be filled instead of all of them having 3 and the amount of special moves recycled throughout the roster isn't nearly as blatant here (though they're still definitely present).

Probably the biggest inclusion Budokai Tenkaichi 2 makes to gameplay is the Tag Team feature. You can assemble up to 5 members for a team and tag out to play as any other character when the Switch Gauge is full. For the most parts, the Tag Team feature is just a fun little gimmick but it can come in handy with the yellow ability-enhancing z-items made specially for this mechanic and certain characters can do the Fusion Dance or Potara together to combine their stats into one.

With all that said, the one complaint I have gameplay-wise over the first game is that the computer, even on the highest difficulty, is a piece of cake once you know how to play the game... that and some characters feel utterly useless, but for what Budokai Tenkaichi 2 does better this can easily be overlooked.



Content


  
With another Dragon Ball Z game, yet again a whole new single-player campaign is introduced and it's called Dragon Adventure. Much like Budokai Tenkaichi's Z Battle Gates, it mainly retells of Dragon Ball Z once again... all the way from the Saiyan Saga to the Majin Buu Saga (with some of Dragon Ball GT and various movies/TV specials thrown into the mix) which are categorized as "Scenarios" and battles are to be fought under specific conditions (though Dragon Adventure is more lenient with these) which is either defeating the enemy/enemies, surviving throughout the match, or a special battle that will unlock a What-if Scenario if you win (and if you lose... you lose), but unlike Z Battle Gates which is more of a retreat to a traditional Story Mode ala the first Budokai, Dragon Adventure takes a page out of Budokai 3's Dragon Universe by allowing to fly across the world of Dragon Ball going from one point to another with one or more customizable characters. The only difference here is you don't get to choose a character's perspective to play through and it doesn't take nearly as many liberties with the concept. Sure you can still engage in Battle Points for grinding and bonus battles for unlockables or other goodies but there's no reward for reenacting the story of Dragon Ball Z or playing the mode on the highest difficulty, alternating story paths, or fun little bells n' whistles to the series that gave Budokai 3's Dragon Universe so much replay value. You can also still collect dragonballs in this mode but it's done in the same pain-in-the-ass way as in Z Battle Games though if you gather all 7 dragonballs while in Namek, you can make 3 wishes. Like the previous single-player campaigns, Dragon Adventure is also where you unlock most of the characters and there's a lot of characters in this game (a whooping total of over 120 characters including transformations compared to the first game's already large character count of 90) so expect that you'll spend a long time playing through this mode.

Ultimate Battle has been upgraded to Ultimate Battle Z and instead of playing through a 100 fighter ranking challenge or a survival challenge, you play through multiple courses which will earn you points for completing each one for a record-breaking high-score. You can actually adjust the difficulty here and the courses may vary from fighting one at a time, soloing up to 5 opponents at once, or a 2-fighter tag team.   

Dueling and especially World Tournament has been changed significantly. Dueling still allows you to either play against the computer, another player, or watch the computer fight itself but you can now change up multiple settings within the Dueling menu right from changing the announcer to enabling/disabling enhancement orbs that are found the same way as dragonballs (unfortunately). World Tournament has the World Martial Arts Tournament (Tenkaichi Budokai for any purist out there) and Cell Games as separate tournaments with different levels of classes plus a tournament is hosted by Hercule (Mr. Satan in the Japanese and uncut versions) called the World Martial Arts Big Tournament, which is like the regular tournament except it takes place on random stages across the Earth that's not the World Tournament arena. You can also earn zeni like you can in the Budokai games this time.

The Practice section of Ultimate Training is just as barebones as the first game (only you can adjust the difficulty of the computer making it fight back and reset to the starting position) but the Training section is at least improved as it allows you to reenact the moves taught to you in each tutorial.

The Evolution Z customization system makes a return but the way it works here is a little more like Budokai 3's Level Up system from Dragon Universe and Dragon Arena in that you level up with the blue stats-boosting Z-items through gaining experience points and you can increase each stat up to 20 points. Collecting Z-Items is also been made much easier as you now have an Item Shop that is available either through the main menu or on any map during Dragon Adventure. In the Item Shop, you can buy most Z-Items at any time (including Z-Item Fusion) or sell your own Z-Items using zeni but one thing wrong with this shop is there's no indication to if you're buying a new Z-Item.

Character Encyclopedia (or Character Reference as it's called in this game) has been greatly expanded. Not only do you get to look at character biographies but you can also read synopsis of each saga from the series and listen to the game's soundtrack.

A new mode called Data Center which allows you to enter a password to unlock custom characters and if you have a saved data of the first game, you will earn 100000 zeni.



Graphics



The graphics from the first game have been refined here doing away with the drab color scheme and somewhat blocky character models so now everything is very colorful and vibrant like it should be. The beams, aura, and particle effects also look even better than before although some real nice effects such as the dirt leveling up as you power up on the ground are missing, but at least the stiffness of the animation has been addressed... somewhat.



Sound


Once again, most of the voice clips for characters and SFX have been recycled from the last game only here the audio issues from the first game have been fixed. Not only that but international versions of the game get an entirely new soundtrack instead of stock music from the Budokai games. The new tracks are actually very fitting to the game and are probably up there the Budokai soundtrack in terms of greatness. You can choose what track you have to play during battle as BGM in Dueling and Practice.


Aesthetics


There is much more effort put into telling the story of Dragon Ball with Dragon Adventure than with Z Battle Gates though it kinda suffers due to how limited most of the cutscenes are (even though they allow more than 2 characters on-screen this time) and it could also do with less battles. Aside from that, everything regarding aesthetics has been improved. Special moves have a lot more flair and a lot of them truly feel devastating when the hit lands... you can even destroy certain stages with them like you could in the first and third Budokai games.

The anime-inspired menus still continue to get better and more importantly, the character select screen has thankfully been improved. The characters are all aligned multiple rows making it much easier navigate though it has this weird up is down and down is up thing that certain games have going on. Anyways, the anime cutouts for the characters within the menus now change expression to represent how they feel breathing more life into these menus and if you stay idle long enough they might say something interesting.



Overall

This game went above and beyond by turning a game that was, in retrospect, little more than a fun little experiment to an actually worthwhile game thus making the Tenkaichi series a fan favorite so there was not much complaint with it replacing the Budokai series as the major game releases... but could Spike keep up the momentum they had gained? 

Overall, this game gets an 8.3 out of 10.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi Review - 360° of movement is a power move for the franchise

Release(s):
    October 6, 2005 (Japan)
    October 18, 2005 (North America)
    October 21, 2005 (Europe)
Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Spike
Publisher(s):

    Bandai (Japan/Europe)
    Atari (North America)
Player(s): 1-2




Overview

While the Budokai games were generally seen as clunky and stiff fighters by critics, that didn't stop them from selling like hotcakes. Actually... Budokai 3 was a different story- not only was it a good Dragon Ball Z game but it was simply a quality game regardless of it's license. The fact Dimps actually went and addressed the issues people had with the games shows they really do care for the fans, and when Budokai Tenkaichi was first announced... you bet your ass fans were hyped. However despite carrying the 'Budokai' name there is next to no relation between this game and Dimps' highly popular game series... in fact they aren't even by the same developers. But more important... does it hold up? Let's find out.


Gameplay   


Let me reiterate Budokai Tenkachi is NOT the beginner-friendly traditional 3D fighting game like Budokai. In fact I don't think there's any fighting game that plays quite like this one. First thing about this game is instead of dedicate it's camera to the side of the characters it has more of an "over-the-shoulder" camera angle and as the title of this review indicates this game boasts of allowing players to have 360° control over movement across the battlefield making it a more authentic combat system to the show than previous attempts. One complaint off the bat I have with the camera is that it's too close up to your character's back which isn't so bad when you're actually fighting (since it's designed with that angle in mind), but when you're not directly facing your opponent especially if you're in a corner, your whole perspective is fucked up and you can't do anything about it. Another thing about this unique system is that you can use the huge environments to your advantage either it be hiding behind mountains, slamming your opponents through or into obstacles, or destroying parts of them entirely.

Now for the controls... well one button does basic melee attacks, one button does ki blasts, one button is for guarding, and another for dashing. The right shoulder buttons allow you to jump/ascend into and descend from the air while the left shoulder buttons allow you to lock-on into your opponent (which only works if their within eyesight minus a few exceptions) and to build up ki. For more advance moves is where things become real tricky. You can teleport like you can in Budokai 3 (only it's not a counter and requires no special gauge consumption) but the timing is extremely strict as you have to tap the guard button just before the attack lands and it only works against specific attacks... you can also escape grabs by tapping the guard button at the right time. Speaking of grabs.. they are done by pressing forward and the dash button at the same time but only if you're close to your opponent. The melee attack button can be held to do a smash attack and the longer you charge it the stronger the smash attack is but how long it can be charged depends on how many hits you land (good luck with that). You also have a stun hit move (which has to be pressed at the right time or it's easily blockable even if you already hit your opponent with a basic melee attack) by pressing the dash button, a kiai (which breaks guard on impact) by pressing the ki blast button, and a counter by pressing the guard button as combo chains. There's also a more powerful dash move which makes you dash at greater speed (at the cost of some ki) by pressing the building ki button and the dash, jump/ascend, or descend buttons at the same time but you can't steer your dash once you start it so it's better to just avoid it. You can still do special moves by pressing the building ki button and guard button at the same time for ones that boost states and are more defensive called Favorite Techniques or pressing the building ki button and ki blast button at the same time for ones that more offensive called Finishing Moves... but you can no longer transform while in-game as transformations themselves are treated as different with their own movesets instead of mere power-ups like in Budokai. There are two of each super move type for every character. Ultimate moves are done by pressing the building ki button, the ki blast button, and down at the same time while in Max Power mode (which makes your other moves stronger and even allows you to do an unblockable smash attack) called Super Finishing Moves only the ultimate moves in this game aren't necessarily sequence-based like in Budokai.

This game does sound quite like a handful and to be frank, I had never felt so overwhelmed by the controls of a fighting game before this one but once you do get the hang of the mechanics... there really isn't much to the game beyond that. Every character in this game plays pretty much the same aside from their special moves (and even those are shared plentifully throughout the roster). Sure their playstyles may differ and their attributes may vary like some characters aren't as easy to knock down as others (or in the case of Hercule, you can't knock anyone down easily not even himself... well shit), but you won't find yourself switching between characters with much trouble and there really isn't a whole lot of variety offensively or defensively to keep things interesting for long. You just wind up using the same moves over and over again hoping they land. The computer even realizes this and tries to win battles by being a cheap bastard in the higher difficulty settings.

It may seem like I'm hating on the game but hear me out the game can be quite fun with it's authentic and fast-paced combat. It's just after how good Budokai 3 was, you'd expect a little more polish with this game especially when it prides itself as being the "Ultimate Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT Fighting Game".


        Content


The staple game modes Dueling, World Tournament, and Practice have made a return but there's yet another single-player campaign introduced for this game called Z Battle Gates where you play through various key battles from each saga of Dragon Ball Z and some of Dragon Ball GT plus a few alternate storylines and a couple Dragon Ball Z movies. Each battle varies in terms of objective either having you simply win the battle, defeat the opponent under a time limit, survive till time runs out, or defeat the opponent with a specific (Super) Finishing Move. Generally you're required to clear battles in linear order but completing a whole saga with the extra battles is all up to you. These battles mostly provide a reasonable challenge but some are ridiculously hard for the wrong reasons like the one in the Saiyan Saga where you have to defeat Nappa using the Ki Blast Cannon Finishing Move with Tien and since Tien is supposed to drop like a fly in the actual fight your attacks do barely any damage to Nappa while he can take a HUGE chunk of your health with just regular physical attacks. Another thing is the dragonballs.. since there's no RPG exploration aspect like Budokai 2 or 3 they are achieved through battle and I'm sure some game designers' laughing their asses off when they decided you have to collect them by finding one ball per match as it's hidden within stages... WHILE IN THE MIDDLE OF A GODDAMN BATTLEFIELD!!!

Another game mode Budokai Tenkaichi introduces is Ultimate Battle where you choose a character (both normal or customized) to engage in two courses: Super Warrior 100 Ranking or Warrior Training.  Super Warrior 100 Ranking is a 100-man challenge fighting characters from weakest to strongest which earns you one point after winning a battle plus extra for either getting a perfect, a near-death win, and/or winning with a Super Finishing Move with a chance of earning five points from defeating a sudden intruder, but if you lose two points would be subtracted and losing all points would get you booted from the course (if losing all points is even possible). Warrior Training is a survival challenge course that earns you points depending on how many wins you get and you don't lose any points for losing so you can participate anytime. It's no Dragon Arena but it works well for what it is.

The Dueling and World Tournament modes are largely unchanged from the Budokai games. Dueling is the standard versus mode that either allows you fight against the computer, the second player, or watch the computer fight itself. World Tournament is where you select a character and compete against other characters to put your skills to the test where elimination is either determined by K.O.! or by ring-out (which is very easy in this game btw... much easier than Budokai). There are four classes in total (Notive, Adept, Advanced, Cell Games) and each class is harder than the last with more contestants... the difference here is Adept, Advance, and then Cell Games are unlocked immediately after winning each the classes respectively. There's also no prize money earned if you win so there's not much point to World Tournament unless you just wanna mess around with your friends (up to seven of them).

The Practice modes has been changed and it's not for the better. The practice section has been stripped down to the point where the only setting option you have is to either have the computer do nothing or fight back and the tutorial isn't interactive like in Budokai, instead it's all text-based with a short demonstration clip which doesn't do much to engage newcomers to learn the ropes of the game's core mechanics.

With the Evolution Z mode, Budokai Tenkaichi introduces a brand new customization system called Z-items which functions similar to Budokai's Exciting Skill System (still a lame name) in terms of boosting stats, enhancing abilities, and crippling your opponents but unlike the E.S.S, Z-items doesn't allow you to customize your characters' special movesets to your liking (all moves are integral to the characters). The way Z-items are found is also completely different as instead of buying them from an Item Shop or finding them specific spots within certain modes, they are pretty much given pretty much entirely at random (kinda putting the RNG of the Skill Shop from the first Budokai in a totally new light) and each item is determined by one quantity anytime you earn it instead of being practically infinite like the E.S.S. The most notable difference is you can mix-and-match two Z-items to take a new item with a Z-item called Z-item Fusion (another lame name) including some characters aren't readily unlocked from playing through Z Battle Gates. Rather unnecessary if you ask me.

There is no extra game mode to be unlocked like in the Budokai games but you do unlock the Character Encyclopedia, which gives you a biography on all the characters including their voice actors/actresses (both in English and Japanese), after winning a battle in Z Battle Gates.


Graphics



Budokai Tenkaichi uses a very similar cel-shaded style to Budokai 3 though the color scheme is more muted in comparison, but it's still quite a pretty game regardless. The character models along with the beams, power auras, particle effects etc. capture the look of their anime counterparts almost perfectly and the stages are highly detailed even though there's not a whole lot going on within them. The effects characters have on the stages are also really nice like when you power up on the ground with the dirt piling up and rocks are leveled or when characters are flying across the ocean with the speed skidding across the water... though getting knocked down doesn't damage the ground like Budokai 3. 

The animation isn't nearly as impressive as in the Budokai games especially since it runs at 30 fps instead of a silky smooth 60 fps but it works well enough on it's own... at least during gameplay. The animation is otherwise limited and often robotic which is especially noticeable during cutscenes. One thing I would give it is the basic fighting animation is completely unique between each character and really compliments their fighting styles from the actual series.


Sound 

A couple voice clips are recycled straight from Budokai with the new voices are made courtesy of the new OkraTron 5000 sound production company founded by the voice actor of Vegeta in the FUNimation Dubs, Christopher Sabat, and it really shows. The new voice clips notably more quiet plus they downright goofs at times like some characters would mistakenly have their Japanese voices instead and speaking of Japanese... you can change the language to the original Japanese voices for fans who prefer the original dub for Dragon Ball.

The soundtrack for Budokai Tenkaichi is also made entirely of Kenji Yamamto's tracks for Budokai only here it's not really done to enhance the experience as so much as a cost-cutting alternative to getting the remixed tracks of the anime's soundtrack (which the Japanese version of the game has... lucky). It's all stock especially during gameplay which is randomized with some of the less memorable tracks.


Aesthetics


The Z Battle Gates tells the story of Dragon Ball through in-game cutscenes like Budokai's Story Mode minus the episode prologues and next episode previews, but the storytelling is just plain lazy. Sure you can look up basic info for the characters in the Character Encyclopedia mode but that only serves to hinder the (poorly-told) story rather than help explain it. Aside from that the aesthetics for this game is spot on.

A ton of moves from the series are recreated in this game including the iconic Kamehameha Wave and they're represent very nicely even if they look plain in comparison to Budokai 3. The menu screen also continue to get better and better with the anime/manga-inspired layout... the only complaint I do have is the character select has all the characters lined up in a single, narrow row with no fixed order which isn't really a big deal but it sure is annoying considering the game has like 60 or so characters and there's no way to shortcut this. They at least fixed the loading time while adding a new fun and interactive loading screen where Gotenks makes his Kamikaze Ghosts before they explode.


Overall

What can be said about Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi? Well... it's a nice little experiment but that's pretty much all I can say. It was fun while it lasted even though all it really left me wanting is a sequel (something I was surprised was even being made at all) that improved the formula.

Overall, this game gets a 6.2 out of 10.