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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.