At its pinnacle in the early 2000’s in the United States, the Dragon Ball Z series soared in popularity, particularly with its anime that aired on Cartoon Network. One facet that became a trademark for the series was its explosive (literally), over-the-top fights. Memorable battles from the series included fierce fistfights, the destruction of cities, islands, continents, and even planets; all while the characters screamed insults at each other. At face value, it may read as the series having nonsensical purpose, but in combination with having a beloved cast of characters and a tense storyline, it became a classic for millions.
Nonetheless, due to Dragon Ball Z‘s overblown bouts, it was both expected and natural when the series delved into the fighting game genre for video games. Just like the television series, the video games surged in popularity and since the release of what many considered the first “core” game for the franchise, Dragon Ball Z Budokai for the PlayStation 2 in 2003, it became an annual series with multiple spin-off titles in addition to its numerous sequels to Budokai. With that in mind, the series has had its fair share of good and bad games. While some entries excelled and were critically applauded such as Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 in 2004 and Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 in 2006, other titles such as Super Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast, and various other generic titles, all faced condemnation for having poor appeal and failing to bring to the table what a Dragon ball Z fighter is capable of.
Now jump to 2014, publisher Namco Bandai has released another Dragon Ball Z title with another new developer and completely new gameplay style: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita. Following a free-for-all brawl style versus the more-traditional fighting style of past entries, Battle of Z adds a noticeable, refreshing feeling to the series, as now up to eight characters can fight on stage at once, including in online multiplayer. It creates a sense of hectic-ness and absurdity that feels closer to the series’ outrageous fights. Combine this with visuals that excellently resemble the anime, along with a large character roster and lengthy story mode where you revisit the infamous fights from the series, the initial presentation of Battle of Z can deceive anyone to think this is a good game.
Â You see, this revitalization I mentioned earlier quickly wears off. For starters, Enemy A.I. often spam blast waves at you and never back off to fight your other teammates. While those familiar with past entries in the games might assume that attacks can be blocked or countered, the reality is Battle of Z fails to give players a reliable defense system. All you have is a guard button. You cannot deflect “ki’ blast waves nor use any past games’ features of being able to transmit away from an attack. Also, with fights divided 4 versus 4, another immediate problem comes into focus. The AI of the enemy team always works well to take down your team in a strategic manner, whereas your comrades are less helpful than the simplistic combat system you are given to use; the most upfront problem in the game. The combat of Battle of Z is far too simple. Whether you have played a Dragon ball Z game before or any other fighting game, on any system, you would find yourself learning and mastering the numerous combos and techniques you can use to take down your enemies. In Battle of Z, however, there are no combos or intricate fighting techniques to be found. Instead, all you do is fly around blasting Ki Blast waves as if playing a third-person shooter and repeating the same melee and special attacks over and over and over. The repetition causes fights to draw out longer than needed and, essentially, makes what could have been an excellent and innovative fighter into a boring, repetitive brawler.
When you also add in that there is no local multiplayer, a significant decrease in content and collectibles to earn than compared to previous games, and constant, lengthy loading screens, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is as disappointing as its mediocre title.
Final Score: 2/5