Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Review

Dragon Ball Z Budokai is in many ways a real treat for fans of the television series.  The game captures the spirit of the series, especially in its Story Mode which follows the events of the show from the Saiyan, Namek, Android, and Cell Games Sagas.  During the course of the Story Mode you'll be treated to long cutscenes interspersed with fighting action that lets you take control of the heroes of the series.  Not all of the interactive sequences are fights - there is an occasional mini-game style level.  For example, in one scene you must hold down and line-up an enemy so that he can be blasted by an ally and in another you must make your way through a series of training session challenges.  The game's developers have gone to great lengths to preserve the feel of the series, signing the same voice talent used in the American version of the show and using much of the original music.  Playing through the Story Mode not only allows Dragon Ball Z fans to take part in the show, it allows you to unlock characters and combos for use in the game's other modes.  You can eventually unlock over twenty different fighters, and some variations of a couple of the characters.

Goku strikes a blow.

Once you've completed the Story Mode you'll probably spend the most time playing the game's World Tournament.  This is a three, four, or five round competition in which you guide one of the game's characters in duels against a random selection of opponents.  Coming in first or second rewards you with the game's currency, Zenie, with the amount determined by the difficulty level chosen.  This Zenie can then be used in the game's store to purchase special abilities or combos (called capsules) for your character.  Capsules can be traded via memory cards, so if you have friends with the game you can try to make a deal for some of the rarer capsules.  Some capsules are restricted to characters of a certain race, but for the most part it doesn't matter too much as to which character you use the capsules with.  As a result, you can have different characters that behave identically in fights and only differ in their appearance.

The game also provides two additional modes of play, Duel and Practice.  Duel Mode is a single fight between two players or against the computer.  You can even let the computer control both fighters so that you can see the best tactics to use in a given match-up.  Practice Mode allows you to test a character's moves versus a computer opponent.  The computer opponent can be customized to fight back at various skill levels, or to just sit there while you practice different attacks.  It's a nice mode to let you get the hang of the game's controls or to test out a customized character.  However, you don't really need to use this mode when starting out because the game's fighting action uses a simple control scheme and is pretty basic.

When in fight mode you use four basic buttons: punch, kick, guard, and Ki Blast.  Ki is the game's energy source, and is used to launch ranged energy attacks and to power special moves.  Ki is replenished during a fight by successfully landing blows on your opponent.  The punch and kick attacks can not be directed high or low, and each character comes with only two different punches and kicks.  The combos are unleashed as a series of button presses (for example, punch - punch - punch - Ki), but the game does not always register button presses.  You'll often find yourself missing a button from the combo you were trying to launch, or launching an unintended combo.  This makes battles a somewhat random affair of lucky blows and blocks.