Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit Review

Anyone who has every read anything Ive written knows that I might just be the worlds biggest Dragon Ball Z fan. That fact grows clearer with every passing week as more and more of my left arm becomes covered in a giant DBZ tattoo, with nearly every major character from the series represented in full color. I felt I needed to get that out of the way first, mostly because even though I love everything about the iconic series, a good game is still a good game and a bad one is still bad, no matter what license is attached to it. DBZs first foray into the world of next-gen systems, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit, isnt really much more than a beautiful, flawed fighting game with sometimes awkward and limited controls and a story progression that couldnt be followed by anyone who wasnt as intimately versed with the series as, well, me. I hate to say it, but the game should have been called Dragon Ball Z: Well Get It Right Next Time. Maybe.

Since it pains me so to dwell on this games faults, Ill get the positive aspect (singular) out of the way first. If want the ugly truth about the gameplay, story and online modes, feel free to skip this paragraph as Im only addressing the games cosmetic features here. What Burst Limit can say for itself is it looks and sounds absolutely fantastic. The characters and locales are wonderful to look at, especially if you are a fan. I can probably count on one hand the number of 2D cartoons that were translated to 3D games successfully, and Burst Limit gets my vote for number one. During the quick, frantic fights, Goku, Vegeta and the rest are stunning, even more so if you have an HD television. Atari really did something wonderful here.

As good as the fights look, though, the real star is the in-game cut scenes. Everything right down to the camera angles from the anime are faithfully reproduced in stunning, artistically amazing 3D. The bottom up view from behind Gokus back as he fires his Kamehameha wave at Vegeta is every bit as dramatic as it was in the original show and, I hope Akira Toriyama (the series creator) isnt listening, but it might actually look better here than it did in the original. The beams, punches and kicks explode on screen with the kind of force that Im not sure even was possible in 2D. Vegetas Galick Gun, Gokus Kamehameha and Spirit Bomb, even Freizas Death Ball are so well done, you get the feeling that if they came off the TV screen, you probably would end up standing in a crater where your house used to be.

The sound is no slouch either. The characters voices, available in English or original Japanese, are all exactly right, with the minor exception of Cell, a villain from about halfway through the series. In the anime, each of his three transformations had a different voice, but in this game, his weakest-sounding voice is carried through each of his different forms. Sure, its a total nerd complaint, but I thought I made myself clear back in the first paragraph Im a DBZ nerd. Deal with it.

Ok, I put it off for long enough; heres whats wrong with this admittedly great looking game. Ill start with the story. Burst Limit doesnt cover the entire DBZ series, which is never ok with me. It covers the very first fight between Piccolo, Goku and the evil Saiyan Raditz. From there, you move through the Namek and Freiza sagas, and the game abruptly ends after the Cell saga. The anime continues on through the Majin Buu saga, but all the great plot elements and characters from that piece of the series are completely missing from Burst Limit. Thats right; no Super Saiyan 3, no Majin Vegeta, no Buu, no fusion, no Uub nothing. Say what you will about the Wii being a next gen console or not, but Budokai Tenkaichi 3 covered ALL of Dragon Ball Z, all of the sequel, Dragon Ball GT and all 13 movies. The PS3 and 360 are much more powerful pieces of hardware, so why did the developers choose to give us what is essentially half a game?

The other problem with the story in Burst Limit is that if you dont already know the series inside and out, you will be completely lost. DBZ is a long-winded show to be sure, but the in-game cut scenes leave out too much for the plot to have any meaning for the uninitiated. You jump from fighting against Vegeta on Earth to fighting AS VEGETA against Racoome on Namek, with absolutely no explanation of what happened in the 30+ half-hour episodes in between. Even the first DBZ game on the PS2, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, had more in the way of stringing the events together, and that game is over 5 years old now. As a fan, Ive heard the story dozens upon dozens of times, but to leave it out isolates nearly everyone who hasnt. Not cool.