Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 Review

There are certain game series that we’ve come to expect new iterations of each year. Some gamers look forward to using the new rosters in Madden, while others buy the latest NBA 2k to keep with all of the player-trading. Of course, the static aspect that all of these games have in common is that not much has changed from their previous renditions; usually they add a new mode or two, tweak the gameplay, and call it a day.

I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before, but the Dragon Ball Z fighting series has been the exact same way, and Tenkaichi 3 is no exception to this rule. While the good aspects stay, it’s still more of the same, only gradually adding new features to the game. Like Madden is to rabid football fans, I’m sure this game was built for the massive fanbase that makes up the DBZ universe.

First off, if you’ve already played any of the other Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi (hereby known as DBZ:BT) games, you should already know what to expect. It’s fast-paced 3D fighting featuring an engrossing number of characters that span the entirety of DBZ. I can’t say the series has ever been praised specifically for its gameplay – it features simple and slightly un-inventive fighting – however, to the average gamer, this is just fine.

While DBZ:BT3 has been released on PS2, it’s safe to say the Wii version is a better choice. It features slightly upgraded visuals, an online mode (more on these later) and of course, the innovative Wii-specific controls. Thankfully, the Wii controls are tighter than the previous incarnation, which was just a pathetic attempt at innovation, but for fighting purists, you can always snap in your Classic Controller for more traditional gameplay. Certain fighting moves seem sluggish or unresponsive when using the Wiimote-Nunchuk combo, and while it makes for a fun time for the casual gamer, everything becomes a lot more precise when you’re not waving your arms around wildly.

Even though the core fighting mechanic hasn’t changed from the previous title, Namco Bandai made an effort to balance the characters a bit more this time around. Each character still has their special moves, but the end result is less devastating, making them not as broken. New dodging and countering techniques have been introduced, and while they’re nothing groundbreaking, anything new to the gameplay is gladly welcome. I’m really digging the multiplayer mode a lot more than Tenkaichi 2; the battles aren’t as one-sided, and the character balancing offers new depth when choosing your fighters. Fortunately for us Wii users, an online mode has been included.

Unfortunately…it’s absolute crap. Between the constant connection errors and the extreme lag, the online play is practically unusable. It’s really a shame, because the developers included a great deal of options for online fights, including a ranking system, custom battles, and both friend code and random player matchmaking. Now, I understand that the fighting genre is, by far, the hardest to get working online smoothly, but DBZ:BT3 seems to barely make an effort. I was playing a friend no more than four miles from my house, each of us have incredibly fast broadband connections, yet there was still constant lag that really made the fighting too choppy to control. (It makes me wonder how the ranking system could be taken seriously, since the battles can be so random due to lag.)

But the DBZ fighting series has never really prided itself on multiplayer, especially online multiplayer. In fact, it’s the broad single-player story mode that has been thoroughly praised. The last game featured just about every bit of Dragon Ball Z plot that exists, and allowed the gamer to reenact any fight – no matter how integral to the plot – that appeared in the television show. Sadly, it seems like Tenkaichi 3 actually takes a step back from that concept. While there are still a plethora of characters – 161 in all – you can no longer choose just any fight you desire. In an effort to make the plot a bit more deep, Namco Bandai decided to focus more on the key fights in the series, as opposed to every match up that has ever taken place. Don’t get me wrong, though, there’s still plenty of fighting to do in the story mode. There’s no way you’ll finish this game in just a few sittings.

DBZ:BT3 has improved a bit in the graphical department from the previous game. While last year’s rendition seemed like a straight PS2 port, I’m glad they threw a bit more visual bling into this most recent version. The polygon count has seemed to stay the same, but there’s a noticeable change in some of the textures and effects, even though the game is entirely cel-shaded. On the plus side of things, the game supports progressive scan, but the developers left out a widescreen mode, so you’ll have to take the good with the bad. I’ve always been a fan of the wicked fighting music offered in the DBZ fighting games, and BT3 keeps up with tradition. You’ll be battling to metal guitar riffs and classic DBZ songs reinvented for the new game. All of the sound effects are just as they should be, and the voice acting is just as good as the TV show.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (whew!) is without a doubt a good game, but its fatal flaw is that it’s all been done before. The simple controls really cater to the casual or young gamer, but the variety of characters and combos allows even a master of fighting to have a bit of fun with it. Hours and hours of voice acting keep the DBZ fan absorbed into the depths of the story and really help bring the game to life. It’s just such a damn shame that the online play sucks so bad. Oh well, there’s always next year.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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