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PS2 / Review / Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
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Publisher: Atari
Developer: Dimps
ESRB Rating: R/P
Graphics: 4.5
Control: 4.0
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Review by: Clockwork Crow
Posted: 12/21/04 [view screens]

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, millions of fans see in the Dragon Ball Z cartoon? To outsiders, it's all a bunch of grunting, name-calling, and powering up for half an hour every day with maybe the occasional punch thrown on the first and third Thursdays of the month. It's just this sort of outsider who should try out Budokai 3, thoughnot only is it a fun, accessible fighting game, but it's also the first DBZ game to completely capture the feel of the TV show.

Feel the Power
The developers at Dimps have obviously spent lots of time polishing up Budokai 3's fighting engine, which is now closer to the anime's feel than ever before. As in previous games, every character has a basic set of abilities to work withthe typical punch, kick, guard, and ki blastwhich can be further modified with skill capsules. Once you put a few hours into the single-player Story mode and score a decent enough skill set, you'll be able to unleash all manner of special moves in the classic dial-a-combo tradition.

In Budokai 3, however, there's an entirely different and far deeper approach to defense. There are real counters now. For example, if you press the guard button and a direction at the right moment against an oncoming attack, your character will teleport out of harm's way (usually to the side of his opponent) and get a free crack at starting some offense of his own. This opens up an array of strategic possibilities in every matchteleportation takes up ki power, so you can't rely on it all the time, but countering is also one of the easiest ways to turn the tide of a particularly nasty combo.

This counter system also comes into play during beam struggles if two opponents fire off beams at once, they'll lock in midair and you'll have to overpower your enemy's blast by bashing the buttons. The result is a much more balanced fighting mechanic, which serves both DBZ fans and gamers simply interested in a fighter that feels good to play.

I Can't Believe He's So Powerful
Of course, this isn't what makes Budokai 3 special. After all, there are dozens of well-implemented fighting games out there already. This game doesn't really shine until you check out the presentationthe toon shading looks better than ever, and the special moves, while not exactly the sort of thing you'll find in a "serious" fighter, look and feel like they're straight out of the TV show. It's a shame, though, that the Story mode still seems a bit unfinished: Although you have more freedom to explore the world and find hidden items, the story scenes look rushed and jump around without much explanation, making things confusing even for DBZ maniacs.

Still, the weak Story mode is the only blemish on what's otherwise the best DBZ game yet. If you think you could produce a better DBZ show than Funimation, now's your chancenothing comes closer to the feel of the original anime than this game.

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