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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (GCN)
Publisher:  Atari Developer:  Dimps
Genre:  Fighting Release Date:  10/28/2003
ESRB:  Teen More Info on this Game
By Matthew Gallant | Nov. 16, 2003
A game with simplistic fighting and a tedious unlocking system, but it's a polished and faithful presentation of Dragon Ball Z with a fair amount of content.
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Pros Cons
Very polished presentation; not a quick cash-in; four "what-if" mini-storylines. Simplistic fighting; characters more or less all play the same way; unlocking content is tough.

It's hard to give a Dragon Ball fan any reason not to buy Budokai. Yet at the same time, it's hard to give any non-fan a reason to buy it, especially if they are a fighting game veteran. The fighting mechanics are overly simplistic and lacking depth -- it's almost as if the game started out as more of a fighting/adventure hybrid instead of a straightforward fighting game. As it is, though, the game is very accessible to a wide range of DBZ fans, and even though the fighting could be a lot better, the overall quality of the presentation is topnotch.

The interface is slick and functional without being static and boring. Load times are quick, and so are save times. The game engine is as rock-solid as the framerate it produces. While all these technical aspects of the game are a treat, DBZ fans will be just as impressed by how well the style of the series is infused into it. The modeling of the characters is pinpoint accurate to the TV series' look, though the game's cel-shading technique will often show contrast between polygon borders and doesn't use outlines, giving some characters a bit of a washed-out look. However, the look and feel of the game is unmistakably Dragon Ball Z. Fans will know that this game was a labor of love in the art department and not a rush job done by some people who do not enjoy the show. Also welcome is the successful adaptation of the show's lighthearted side throughout the game, whereas other DBZ games in the past have neglected it completely.

The game's flaws lie mostly in the fighting itself. Though it's as much the fault of the show as it is the game, of the game's 23 playable characters, they all more or less fight in the same style. In fact, if you take away the animations of their special attacks, there's very little difference in play style. All characters have pretty much the same base speed and strength. Krillin and Gohan actually have a bit of an advantage in that they're short enough to avoid some attacks, though the game does fudge their collision boundaries a bit to let some punches hit when it looks like they don't.

The pre-fight speeches were only five seconds long!
The main problem with fighting is the controls. There's four buttons: punch, kick, guard, and energy (Ki). The problem is that the E button doesn't get a lot of use. It's primarily used to initiate a powerful Ki attack after a string of four (sometimes three) punches and kicks. It can also be used alone to launch a quick single blast, but since this can be deflected -- or even reflected -- by a well-timed block and eats up a good-sized portion of you character's Ki meter needed for the more powerful Ki attacks, it's not a very good idea. It will even miss if you're a bit higher up in the air and too close to your opponent. Unfortunately, you can't even control your height. Flying only happens if one of you gets kicked up into the air, and it only stops if one of you gets smashed back down. Getting knocked straight ahead will leave your character floating horizontally in midair, even if you're completely K.O.'d.



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