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Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai Another Road

Platform: Sony PSP
Developer: Atari
Publisher: DIMPS

PROS

  • Good-looking graphics compared to the console version
  • Effective PSP controls

CONS

  • Too many load times
  • Single-player missions are repetitive on top of that
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Review

Yes, that’s the name of this game. Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai Another Road. Not content with just tacking a number on the end of each new game, Atari’s chosen to turn its Dragon Ball sequels into an increasingly confusing mess of strung-together pseudo-Japanese.

The Shin Budokai part indicates that this is the sequel to last year’s PSP game of the similar name, which in turn sprang from Budokai Tenkaichi, the console game from 2005 or so. Another Road means it has a different single-player game, but otherwise it’s largely the same DBZ fighter, albeit in snappy widescreen form.

If that new single-player game is meant to be the primary draw, then we have a problem here. Another Road’s solo mode is about one-quarter gameplay and three-quarters sitting through cutscenes and load times. That gameplay’s pretty decent – the Budokai series has come a long way from a bad beginning back in 2002 – but there’s not quite enough of it to matter.

The Road Warriors

Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai Another RoadAnother Road’s campaign mode stars Trunks, the time-traveling fighter who shows up later along in the DBZ saga. (Specifically, if you’re a fan of the series, it’s the non-sword-wielding short-haired future Trunks in the Vegeta-looking outfit.) The story’s technically original, but nothing too complicated – he has to go back in time and drag several characters to the future to beat up a new crew of cosmic villains.

That opens up the chance to use several different characters in the story mode, which is a nice touch, since some earlier games have been a little short on variety in that department. Either way, though, the characters you play with aren’t an issue compared to how long it takes to actually play with them.

The individual load times in the campaign mode aren’t much. Any given wait won’t last more than six or eight seconds. The problem is there’s a lot of those six-second waits. Wait for the chapter select screen. Wait for a story cinema. Wait for the character select menu. Wait for the mission select menu. Wait for the mission tutorial. Wait for the mission itself. Wait for the fight that follows. Wait for the booster card select screen. Wait for the mission overworld again. And so on.

Add all that up and you get a lot more time spent waiting than fighting. It’s especially bad in the early levels, where most players should be able to crush the AI in a matter of seconds. Another Road needs some of those mini-game widgets that Namco used to use for its loading screens – heaven knows Atari has the rights to plenty of raw material. There’s a little action-strategy mode that serves to link together different fights (your hero flies around protecting features of the landscape before heading out to face down a villain one-on-one), but it’s too repetitive to prove more than another barrier to the actual fighting.

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Why We Fight

Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai Another RoadAs for the wireless multiplayer game, if you’ve played a recent Budokai, you have a basic idea of what’s in store. DIMPS has tightened up the movement controls and combo balancing in more recent examples of the series, so there are many viable tactics beyond “mash out combo, finish with great big energy blast.” A good player can get a handle on the sidestep or special defense controls and dash rings around someone who just keeps moving forward.

As you’d expect, Another Road adds several characters to the first Shin Budokai lineup, but they’re mostly solid, original additions, which is a little unexpected. (Future Gohan, surprisingly, is new to the Budokai series at large, and a pretty interesting character to play besides.) Most of the returning characters haven’t changed a great deal, though, which may or may not be a drawback according to some perspectives. On the one hand, they’re easy to pick up and play again; on the other hand, they’re not very interesting to relearn, and some of the characters that seemed overpowered in the first game clearly still have the same problem.

Though most players have probably long since gotten used to it, Budokai’s version of full 3D movement is still a little odd. Up-and-down movement is semi-automatic, so you can knock an opponent into the air and meet them there, but only by moving “forward” in a straight line toward them. It’s frustrating not to be able to choose your own altitude, but then there are only so many control inputs to go around.

One for the Road

Balance all this out and you have a game that’s best for portable competition. The solo mode tries, but it’s not $40 worth of fun, especially if portability isn’t a priority. (Atari’s console Budokais have done as much or more with their single-player games already, and improved editions come out at a regular one-a-year clip.)

Wireless warriors should snap this one up – despite some flaws, there are lots of new options for showing off your skills against other human opponents. Everyone else may as well pick up one of the earlier (and likely much cheaper) games instead.

Article by: D.F. Smith
Video produced by: Paul Bonnano


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