Publisher: Atari

Developer: DIMPS

# of Players: 1-2

Category: Action

Release Dates

N Amer - 10/28/2003

Official Game Website

    Also available on:
  • PS2

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Review

New and graphically improved for everyone's favorite cubical, it's Dragon Ball Z: Budokai.  Budokai continues the DBZ saga in the way that it started on North American game platforms – fighting.  The fighting genre suits the series well, considering that's what the entire show revolves around.  The charge attacks, unrealistically long combos – they're all here.  Budokai has so much DBZ-ness in it that it could be considered the quintessential game for diehard fans of the series.  Considering how flawed it is, it may also be the quintessential game for those who are not a part of the diehard crowd.

A Dragon Ball Z game wouldn't be a Dragon Ball Z game without story segments.  As lame as the American dubbing can be at times, it's the story – not just the battles – that hooked me for its first year on Cartoon Network.  All your favorite characters are here: Goku, Gohan, Raditz, Trunks, Frieza, Hercule, Master Roshi, Cell, Piccolo, etc.  Not all of them are playable, but you'll get the chance to control the best of the bunch (among the good guys at least).

In a world where every 2D fighter must appear to be 3D, Dragon Ball Z utilizes the popularized sidestep move to simulate such actions.  While this game feels much stiffer than Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (which uses an eight-way run like Soul Calibur), the sidestep is used in the same way.  You can evade projectile attacks by sidestepping quickly enough.  One thing you can do in this game that cannot be done in Deadly Alliance is deflect projectiles and return them to the sender!  While on the ground, you hit the guard button (B) and press the thumbstick toward your opponent; while hovering, you press B and the thumbstick in the opposite direction of your opponent.  It's very easy to do, but beware – your opponents can always do the same, create a volleyball effect.  Only the fastest gamers will survive a skilled projectile deflection.

As mentioned, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai involves the art of flying and hovering.  All species have the ability to do it apparently, regardless of which planet they're from.  Flying usually begins by punching or kicking an opponent into the air.  The opponent can also be the one to initiate flight by doing the same thing.  The controls change only slightly while in the air.  On the ground they feel stiff and a little confined.  You can perform tons of different punch-punch or kick-kick-style combos, but that's a gameplay mechanic that was exhausted years ago.  And that's basically what you do in the whole game: combo your opponent to death.  The better combo performer usually wins.  Or if you suck at combos but your opponent sucks at blocking, that's another strategy for winning.  It's basic fighting stuff that was introduced years ago.  Many games have since moved on from this and are trying new things.  Unfortunately some are still stuck in the middle of yesterday.

In the air, combat receives only a slight change.  Now you have the option to "fly" (charge) at your opponent and hit 'em with a nice hard punch.  Dragon Ball Z fans should be entertained.  In fact, I can say for certain that they will be, since two of my friends are diehard DBZ fans and they loved this game.  I, on the other hand, grew tired of the show's repetitiveness.  That same repetitiveness is present in this game.  You either love the show or you don't.  There's no in between.  There isn't any in between for this game either.

For those of you who are compelled to punch and kick the day away, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai packs some very nice graphical upgrades.  They're not on par with GameCube's best, but the cel-shaded effects are really impressive.  (Ironic, isn't it?  The game not only has the villain Cell, but it also features cel-shaded graphics.)  The animation is consistent with the show: not perfect, but not noticeably flawed either.  The backgrounds aren't comprised of the eye-popping architecture of Soul Calibur 2, but they still look pretty nice.  Overall it's a great improvement over the PlayStation 2 version.

Note: While the game looks better on the GameCube, most of the upgraded effects have already been seen on PlayStation 2.  Why they weren't included in that version is unknown.

The story mode is of the typical Dragon Ball Z fare: there are dragons, there are balls, and if you're not a fan of the series, there will likely be some ZZzzzzz.  In all seriousness, if you know the series, you know this game's story.  It's an exact replica of the series through the notorious Cell saga.  The sound was taken from the show, so if you like the American voices, you're good to go.  If you don't, well, there's always the mute button for that.

Would I buy this game?  Being someone who used to be a diehard fan but is no longer, the answer would be no.  But diehard fans are eating this up.  They love the combo system, which copies the fast fighting action of the show.  They also love the projectile attacks, and the controls don't seem as bothersome.  That might make you think I'm being picky.  But ask anyone who isn't a diehard DBZ fan and you'll get the same response.  This one is for the true fans of Akira Toriyama.  If you don't know who Akira Toriyama is, you need not think about purchasing this game.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 6
If the controls weren't stiff, and if the combo system wasn't so generic, I probably would have loved this game.  It tries hard to be a good fighter, but it just didn't grab me like I hoped it would.  Dragon Ball Z-lovers will almost definitely love this game, but the rest of you should stick with whatever fighting game you're currently enjoying.

Graphics: 8
Enhanced cel-shaded graphics for your viewing pleasure.

Sound: 7
Taken directly from the TV show.  'Nuff said.

Difficulty: Medium
Not at all hard to master, especially for the diehard fighting fans of the world.  The punch-punch-punch combo system is often referred to as a dial-a-combo system.  It's pretty obvious why.  Something more complex (or something entirely different) would have been much more appreciated.

Concept: 6
It's not a bad concept, nor is it a below average concept, but we've seen this same concept so many times that it would be a disgrace to give it an average score (somewhere in the 7.0 range).  Anything higher than a six would degrade every other fighting game out there, most of which at least tried to have some unique feature.  Budokai is merely a combination of features that others created.

Multiplayer: 6.5
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai is moderately more entertaining in groups than when played alone.

Overall: 6
To me, having Dragon Ball Z: Budokai is like having a cup of coffee.  To a coffee drinker it's great.  But I don't drink coffee at this point in my life.  So I look at the cup and think, "If only it were hot chocolate instead."

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai has been out for the PlayStation 2 for so long that a sequel is already on its way.  I look forward to trying it because I hope that the issues created with this version are removed.  Judging by Atari's track record I'd say it's almost guaranteed that the game will be at least 20% better than the first.

GameZone Review Detail


GZ Rating


Warning: this game is only suitable for diehard fans.

Reviewer: Louis Bedigian

Review Date: 11/10/2003

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