So we’ve got a new Dragon Ball game, Xenoverse. Again. I’m not even going to bother going back and counting how many consoles this franchise has appeared on. Let’s just say, there have been lots and lots of them dating back almost thirty years. Which shouldn’t be surprised given Dragon Ball’s popularity, especially in Japan.
None of this is to say that any of these video games were all that great, and the anime themselves had serious flaws to be covered in reviews of them later. The games used flawed RPG or more often fighting systems to tell the story and entertain. As a result, they range from atrocious to good but not great. Despite this, I was a fan of them in college, and Budokai 3 was one of my favorites. Alas, I kind of lost interest when they started using a third person, flight-intensive game engine in an attempt to capture all the nuances of the anime. But let me go back before that to the DB game I liked the most.
Plot: 3 out of 10
Many say that these games are good if you were a fan of the show. In this case, that’s more true than usual. Budokai 3 does not use cutscenes. Instead, each saga (story) has introductory, Star Wars style text scrolls, followed by little dialogue snippets. This covers an absolute minimum. While most of the big parts occur, so much is glossed over that it won’t make sense unless you’ve seen most episodes of the show. Even then, what you get is extremely limited. Would it have been too much trouble to use cutscenes?
Graphics: 6 out of 10
I’m not a fan of the “cel shading” technique used to make certain games appear more animated by flattening the character models. It may make these titles look more like cartoons, but in the end, you’re still essentially making the graphics objectively worse.
Other than that, the graphics are pretty good. The backgrounds are great, especially when you launch someone into a large structure, destroying it (I explain this more in Gameplay). It’s the strategy with the characters I have a problem with.
Sound: 5 out of 10
Some good songs, some OK ones. Minus a point for the sheer number of tunes shamelessly ripped from the original Budokai.
Gameplay: 5 out of 10
The problem with the Budokai series is that there is little difference between the characters. The small characters are harder to hit and pack less power than the big characters, but other than that everyone’s the same. Everybody uses effectively the same moves. The exception is with moves designed to increase your character’s attack power at the price of ki (second energy bar that powers special moves) gradually decreasing. Some characters have more power-ups than others. With this little variety, only serious fans will find playing all the characters that compelling. At least Mortal Kombat, despite all its characters having the same strength and speed, has different moves for everybody. Well, other than Smoke.
There is the gimmick of knocking your opponent into a huge structure and the stage changing to match the resulting destruction, but once you get past that, you’re left with a mediocre fighting game.
Challenge: 5 out of 10
The computer is, quite simply, a piece of cake. Often it stops blocking in the middle of a combo and can’t defend itself against projectiles from a distance away. Finding everything in Dragon Universe, the main one player mode, proves more of a challenge. You fly around the world trying to find places to go. There’s a lot of hidden stuff for each character whose path is recreated. Finding this hidden stuff proves harder than beating the computer-controlled opponents.
Overall: 5 out of 10
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 Is DB first and a game second. It captures the feel of the anime extremely well, but is only an average game. Not horrible but no equivalent to Virtua Fighter 5 or Mortal Kombat: Deception.