Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi- PS3
Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: (NA): October 25th, 2011
Nerd Rating: 5/10
To anyone who watched Dragon Ball Z as a child, you surely played some Dragon Ball Z video games along the way. I fondly remember having a blast with the Budokai series and the Budokai Tenkaichi series as a child. However, it wasn’t until Burst Limit that I really delved into the 7th Generation lineup of DBZ games. Saddened to the maximum, Burst Limit did not reach my expectations, and sure enough, led me to not try a new Dragon Ball Z game for six whole years. But does Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi break the cycle of mediocrity and meet the expectations of the fans (including myself)? Find out, on this episode of “Jesse Talks too Much!”
I received a $50 gift card for Christmas last year, and I hadn’t really done anything with it yet, so I decided to purchase three games, one of which was our subject for today, Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi. I glanced at a few reviews, made sure not to spoil the game too much for myself, and noted the mixed reception. Empty of any sort of first impression, I popped the game in, loaded the title screen up, and awaited my game of the night. Now, what really drew me into the game was the “Tenkaichi” part of the title. The Tenkaichi series on the 6th gen was one of my favorites, and since they went back to that name, I figured they’d go back to those same elements here. I was wrong.
While not horrific, per se, the gameplay lacks any sort of depth. While still remaining true to Tenkaichi’s mechanics of blasting, melee, and flying, they really missed the mark in so many areas. Instead of being fun and providing an enjoyable gaming experience, you’re instead met with dull button mashing sections and entire fights that are based on quick-time events rather than fun fighting gameplay. The game is a combination of the dull portions of Budokai, and some elements from the gameplay of the Tenkaichi series, and what we’re left with is a sheer cluster of confusion. Any sort of multiplayer functionality is pretty much lost with this direction they took, because really, no one wants to play a fighting game based solely on button mashing and quick time events. It isn’t very much fun when playing against a friend, because really, it feels more like a test of luck rather than a game of skill. Rather than making choices that would be beneficial to making the game more fun, it sort of feels like the developers copped out, and gave players a cheap, and lazy alternative to a lot of the great gameplay some other DBZ games have to offer. One of my favorite parts of playing the other games in other series’ was the local multiplayer, and the fact that there basically is none here is a real hard ki blast to swallow.
The single player gameplay isn’t a whole lot better. The AI on all difficulty levels feels kind of stupid, and most of the time, the enemy’s predictable patterns make them a saiyan punching bag. Even when you face a challenge, it doesn’t feel like a REAL challenge. It’s just a frustrating pattern of the enemy sometimes predicting what button you press during a quick time event, and you feeling excruciatingly bored. And not even just the gameplay is the problem! All the mechanics of the game are a huge problem!
Rather than charge up ki to execute attacks like in most DBZ games, you charge up ki to store energy to block your enemy’s special attacks. One thing I wondered after that was how you actually executed special moves in the first place then (Since in most DBZ games, ki was the key to executing these). The answer isn’t a simple one. Most of the gameplay relies on these tedious quick time event combos that build up your “spirit gauge.” From what I can gather, the square button combos are quicker and recharge your ki for guarding faster, while the triangle button combos are used to build up your spirit faster. When you finally do build up your spirit, you have three special moves. Two of those are pretty standard, and can be used when you have the correct amount of spirit. The last one is your finisher, which can only be used when your spirit bar is maxed out. Pulling off these combos over and over again to build up the spirit meter is just so unbelievably dull! Seeing the same exact animations OVER and OVER and OVER again is just unbelievably nauseating, and because of this, any sort of a fast paced and smooth fighting experience is just completely absent.
The game really touted itself as the first DBZ game with a character creation section. This sounded cool to me at launch, simply because one thing everyone wants to do, aside from be a jedi, is be a badass saiyan warrior! Guess what though? The developers managed to screw that up too! You as a player have almost no customization options, and instead have to unlock them in the create-a-character story mode. This story mode, they’ve dubbed “Hero Mode,” is a poorly written story experience that’ll leave you more bored than satisfied. As for the actual game’s story mode, it’s pretty much what you would expect. It’s almost every major fight from the series with the gameplay of the game, and its something that definitely won’t blow any fans of the series away.
The music isn’t bad, and the graphics of the game are quite nice. The look and feel of the moves that you execute, to even some of the combos, can be quite great. There is some sort of fun to be had here, but it’s just something that won’t last very long. After a long playthrough, you won’t feel like you accomplished anything or learned anything new about the Dragon Ball Z universe. Instead, you’ll feel betrayed by lazy design choices and an overall dull video game experience. Everything just feels completely unpolished and just… off. The game misses the mark on all fronts, and while recognizable as a game, and being fun at very rare points, Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi will fail to impress longstanding fans of the series, and newcomers alike.
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