Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z – A GEEK Video Game Review

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The Z Warriors and their overpowered rivals have been at each other's throats for a very long time.

Developers had a pretty easy time translating these anime fighters and their sagas into playable fighting games. Some of them have failed miserably (Final Bout, Ultimate Battle 22), while others have churned out respectable representations of Goku and Co. (Budokai 3, Budokai TenkaichI 3).

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for a new DBZ video game. And that game is a departure from the norm – Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z.

Loyal followers of the anime will recognize the incredible cel-shaded, anime sheen that the visuals sport. Every Super Saiyan and alien/cyborg combo that’s recognizable from the cartoon looks exactly as they should. The familiar environments that all these fighters do battle in (dark canyons, colorful planets, full cities etc.) match their source material. The hair metal and cheesy rock tunes that blare through your TV speakers are nothing special, but the opening FMV theme song is a nice bit of nostalgic flavor. The graphics remain true to DBZ, while the soundtrack is forgettable (expect for that aforementioned track).

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Battle of Z is classified as a fighting game, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of facing off against an opponent on a 2D plane, players will have a fully realized arena to do battle in amongst multiple onscreen characters. 3D movement and a wider camera follow you around as everyone you’re teaming up with or facing off with smashes one another into oblivion. The onscreen carnage is exciting to play and watch from a distance. Characters can go airborne, get in close and use their punches/kicks to deal damage or unleash powerful beam attacks from far away. The pure craziness that erupts during an 8-player battle royale is an exhilarating to experience.

While all of this may sound fun, the only thing holding it all back is it’s lack of deeper combat. The only melee combos you can pull out are tied to one button, so there’s no variety among each character’s main attacks. Sure, Goku has his Kamehameha and Vegeta has his Galick Gun. But every character’s one button combo grows old after repeated usage. The presence of different character types (fighting type, support type etc.) and the option to equip stat changing cards to them keep the game from being too simple, though. Making your favorite fighters stronger and creating custom colors for them does grow addictive over time.

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Players can either complete the game’s missions alone or hop online with a crew and finish them all together. The replayability factor here is quite high. Not only are there familiar sagas to play through (the Frieza Saga, Cell Games Saga, Kid Buu Saga etc), but there are even missions that let you face off against the good guys. Picking a team of villains and trying to off Goku and his band of brothers is a change of pace for a DBZ game. The online competitive multiplayer is chaotic, but in a good way. Getting the chance to pull off synchronized attacks and super moves with a teammate against 4 other players is too fun to ignore. And the over-the-top boss encounters are perfect for co-op skirmishes.

Battle of Z tries something different with its game mechanics, but some familiar issues with past DBZ games pop up here. There’s no option to transform in battle, which means each character and their super powered form counts as a completely separate fighter. It’s puzzling to see some DBZ movie characters and GT characters/forms missing from this game, too. It’s cool to see the new faces from the Battle of the Gods film debut here, but the lack of Super Saiyan 4 Goku and Omega Shenron is disappointing.

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This new take on the DBZ gaming series is an all-out fun deviation from past releases. The visuals shine, the battles are chaotic and reminiscent of the fights you used to watch as a kid and the multiplayer modes will keep you playing for hours on end. But what holds this game back from being truly great is its overly simple combat system and lack of depth.

Battle of Z is a fun fighter that you’ll enjoy, but deep down you’ll wish it offered a lot more in terms of gameplay and character/story mode selection.

Rating: 70%

Images: Namco Bandai

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