Release Date: November 7, 2006
Few foreign shows have captured America's attention like Dragon Ball Z. Even now, years after its debut in the United States, you'd be hard-pressed to find an anime that comes close to matching the die-hard fan base that Dragon Ball Z has. It should come as no surprise that DBZ has been the source of countless games in many different genres, from fighting titles like Dragon Ball Z: Budokai to action-RPGs like the Game Boy Advance's Legacy of Goku series. Yet, despite the countless titles, none have really come close to matching the fast-paced action for which the show is so well known. Last year's Budokai Tenkaichi came incredibly close but was missing that special something to make it the definitive Dragon Ball game. Luckily for fans, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 looks to be exactly what they've been waiting for.
For those few Dragon Ball fans unfamiliar with the Tenkaichi series, it's not a classic fighting game like the earlier Budokai, but rather a full 3-D brawl through massive destructible environments. Those who played the first Tenkaichi will be happy to hear that all the stages from the last game are returning, and Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is improving the detail on environments. Besides the returning battlefields, players can now also fight in new arenas not featured in the first game. Players can knock their enemies through mountains, fight underwater, or even blow up the entire section of the planet they're fighting on. With battlefields ranging from the quaint island house of Master Roshi to the far-away planet of Namek, fans are sure to feel right at home.
These new battlefields all look incredible. Even when compared to the original Tenkaichi, they are huge, bringing the anime's truly epic sense of scale to games for the first time. The biggest difference comes in the detail in the environments. More realistic than the battlegrounds found in Tenkaichi, they blend so perfectly with the cel-shaded fighters that the battles resemble their anime counterparts to an amazing extent, and one could be forgiven for thinking he were watching a clip from the show at times.
The combat system is extremely similar to the original Tenkaichi. Players fly around these stages at will, smashing each other through buildings and shooting high-powered beams of energy at each other. The most notable change for returning Budokai Tenkaichi vets is the heavily improved camera system. Much faster and smoother than the camera in the original, Budokai Tenkaichi 2's camera never wavers from the action and is never blocked by the terrain, making sure that players never miss a moment of the intense combat. If a character moves in front of the camera, they are turned into a transparent silhouette, so nothing will block the view of the fight. With three different camera views available, the frustration caused by the angles in the very game has been eliminated, and Budokai Tenkaichi 2's battles are nearly perfect.
Of course, Dragon Ball Z would be nothing without its cast of characters, and Budokai Tenkaichi 2 brings the biggest roster to date, with over 120 fighters available! Besides the old fan favorites such as Goku, Vegeta and Trunks, Tenkaichi 2 lets you play as everyone from Kid Goku and Master Roshi from the original Dragon Ball, all the way up to Omega Shenron from Dragon Ball GT. Even characters from the Dragon Ball Z movies like Brolly and Janemba are available. Each character has a signature move, and beyond attacks, each character also has unique abilities that can grant combat bonuses or allow new techniques. The raging Brolly can power up by thinking of his enemy Kakarot, the cowardly Yajirobi can hide from opponents, and the massive Giant Ape can take a nap to regenerate health. All of the character's abilities are replicated perfectly in Budokai Tenkaichi 2's battles.
One of the major complaints about the first Tenkaichi is that it was missing Dragon Ball Z's iconic transformations. Players wishing to change into Goku's signature Super Saiyan form had to pick it from the menu just like any other character, but no longer! Budokai Tenkaichi now allows the fighters to transform in combat with the press of a button. All of the different characters' various forms are available, from Giant Ape to Super Saiyan 4. Even characters who never transformed in the series, like Radditz and Bardock, get special game-exclusive transformations. Players can also start in their transformed state from the menu, for those wishing to skip an extra step.
Transformations do more than just change how the character looks; many characters play completely differently in their transformed states. Bardock, for example, transforms into a Giant Ape, towering over his opponent and gaining a completely new set of moves and a massive increase in power, but at the cost of being a slow-moving giant target. Others, like Goku, look similar but have an entirely different set of moves, such as Instant Transmission, that change the way they play, giving each form its own advantages and disadvantages.
In the original Tenkaichi, fights were one-on-one, but Tenkaichi 2 introduces the Tag system that allows multiple characters to fight at once. Similar to the systems found in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or Tekken Tag, one fighter fights while the other remains on the sidelines until they are "tagged in." Certain abilities allow these sidelined characters to regenerate health or energy, so tagging and switching can be the key to victory in long battles. Another unique feature of these Tag Matches is the ability to perform Fusion with your partner. Similar to transformation, Fusion allows you to change into a new and more powerful form, but may only be done by specific combinations of characters.
Like the other Dragon Ball Z games, Tenkaichi 2 features a story mode called "Dragon Adventure," which allows you to go through the escapades chronicled in the anime. Fans will be happy to know that this may indeed be the most comprehensive offering to date, chronicling every adventure from the Saiyan Saga all the way to the end of Dragon Ball GT, including the side stories and movies. Even better, skilled players can unlock special "What if?" storylines that skew from the usual Dragon Ball Z plot in new and usual ways. These stories mean that even the most die-hard Dragon Ball fan will find a new adventure waiting!
Rather than a straight storyline mode, Dragon Adventure allows the player to fly freely around the worlds of Dragon Ball Z, exploring various cities between triggering plot events. Players can do everything from battle opponents to collect the titular Dragon Balls to get special and powerful new moves and abilities, or even finding hidden plot events. These events can be used to collect Zenni, the monetary unit of the Dragon Ball world ,or rare and valuable Z-Capsules.
Z-Capsules appeared in the first Tenkaichi game, but they've been expanded upon heavily in the sequel. Capsules can be equipped to fights in "Z-Evolution" mode to grant them new powers. Some are simple attack or defense increases, while others can grant character-exclusive abilities like Afterimage. These capsules can even be fused together to create new and more powerful abilities, or even to unlock hidden characters. Characters equipped in Z-Evolution can be transferred to a friend's game via a password system, so you can compete your strongest character against his or hers. With tens of thousands of different combinations, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Beyond the Dragon Adventure mode, Budokai Tenkaichi offers a host of other game types to keep players busy for ages. Besides the classic versus and training modes, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 includes a Dragon Tournament mode, where you battle opponents to earn a Zenni prize. For gamers looking for something more challenging, Ultimate Battle Z allows players to go up against sets of foes, ranging from Goku's rivals to a series of giant enemies, in an attempt to get a new high score. The Item Shop can be used to buy and sell capsules using Zenni, and also where you perform Z-Fusion. The Options menu allows players to change the camera, adjust the controls, or even change the characters' voices back to the original Japanese. Finally, the Dragon Library allows players to view the biography of every character from the franchise, read about the history of the Dragon Ball Z world or listen to the game's soundtrack.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is shaping up to be the game fans have been waiting for. With almost every character in the Dragon Ball universe, a fast-paced combat system, and a massive amount of customization, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 should be enough to keep even the most die-hard fans busy for months.
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