One of the first battles I witnessed in Dragon Ball: Raging Blast was between Krillin and Raditz during the Saiyan Saga, one of the many epic confrontations reenacted in the game. After both opponents exchanged taunts and became infused with glowing energy, the fight was on. Raditz hit Krillin with a chain of punches followed by a Ki blast, sending him flying off into the distance before plunging into a lake.
At this point, I finally noticed my depleted health bar on the screen and realized I was losing the fight, not enjoying a great cut scene.
My initial experience with Raging Blast, adapted from the famed anime series, was positive, but once I actually picked up the controller and started playing, the magic died down. Although the game packs a staggering amount of content, the technical hurdles make it difficult to enjoy.
Like many other Dragon Ball games, this one is a fighter, and anyone who's watched the series would probably agree there's no better way to represent it in a video game. Unlike other fighting games, the camera sits slightly behind the player's character and most of the combat takes place in the air.
There are the standard combos, counter moves and grabs, but the real key to victory lies in the super attacks, which can be unleashed when enough Ki energy has been built up. Each fighter typically has four super attacks that are activated by simply flicking the right thumbstick in a certain direction. If a player is able to charge his Ki meter even more, an ultimate attack can be used.
There are 40 different characters from the series to bring into the ring, including all the regulars such as Goku, Piccolo and Vegeta, to name a few. All of them are customizable, with specific perks like added defense or Ki damage, and super attacks can be swapped out for other moves.
Whenever super attacks are activated, Raging Blast switches into a cut scene, and fighters let loose a flurry of energy blasts that are so over-the-top they could only come from a Japanese cartoon. The problem with these godlike moves is they're a little too easy to pull off. Ki energy is quickly built up by fighting or hitting the charge button on the d-pad, and then it only takes a flick of the thumbstick to bring the pain. Because of this, super attacks get tossed around to the point where players spend more time watching than fighting, and it can get a pretty annoying.
This happens a lot during online matches. If a really good player gets on a roll, he can start up a freight train of super attacks while the guy receiving the pummeling can only sit and watch.
Believe me when I say Raging Blast has an absolute mother lode of gameplay modes. Dragon Ball fanboys should be satisfied, while everyone else will be drowning in the content.
The game's campaign mode, Dragon Battle Collection, contains well over 50 battles taken from the pages of the series' history. Some stories include the Androids, Frieza and Saiyan sagas. Those not familiar with the series will be completely lost, as the scant pieces of information in the game provide no context. Even the character bios in the game's museum do little to explain who's who.
After the campaign, there are standard competitions like arcade mode, time trials and others to be unlocked. Those who just want to get straight to the fighting can play local versus or team battle matches.
Fighting game developers must miss the days when competitive play stayed on the couch. Online play is one of the biggest challenges in the genre, and there aren't many games that are able to run smoothly. Raging Blast is one of the few that does it perfectly. Not one match I played ever suffered from lag, and the fighting was just as fast and fluid as it was offline.
Jumping into a match is a breeze, and so is creating a private match to play with friends. Up to eight players can partake in the game's tournament mode, but AI opponents can also be subbed in. Users can choose whether they want to allow customized characters into the fight to make things more balanced.
Yes, Raging Blast is quite the package when it comes to features. That's why it pains me to say that none of it is totally worth the price of admission. This is tragically due to some very frequent and very frustrating gameplay problems.
First, it's extremely easy to lose sight of an opponent. Because the camera is always stuck behind the user's character, it's easy for the enemy to fly out of view. Since many super attacks can be used from anywhere, losing track of an opponent often means taking significant damage or losing a match.
When characters get pushed up against a wall, say goodbye to the camera; it never adjusts its angle, so the player's view of the action is completely ruined. The environments in Raging Blast are big, but they aren't limitless so this occurs often. Having a static camera in a 3-D fighting game where everyone can fly sounds like a bad idea on paper, so how it became part of the final game is a mystery.
Make no mistake; these problems will happen every time you play. The fighting can be intense and frenetic, but the camera constantly brings the action and fun to a halt.
It's a shame because the fights are worth seeing. Raging Blast's visual style is fantastic, and it's tough to tell when the battle starts. The cel-shaded character models look very true to the anime series, and their super attacks are bright, colorful and smooth. The stages are varied, with some levels set in cities and others on volcanic planets. Each wide-open arena is also full of destructible objects through which players can use to smash their opponents.
The voice acting is the typical poorly dubbed material found in English-adapted anime, so I guess it's accurate. The soundtrack is pretty limited and after spending some time with the game, you'll have heard each corny tune many times.
After so many titles, it's pretty obvious that Dragon Ball Z video games are made with only the hardest of hardcore fans in mind. Catering to the fans isn't a bad thing, but those fans still deserve some core gameplay that actually works. No matter how good a game's presentation or how much content it has, Raging Blast proves it only takes a few bad gameplay mechanics to ruin it all.
Some fans might be able to look past the issues in Dragon Ball: Raging Blast, but they'll have to work hard at it. For those in desperate need of a DBZ game, a good alternative to Raging Blast would be last year's Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit. It has a better fighting system and, by now, a much lower price tag.
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