The original Dragon Ball franchise ended in 1998 with its final show, "Dragon Ball GT." Since then, the franchise has been mostly dormant, aside from the occasional cameo or brief animated short. The closest thing to a new series is "Dragon Ball Z Kai," a version of the original Dragon Ball Z that has cut some of the more egregious "filler" content cleaned up some animations.
That hasn't stopped the video games from coming out with surprising regularity, though.
There has been a new Dragon Ball video game practically every few months since the mid-2000s. It may sound amazing that a show that hasn't had new content in over a decade can continue to churn out games, but the developers manage to find content to fill their titles. You've had traditional fighting games, fast-paced action games, RPGs and even card games. Pretty much any character who every appeared on-screen in Dragon Ball Z has shown up in a video game or two.
Dragon Ball Z: Raging Blast 2 is a glaring example of how tapped out the franchise has become. Instead of introducing new gameplay innovations or exciting new takes on the Dragon Ball Z world, Raging Blast 2 feels more like someone trying to wring the last droplets of water from a well-squeezed sponge. This may be enough to satisfy thirsty fans, but most other players will find nothing of worth.
Raging Blast 2's combat system is an odd mix of complex and simplistic. When you first take to the field, the amount of options can be overwhelming. The game has a lengthy (and somewhat poor) tutorial that gradually explains all the mechanics to you, but each ability's function is often unclear. You can dart around the battlefield in a number of ways ranging from flying to teleportation, and each is accessible through awkward button combinations. You can dodge attacks, set up counters, use special moves with perfect timing to increase their effectiveness, and a number of other techniques.
In the long run, however, most of the moves aren't very useful. The game seems to have been designed to give the player the ability to mimic the battles in the show without considering how to make the cartoon's overblown and dramatic abilities fit into the combat system. Once you've learned what everything does, you're unlikely to utilize most of it. If it were more simplistic and accessible, it could be fun to copy the show's fast-paced action, especially for younger gamers. However, the controls are too much work for too little payoff. There are other Dragon Ball Z games that do a better job of mimicking the combat style.
The combat in Raging Blast 2 is very simple and repetitive. The game is largely built around gathering ki energy to power your special attacks. You gather ki by attacking your enemy with melee attacks or "charging" up your energy for a moment. Once you've gathered enough ki, you can set up your enemy to be hit by one of your special moves. These are bound to the right analog stick, so they're not particularly difficult to activate. Press a direction, and the move activates. Depending on where and when you use the move, you may find yourself thrown into a Quick Time Event (QTE) to boost the damage or prevent the enemy from weakening your attack. You can even get into the iconic beam battles from the show, where two characters must try to overcome the other's energy blast. There are some moves that activate fancy cut scenes, while others are more naturally integrated into the combat. Regardless, it does a good job of mimicking the feel of the show, but alas, it doesn't do a very good job of being fun.
Melee combat is not particularly deep. You have two melee buttons, and you can only alter when you switch from "rush" (weak) to "charge" (strong) attacks. You can attempt to teleport around or knock enemies across the stage, but you'll probably want to stick with the safest attacks because melee damage is usually pretty minimal. It's mostly there to disorient your opponent and build up ki. Going for long, damaging combo strings isn't really useful and leaves you vulnerable to a nasty counterattack. This is somewhat alleviated by the addition of the Raging Soul mechanic. If you gather enough ki, you can activate Raging Soul mode. When you do, your melee damage skyrockets, but you lose access to your special moves. It's a neat idea that adds some variety to the repeated spamming of energy blasts, but it's not enough to be interesting. It lets you decide whether to use simplistic melee combat or simplistic beam combat.
Raging Blast 2 adds a hefty dose of extra characters from the Dragon Ball Z television show. Since the prior title already had most of the big-name Dragon Ball Z characters, it should come as no surprise that the expanded cast consists of lesser-known characters. It's great for hardcore DBZ fans, but otherwise, it's not really a selling point. There are around 90 characters, but most of the characters play the same and have similar moves and abilities, so it's tough to care when one golden-haired glowing character is switched for another nearly identical golden-haired glowing character. The characters' strongest moves look different, but that shouldn't be considered a gameplay difference. Some fans will be happy to see that their favorite often-ignored character is available to play, but on the other hand, it feels that more should have been done to make the characters unique and interesting. Quantity over quality is the name of the game here.
Raging Blast 2 may lose Dragon Ball Z fans in its various gameplay modes. For some reason, the game entirely forgoes any kind of story or adventure mode and gives you Galaxy mode instead. It's a series of context-less missions that vaguely connect to the character's story line in the show. You're challenged to beat certain opponents under certain conditions, and that's about as much plot as you're going to get. Since the game is going out of its way to go for cartoon accuracy over gameplay, it's mind-boggling that there's no story mode. The gameplay is too shallow and boring to entice you to play the game for the game's sake, and the lack of plot and context make it tough to care about the Galaxy mode.
The versus and tournament modes add extra gameplay value, but only if you have friends who are willing to forsake interesting gameplay for show accuracy. Otherwise, it's going to be a dull experience even when you're playing against other people. Online combat felt very smooth and responsive, but when the combat isn't limited by the AI, online play devolves into the repeated abuse of a few gameplay mechanics.
There are a lot of unlockables in Raging Blast 2. In addition to the wide variety of characters, you can find artwork, costumes, music and other neat things that should appeal heavily to Dragon Ball Z fans. You can even unlock new items and moves to customize your characters, although this doesn't do much to prevent most characters from feeling too similar. Perhaps the most worthwhile thing is the inclusion of a rare animated Dragon Ball Z short, "The Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans." It's obvious that this is only going to appeal to fans of the franchise, but you can't knock the game for knowing its target audience. The only real complaint I had about the unlockables is that you have to play the game to get to them. Fortunately, "The Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans" is unlocked from the outset, so die-hard fans can watch it right away.
To its credit, Dragon Ball Z: Raging Blast 2 looks incredible. It's not a huge step over the previous game, but it looks almost anime-perfect. The characters and attack animations look incredible, and there are times when you have to remind yourself that you're not watching an episode of the show, especially in those brief moments when the mechanics come together and show off the exaggerated and hyperkinetic combat. The camera is improved over the regular game, but it still has the occasional habit of losing track of your opponent. It's most noticeable when you or your opponent rocket high into the air. The voice work is done well and fits the show, and the soundtrack is good overall. If there was one major complaint I had about the visuals, it is that the backgrounds seemed a little dull, especially when compared to the brightly animated characters. A lot of them are recycled from the first game, but the new ones don't stand out much, either.
Dragon Ball Z: Raging Blast 2 is a game for the fans, but even fans may find this particular entry to be a little lacking. The wide variety of characters is offset by the similarity in their move sets. The combat is designed to mimic the show, but it ultimately feels too simplistic to capture anyone's attention for long. The lack of a story mode makes it tough to push through the gameplay to get to the numerous interesting unlockables, and the online mode is a temporary diversion at best. If you enjoyed Dragon Ball Z: Raging Blast and don't mind sacrificing a story in exchange for some obscure characters, you'll probably find something to enjoy in Raging Blast 2. Otherwise, stick to one of the other — and better — Dragon Ball Z games on the market.
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