Monday, 3 March 2014

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z

For fans of the anime series, Dragon Ball Z, the announcement of Battle of Z must have been music to their ears. Even I - as the friend of a DBZ-lover who makes it his business to own every Saiyan-saturated game – was somewhat excited. Unfortunately, even with 70+ characters and the introduction of Goku’s Super Saiyan God form, this excitement didn’t last long.

When playing Battle of Z, the gamer has three options; Single Player, Co-op and Battle Mode.

Single-player takes the gamer through a number of missions, fighting their way through the various enemies of the Dragon Ball Z series, all connected together with a somewhat basic narrative. This mode, lasting around 10+ hours, pits you against the likes of old favourites such as Vegeta, Frieza, and Cell, while also including new fighters like Beerus, the God of Destruction. Regrettably, they all spout the same bland dialogue, not that anyone comes to a DBZ game for the conversation.

Fighting is the most important aspect of Battle of Z, as the series is well-known for its lightning-fast punches, kicks, dodges, transformations and teleporting. Battle of Z changes many of these fighting mechanics, and not all for the better. Landing hits on an opponent is as fast-paced as ever, and teleporting behind their body as it flies through the air for another blow to the back is especially cool, but it sure does become repetitive.

Melee attacks are carried by pressing triangle (as I played the PS3 version) and continuously tapping this leads to a combo that, while initially cool, soon becomes tedious. It activates the same combo each time and requires no effort to pull off. Luckily, each fighter has three unique special moves to use, which break up the monotony with large, epilepsy-inducing effects. These are great to watch – when the often dodgy camera allows it – and are immensely satisfying to connect with an opponent; especially when they’re a mere two feet away.

In addition, Battle of Z includes ‘Card collection’, ‘Item collection’, ‘Premium collection’ and the Play Log. The first three are assets that are unlocked as you complete missions, and contain cards and items that can be used to gain stat-boosts during battles, whereas the latter allows gamers to get into the nitty-gritty of what fighters they use most, how they use them, and where there is room for improvement.

Other than this, there are far too many issues and changes plaguing the battles of this DBZ game; the environments are too large, and flying too slow; there is no longer the ability to transform, but rather separate fighters for each form – which I’d imagine DBZ fans are extremely unhappy about; and there is now no way to charge up energy other than carrying out the tedious melee combos.  Despite never having joined the fandom of Dragon Ball Z, this felt like too many changes to the existing, and popular, formulae that DBZ fans have grown to know and love, and even I felt like something was missing.

Then there are the Co-op and Battle modes. Co-op, which allows you to take on missions with up to three players, adds a bit more fun to the mix, as fighting becomes less about narrative, dialogue and variety, and more about how many team combos you can pull off.

Battle mode is essentially what has replaced local multiplayer in DBZ. Despite being mind-numbingly slow to find players to fight against, games are often unbalanced and feel like nothing more than a single-player mission against slightly less useless AI. There’s no intensity, no competitiveness, no reason to ever load up Battle Mode more than once, really.

For me, the lack of local multiplayer in a fighting game is a deal breaker, and considering how many things are wrong with Battle of Z’s replacements, it is unforgiveable. Although performing synchronised beatings in Co-op is fun, and there’s more Dragon Ball Z characters than you could shake Master Roshi’s walking stick at, too much else is wrong with this title. Fighting is repetitive and lacks the well-known charging ability, transformations, intensity and variety of past games, whilst it adds awkward camera angles and dodgy lip-syncing to the mix.

Big fans of the Dragon Ball Z series may enjoy this game for the first-time inclusion of God characters alone, but if you’re a gamer just looking for your next fighting game, you’ll spend more time battling with boredom than your friends in Battle of  Z.

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z doesn't quite find all the Dragon Balls with a 2/5, []

Ryan Noble

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z at CeX

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