Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit
Dragon Ball Z first appeared on the scene shortly after the Pokemon madness had subsided. It was based around some sort of card game, but one that never quite took off and the strong point of the franchise has always been the anime series on TV. Now there is a new computer game to sample, so let's see how good it is.
The first thing I noticed when starting up the title was how similar it was to the old Pokemon games - there is something about the menu system, style of writing, and the overall feel that really reminded me of the earlier series. In fact, it seemed quite strange to be playing such a game on any console other than a Nintendo one - it shows what an effect Nintendo's ownership of the Pokemon brand has had on the general anime-style sub-genre.
Anyway, the game is quite a standard fighting game. Apparently Dragon Ball Z is based around some sort of martial art that is a mix between Street Fighter and that stuff that they do in some Asian films - you know, the flying around and stuff. It's got all the usual elements, but the ground seems largely incidental - the game plays exactly the same when your guys end up flying around in the air.
On the PS3, 'X' is block while Square and Triangle provide different attacks (kicks or punches, depending on the character being used). Circle provides a ranged attack, a sort of ball of energy-mechanic. X and Square at the same time cause a Grab attack.
Of course, holding different directional buttons while pressing these buttons creates a different attack. Nothing new there. The only thing of note is that holding Up while pressing Triangle will launch your enemy into the air, starting off the aerial battles mentioned earlier.
Your character also has Ki, a form of energy that can be unleashed with special attacks. It can also be used as a shield which will protect your guy from absolutely any attack apart from Grabs. Of course, the Ki bar goes down while being used. When your bar is full, holding a directional button with Circle will unleash a powerful attack, depending on your character. However, almost all characters seem to unleash a generic laser beam, and they all do about the same amount of damage. It is an interesting effect, and well worth saving the Ki for. You can also press L1 to use your Ki in a more powerful mode - while the Ki bar goes down you do more damage. Overall, however, I found the best use was far and away the Ultimate Attacks (as they are known).
Also, in Versus mode you can select a number of Drama Cards for your character. When certain requirements are fulfilled in the battle (such as taking a certain amount of damage) these Drama Cards are expended. It will do damage to your enemy or give you an upgrade, amongst other things. To be honest, the effects are always quite minimal and the overall mechanic seems to be more about adding character to the game, and it does succeed in that respect.
There are a number of different game modes - you have the standard fighting challenges such as Survival (take out as many enemies as you can before you lose all your health). The story mode (Z Chronicles) does deserve slightly more explanation.
You will need to play though Z Chronicles to unlock all the characters and the possible Drama Cards (quite an extensive range, by any measure). There are a number of different "Sagas", each centring on a different storyline (in theory).
However, as is usually the case with such things, the story makes absolutely no sense if you aren't a fan of the series and the designers have made no concession for those of us unfamiliar. Characters are brought in with no introduction, no reason for why they are fighting, and just start shouting at each other and punching each other. At the end of the first Saga, for example, the person I just defeated started charging up a beam of energy and saying he was going to blow up Earth. Firstly I was surprised that he had this impressive amount of power, and then I wondered what his motivation was for this. Never mind, the chap I was controlling foiled this dastardly plot with his own beam of energy and the evil guy fell down groaning. However, in the next Saga the seemingly evil guy had obviously had a change of heart and was helping fight the new nasties. It would have been nice to see why this happened but maybe it would be obvious to fans of the show.
Also, a special mention really needs to go to the fact that the characters are always saying "Darn it" and "Darn you". This is as bad as the language gets but it is obvious that it has been substituted for something else and really just sounds rather ridiculous.
At the end of it all, Dragon Ball Z has a solid fighting mechanic behind it. The controls make sense and are responsive. However, I always felt that I was missing out by not being a fan of the show. The game also didn't make me care enough to investigate further, and so I brand this one firmly as "one for the fans".