If you know Dragon Ball, you’ll know that Son Goku has had the wildest adventures, both in the anime and manga series. From reuniting the seven legendary orbs known as “dragon balls” as a kid, to facing off against alien invaders (and dying all the time) as an adult in Dragon Ball Z, Goku and his friends are no strangers to conflict. Hell, they fight more epic battles than they do taking days off and having a good time.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection
Developed by Dimps. Published by Namco Bandai.
Available for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the PS3.
These crazy, multi-layered adventures and battles are what have driven fans to flock to Akira Toriyama’s work for years, and are also the perfect setting for video games.
One of the most popular interpretations is Dimps’ Dragonball Z Budokai series, a hard-hitting and flashy fighter that perfectly captured the essence of the source material. Full of outrageous attacks, furious combos, and high-flying acrobatics, the series has captivated fans and newcomers alike since the original came out on the PS2 back in 2002.
Now for the first time ever, two popular entries in the series, Budokai 1 & 3, are available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 with the addition of high-definition graphics, in the Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection. Are these games as fun as you remember, or should they have remained stored in your closet?
In both Dragon Ball Z Budokai 1 & 3, the stories start off at the beginning of the Dragon Ball Z saga. Goku and his crew, including his son Gohan, are living in peace when all of a sudden a group of mysterious space invaders known as Saiyans arrive seeking to conquer planet Earth. After defeating the first invader known as Raditz – who also happens to be his brother – Goku dies and must wait until the others recover the seven legendary dragon balls, that when gathered, grant the finder any wish. Will Goku return in time to save the realm, or will the invaders – including the powerful warrior prince Vegeta – take over?
The story pretty much follows the events in the anime and manga, excluding all the needless talk and skipping right to the good stuff. Players must combat enemies or explore the world in order to make progress in the plot, which covers up to the Cell Saga (Budokai 1), or the Majin Buu Saga (Budokai 3).
Graphic-wise, the game is very stunning. The original two titles followed in the footsteps of the anime, with cartoony visuals and cel-shaded graphics, and thanks to the updated HD conversion, the visuals look even sharper than before and really pop out. It’s quite fantastic.
The audio featured in the games is also noteworthy, with sounds, tunes and voice-overs straight from the hit show. From the catchy and memorable theme song to the instantly recognizable sounds of battle, it’ll immediately sound just like you remember.
Gameplay comes in two flavors: exploration and combat. While Budokai 1 does not feature any sort of exploration in its story mode, in Budokai 3, the story mode known as “Dragon Universe” allows players to fly around Earth or Namek as a varied cast of characters, search for items and capsules that increase character stats, unlock new characters for battle, and see some side story. While this mode is mostly a gimmick to keep players busy between battles, it’s still enjoyable and offers some variety to the gameplay, as subsequent playthroughs can yield different outcomes.
The most important part of the gameplay, however, is the combat, and that’s where the game really shines. Players engage in 2D plane battles where they must punch, kick, shoot ki blasts, and more on their way to victory. A slew of combos exist to take away that bit of extra health, and each character has a number of special attacks that are used in conjunction with the Ki gauge to deal loads of damage. And just like the comics that have inspired it, characters can also soar through the sky, or transform into a more powerful stage.
While Budokai may sound like a simple button-masher, the game is far from it. Fighters are armed with a block button to defend themselves, and if used just before receiving an attack with a direction, it allows players to dodge, leaving the opponent exposed to counter-attack. This allows experienced players to get an advantage when facing new opponents. Other advanced techniques, like side-stepping and quick dashes, also add to a deep fighting experience.
The fighting, when it comes down to it, is loads of fun. It’s fast-paced, addicting and most of all, deep. While story mode usually attaches players to one or two characters at a time, other modes like VS. or Tournament allow players to choose from a wide range of characters from the Dragon Ball saga. From good guys like Goku, Krillin, and Piccolo to enemies like Vegeta, Freeza, Cell and Buu, there’s a wide range of fighting styles and abilities to use. Furthermore, players can purchase or earn capsules that grant players additional combos, stat boosts, and more, so players can pre-customize their fighters before heading to the arena.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection contains two games that were great fighters back in the day, and thankfully still hold up to thegood memories. While the stories contained within have been told so many times before, and the gameplay other than the fighting is somewhat lacking, the fast and flashy fighting is still as addictive as it was when these games first came out. If you love Dragon Ball and love fighting games, then you’ll really want to try this one out.