Dragon Ball Z has been around for a long time and, with that said, so have a lot of games. Sadly, most of them are terrible and don’t ever really live up to the action found within the show. DBZ finally managed to catch a break when Namco Bandai finally released a game by the name of Dragon Ball Z Budokai. Since then things have looked up for the doomed series of games, finally fans of the series had a DBZ game to look forward to. With each new release in the Budokai series the games only got better, adding more gameplay and touching up on the already fun combat. Unfortunately the same can’t be said this time around.
It seems like Namco Bandai has strayed from the series since releasing on this generation of consoles. It really felt that the series was missing that special touch that the original Budokai series had. Now Namco Bandai has released the HD Collection that, strangely, includes the first and third entries into the series.
DBZ Budokai was one of the best Dragon Ball Z games released at the time. Between the cell-shaded graphics, combat that made you feel like you were watching the show, and a story that stayed truthful. Budokai had what the fans were waiting for, a true DBZ experience. Not only did it offer a Story mode but it also included a Vs. mode, Tournament mode and Practice mode. This allowed you to play through the individual Sagas and unlock more characters and skills to use across all the game’s modes.
Skills were a brilliant addition as it allowed you to create your own character and brought in customisation to the series. However, if you decided that you didn’t fancy creating your own character then presets were available to let you tweak the show’s stars. Anyone who took Budokai seriously, though, would look to Skills to aid play-style and create powerful characters. There’s an awful lot of playtime to be had here, unlocking new characters and training up existing ones in pursuit of unlocking everything.
DBZ Budokai 3 took everything good from the first two entries and, pretty much, perfected it. A brilliant addition was the introduction of a free-roaming mechanic during story mode. This means that instead of progressing linearly, you can go off and explore between matches, discovering collectables and items like the Dragon Balls to unlock some hidden extras. You can also start the story as your favourite character and progress through each of their own stories. Progressing through single-player sagas means that you’ll level up and upgrade stats to you own liking.
Both games play largely the same. You can chain moves together to pull off combos and perform special moves too, but out of the two Budokai 3 has the upper hand. The third entry adds cinematic combat, new camera angles, faster gameplay and a wider move-set to your arsenal. At certain points during moves it feels exactly like watching the show.
Being a last-generation game, both Budokai and Budokai 3 have made the transition to HD rather wonderfully. Its colours are bright and sharp, staying true to the look of the anime. Comparing it to current DBZ releases it’s hard to really spot the difference – which can clearly only be a good thing. The destructible environments in Budokai 3 also look amazing a you smash your opponent into mountains, buildings and the ground.
All in all, the Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD collection is a must own for fans of the series and for those who like fighting games. It’s easy to pick up and play and, if you really want more depth, you can customize your skills to fit to your play style and help you dominate the game. This will fill that hunger for a good DBZ game that most fans have been waiting for, it may not be anything new but it’s a reminder of how fun a DBZ can be if done correctly.
Audio/visual – 4/5: Looks just like the anime and is now sharper than ever in HD
Gameplay – 4/5: Fun as ever, easy to pick up and play, but hard to master.
Innovation – 3/5: Offers nothing new, it still holds up well to the newer DBZ games.
Value – 4/5: Two of the best DBZ games ever made in one HD collection, hours upon hours of gameplay.
Final score: 4/5