I have always been a fan of the animation TV series of Dragon Ball Z, followed each version and the animated films that have sprung from it. The natural spin off for that franchise has been its many video game series released over the years. Some have been good and some have been utterly terrible. I have played a good few of those games, none really captured me as a fan of the source material though. Could ‘Battle of the Z’ be the one to finally grab my attention?
Dragon Ball Z : Battle of Z is a team focused mission based Action game. You will get to recreate all the big fights from the Dragon Ball Z sagas as you put your team of either AI Controlled or human controlled via online co-op, against the big evil characters from Dragon Ball Z history. The missions vary from taking out low level goons to mixing it up with stronger challenges and characters leading into boss battles before moving on to the new saga. The missions will dictate which characters are available for selection. You will play as both sides, good or evil, as the missions progress with some characters being unlocked as a result of completing the missions.
As a fan of Dragon Ball Z, on paper the above should sound like music to my ears. What better way to celebrate the show you enjoy by getting to recreate its biggest battles in a video game. Sadly, the execution of the idea leaves the experience more then just a little flat. Each character has their own special moves but I found the combat to be nothing more then a mess of button mashing trying to get something exciting on the go during the fight. Taking out waves of entry level enemies for some missions quickly became tiresome and repetitive. The game’s targeting system feels clumsy when dealing with multiple enemies near you and hot switching to the next enemy after you have dealt with one often leaves you targeting an enemy further away then the one you can directly see. When facing stronger opponents I found I could get hit with a special move sent from off screen that would send me flying across the map forcing me to have to try and get back to the action
Being a team based game, if you are using AI controlled team mates, you can command the strategy to use by using the DPad with options to be more defensive, go full power, combine powers to take out an enemy or to leave that target to you. With three other characters supposedly under your control, I wanted to feel as though they were working with me and following my strategy I set with the commands but for most of the time it just felt like they were doing their own thing, especially when I was being ganged up on and called for a more defensive strategy, not once did I have the sensation that any of my team were coming to my aid. That only adds to the frustration of the combat system never making you feel as though you are really in control of anything you are doing on screen. Taking on a boss fight and your own team could end up being no help at all but more as a result of the weak damage theirs and your attacks do to the enemy, even when ordered to combine attacks the spectacle that a Dragon Ball Z boss fight should have and did have on the show is lost behind the grind just to try and do enough damage.
Characters can be upgraded and have their abilities boosted by way of the Card bonus system the game uses. Which is strange as the show never used a “card system” but had the fighters go off training. It would have been a nice touch if you could upgrade fighters by using the “Hyperbolic Chamber” from the show instead of cards obtained by completing missions and defeating characters. There was no tutorial into how these cards worked which I found limited my knowledge of them to the point where I had completed ten missions before knowing I could even use them to enhance the characters.
The level locations for the battles and missions are visually fluid with the style of the show but they are often rather tedious and bland examples. Large areas for movement but just that. With the big battles of the show often seeing characters being slammed and smacked through mountains it is quite underwhelming to not experience that during the battles in the game. Moving around the maps often use the flight ability of the characters, controlling going higher or lover using X or A feels strange and limits melee attacks to Y and powers to B. A Double tap will have you flying a little faster but knowing the show, it is frustrating that the speed is only just above that of a hover and it is again a grind to move around to get to a target with such restrictions on speed.
I did try the multiplayer and to bring in other players for co-op but suffered some serious lag issues from the other players despite my 60mb Fibre Optic connection. A few times the game even crashed as players lagged out completely. Trying to get a good cohesive game going was impossible for the five times I gave it a chance during my review playthrough. It all adds up to an experience that could and should have been much better but just failed to live up to the quality of the show itself.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is a game that had so much potential for me as a fan of the show, but its poorly executed. Everything felt such a chore to make anything cool happen on screen and blended with the clumsy and often unresponsive combat system, the experience proved more tedious then fun. Missions were a grind to get through the lesser “just hit Y a few times to defeat me” enemies before getting to a more challenge character but then the game fell down when trying to get your team to either help you or follow your choice in strategy and I was just left with an overall feeling of just…meh, after missions were completed.
As a fan of the show, I know what action in battles the game should have, and even changing up the characters I used, at no time did I get that wow feeling that I had when watching the same battles in the show. Using a Super Saiyan should feel amazing, but when I hoped I would be able to change during a battle to have a true sense of Dragon Ball Z, instead the super versions of the characters in the game would be made as selectable characters instead of a change mid battle. A side effect of the idea of building your own team giving you the option of making a team of each version of Goku’s Super Saiyan stages instead of leveling Goku up as a character to change into them during a fight which would have been a true fanboy moment.
On paper this could have been the finest example of a video game adaptation of the Dragon Ball Z show but instead its a mess of confusing control system, bland missions to grind through and a complete experience that only succeeds in making you want to watch the show again to experience how Dragonball Z should really look and feel. Not the worst Dragon Ball Z game in the franchise but it is a glowing example of what happens when you fail to get the basics of a game right before trying to over complicate it with gimmick ideas.
Would like to thank Xbox for the review copy given to ThisisXbox.com