Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review #129: Dragon Ball Z - Ultimate Tenkaichi

 I hate myself for buying this garbage.
 Which are the bigger criticisms that DBZ games get? That all the games are basically the same, they refuse to evolve, they are style over substance. So Bandai decided to make a new system(Which reuses a ton of animations from Raging Blast mind you) that makes the game, basically, play itself for you. This is to Dragon Ball games what Final Fantasy XIII is to the RPG genre.

 There's four modes to this game: Story, Hero, VS and Tournament. The latter two are self explanatory, so I'll go over the first two. Story Modes is actually rather good, it covers the story from the Saiyan saga to the Buu saga, with a couple of bonus Movie fights and a GT fight. The story mode does an alright job of retelling the story, there's a nice amount of in-game cutscenes with a few remastered scenes from the anime(These are amazing, the quality is very crisp). Sadly, a ton of context is giving on text-scrolls before each chapter, and these take a long time to scroll, so you'll might as well skip'em, still, a very lengthy mode and a good retelling of the series. Then comes Hero mode, in which the much touted "Create-a-Character" character is the protagonist. This is an all new story, which is a mediocre fanfiction at most, but hey, at last we get to create a character! It does come with a few shortcomings however, the creator is very barebones, you can unlock a couple of new hairstyles or clothes from the main cast, but it's very limited all in all. As good as that could possibly sound, this mode is a grindfest through and through, you can unlock skills to customize loadouts, but these involve fighting each master 6 times, and each character in the cast is a master, so it will take a long time. This wouldn't be such a chore if the game was any fun, but more on that later. Grinding isn't just limited to that, the fights in this mode will get exponentially harder as you go along, requiring you to fight fights in the overworld in order to raise your stats, which takes a long time. Still, fights will get nigh impossible, with enemies that can destroy you in two combos while it would take you a whole lot more to bring them down.
 Being a grindfest is the least of this game's problems, sadly. The new gameplay mechanics are downright terrible, no two questions about it. Basically, you are place in an arena alongside your enemy, and you both get free movement around each other. Fights take place either at "Blast Range" or "Melee Range", you can only change range by executing a move that has you pressing either left or right, your enemy does the same, if the enemy presses the same direction, you receive damage, otherwise they'll take damage, regardless of the outcome, you'll change range. Now then, Triangle executes a Strong Attack at close range or a strong ki blast at long range, while Square will produce a Ki blast combo or a melee combo. This is where it gets "interesting", after pressing square three times(And assuming at least the last attack connects) you'll enter a minigame in which you must either press Square or Triangle, once again, your enemy does the same, if they press the same button as you, your chain is cancelled, otherwise you initiate multiple cutscenes of you smashing your enemy while the game has you pressing square or triangle to make you feel as if you are doing something.

 Notice the problem with the game? Everything(unless you hit them on their back) you do puts you into a 50-50 situation in which you either take damage or deal damage, regardless if you are on the offensive or not. This is so dumb, and worst of all, the game basically plays itself as the same animations and camera angles play over and over and over and over and over again. While some of the basic Square attacks are different between some characters, the special "enders" after each chain is the same for every single character, you'll be seeing the same animations over and over again. This game is terrible. There's another underlying mechanic in the form of ki, when the enemy uses a special attack, if you have Ki, you can spend it to guard, evade or counterattack the move, and there's a tiny bit of strategy involved, since if you get your enemies into a chain you'll take away from their Ki meter(Square button chains take away more Ki, but increase your Special move gauge slower, and it's the other way around for Triangle chains). Oh, and lest I forget, there's input lag. All those QTEs? You gotta be extra fast because your inputs register late. All those times you have to press a button once a marker reaches a certain point? Gotta press it earlier. This is especially noticeable in the tutorial where many have spent hours trying to get it right, you just need to know about the input lag.
 One of the few neat things about the game is that you can choose which special moves to equip on a character, mind you, not all characters have more than two specials, but it's still a neat detail. Or it would be if it wasn't for the fact that the character roster is very lacking. If characters where more unique, I'd easily forgive it(Or if the game was any good), but there's no excuse for such a small roster that's missing characters such as Goten, Kid Trunks or Dabura while tertiary characters like Pui are in. It's even worse when you consider the huge amount of animations that were lifted straight from Budokai Tenkaichi/Raging Blast, where did they spend their budget money? Or was this game made on a small budget? The real question is, who thought that a game in which everything you do puts you in a 50-50 position to receive or deal damage, a game that plays itself would be fun?

 Now that I'm done with the mediocre and the bad, comes the highlight of the game: Presentation. The game is drop-dead gorgeous, stages are brimming with color and life and they take damage as you unleash special moves. Character models use a new cell-shading style that makes characters look as if colored by hand with pencils. It's beautiful. The special effects such as beams and auras are also eye poppers. Guess this is where their money went, huh? On the flipside, the mouth animations are terrible, most animations come straight from Raging Blast and the way characters rotate when turning around during cutscenes is embarrassingly bad. Music is incredible, I love this game's OST, probably my favorite soundtrack on a DBZ game.... even though some tracks don't really fit the fights or the scenes they are used in, however, by themselves they are still fantastic tunes on their own right. The game offers dual audio, and while I can't comment on the American dub, the Japanese dub is great and I think that some characters got recast? I don't remember #19 and Gero having those voices, but I could be wrong.

 Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi is a terrible game and strictly for fans. As bad as everything, besides the presentation, is, I'd say that the story mode is worth it for fans, but just the story mode, as the battle mode, by itself is terrible whether you play it by yourself or with other people.
 2.5 out of 10

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