The Dragon Ball Z anime series has a long history, and it just screams to be made in to a fighting game. Unfortunately, many Dragon Ball Z games have fallen short on the hype they bring to series fans. The Budokai series changed that on the Playstation 2 when it was released in 2002 and later on the Wii; it quickly became a fan favorite and was generally acclaimed among critics to be a solid fighter. Now, Namco is looking to re-birth the series with a fresh coat of paint with the release of the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection, which contains re-releases of Budokai and Budokai 3. The collection also introduces the Budokai series to Xbox fans for the first time with a release on the Xbox 360. So, how do these titles make the jump from last-gen to current-gen gaming?
As mentioned, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection is a re-skinning of the original releases, and it has the same features, with a few added touches here and there, mainly cosmetic. For recap purposes, Budokai has been long-touted as the definitive Dragon Ball Z game and was the first truly amazing licensed game from the series, telling a story laid out like an episode of the anime series. Budokai 3 carried on the majority of the formula but added the free world mode, allowing you to free-fly around Earth and Namek, visiting dialogue and battle points. You can also visit many of the familiar places from the anime series. While flying across the two planets, you can also explore different characters from the anime series’ stories. This allows you to progress through the story at your own pace. The general format of the two titles has not been changed in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection.
The appearance of the titles is amazing. You can definitely tell that the titles are a little dated, with blocky textures and character models, but sometimes it is nice to be reminded of where we came from to help us realize where we are. Even in the blocky form though, landscapes and characters are crisp, and the colors pop off of any HD display.
Now what really matters when it comes to fighting titles is the fighting itself. First off, let me say that with the two Budokai titles in one collection, you will now have the largest assembled collection of Dragon Ball Z characters in a video game. Both titles allow you to collect and customize move sets and add items to your fighter, and in Budokai 3, you can build your character’s stats as you level them up. Both games come with tournament and dual modes that allow you to customize your fighter to fit your play style.
The fighting is simple, foregoing the complicated button combos and patterns of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Instead, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection relies on a four-button system that makes it easy for a new player to jump in and feel competent playing the titles, but also leaves room for more advanced players to really dominate the game. The Budokai series makes for a great two-player title in the tournament and duel modes, but the sad part is that there is an absence in online multiplayer – strictly couch co-op with this one. I wish Namco would have taken the time to add in an online element. For the two player duels, one must play the single player first to unlock and level up the powers of fighters before entering into the duel – that is, if you want to have a variety of fighters other than the few provided.
Fortunately and unfortunately, I did not see any real changes to the titles other than a fresh coat of paint. The addition of online multiplayer would have had me and my friends playing away the night hours for a while, but unfortunately, the title will not get as much spin time as it should. Fans of the series are going to eat this up and be delighted. Newcomers to the series will enjoy it, but again, longevity could be an issue.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection is available on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. A copy was provided for review.