Review: Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection
We last saw the original Budokai trilogy in 2005, and now deep into the current console life cycle we're getting an HD collection of it. Has it survived the test of time, and is it worth buying?
- Worth The Time?Yes for the games, no for the HD collection.
- Things LovedBudokai 3 is still as fun as ever to play and it hasn't aged badly at all, the HD upgrade is nice, the loading times are extremely fast.
- Things HatedNo Budokai 2, no online play, the first game feels very outdated and you'd only really want to play it for nostalgic purposes, the original music has been changed, this HD collection doesn't come close to justifying its asking price.
- RecommendationDon't buy this. The games may be fun, but this collection doesn't justify its asking price one bit, and you'd be wasting your money.
- Name: Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection
- Genre: Fighting
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Dimps
- Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
- Price: R451
- Reviewed On: PS3
The Dragon Ball Z series will always be special to me because of my obsession with it as a younger creature. The Budokai series in particular, while not gaining the best of critical reception, bar the third game, it was certainly extremely popular among its fans. I myself loved Budokai 3 back in the day, and with this HD collection it was quite pleasing to discover that I still very much enjoy the game. It has definitely not aged all that badly, and most fans will be able to excitedly slip back into it despite playing all the recent DBZ games. It’s also quite nostalgic to take yourself back to Budokai 1, and perhaps that’s the biggest incentive to go that far back. But even though the games on offer in this HD collection are fun, throughout my time with it I couldn’t help the feeling that I’d just never pay the absurd asking price for this. And let’s get into exactly why that is, because there’s quite a bit to say on the matter.
Firstly, this collection gives you Budokai 1 and 3 remastered in HD and with full Trophy and Achievement support. On top of that, the original soundtracks that were composed by Kenji Yamamoto were apparently accused of plagiarism, so these were taken out of the game and instead both games have entirely new soundtracks mixed from those of later DBZ titles, as well as new music. I’m sure many fans won’t be happy about considering Budokai 3’s soundtrack was pretty popular, but what can you do in this situation. Furthermore, the HD collection has made a few gameplay improvements to the original Budokai, as now the option has become available for the second and computer players on the right side to choose the custom setting when selecting a character, and there are some new transitions between the story video and fight scenes, as well as a new title sequence. Some extra costumes are available in Budokai 3. While some of these changes aren’t that significant, it’s nice to have them.
Budokai 1 features a total of 23 playable characters, and its story mode lets you go from the Saiyan saga right until the end of the Cell saga. The story mode was one of the features that was praised by critics, so DBZ fans will surely get a kick out of it still. Although you do go through a more rapid version of it again in Budokai 3 depending on your character selection. In addition to the story mode, there’s also a versus mode, a tournament stage, a pratice mode and an items shop where you can buy customization abilities using cash you picked up in challenges, tournaments or the story mode. There were also a few ‘what if’ scenarios thrown into the story mode, which basically were different takes on iconic events in the DBZ history, giving fans some twists. When this series started, it didn’t use the awesome cel-shaded graphics that suits DBZ best, but a full 3D style, and playing it now you may find it off-putting or not all that pleasing to look at. And if you’re a fan of Budokai 3, then the combat system and such of this game will feel very dated, and you’ll naturally be missing a lot of characters. The biggest reasons to play this, if you’re not an achievement whore, would just be for nostalgic purposes, maybe the odd case of fan preference or purely for its story mode, which does get rapidly relived through in Budokai 3. So personally, I wasn’t very inspired to play this past my interest at revisiting something old, but for fans of the Budokai series I’m sure many will get a kick out of it.
Budokai 3 on the other hand, is most well known for having the best gameplay, a large roster of characters and plenty to unlock. It features a story mode, versus mode, items shop and tournament as usual, but also a battle ranking stage where you can challenge the AI in a hundred fighter challenge, working your way to the top of the ladder. There are 42 playable characters in the game, including some notable ones from various DBZ movies such as Cooler, Broly and Bardock. Super Saiyan 4 Goku and Omega Shenron from Dragon Ball GT also make an appearance. The story mode lets you fly around the world as the character you choose and play through various battles, collect items and money and talk to famous DBZ characters. Enthusiastic fans will enjoy it, but those just wanting to unlock all the characters and moves may easily find it tedious and overly long. Still, for the completionist or enthusiast, you’ll get plenty of game time out of it. The problem is, if you just want to play against your friends, you’ll definitely need to go through it because without unlocking things in the story, your options are extremely limited. But where you’ll be rewarded is with the gameplay.
Budokai 3 in particular feels as good as ever to play. Sure there have been many DBZ games since then, but this game is still solid, varied and plenty of fun. You’ll play one-on-one battles on a 2D plane, using easy to grasp mechanics that are a bit challenging to use effectively. Combat is made up of light punch, heavy punch, energy and block. You’ll gain energy either by powering up or dishing out and taking damage. Pulling off signature moves like the kamehameha is simple but drains energy, and are quite punishable if you miss. You’ll select your special moves before a fight, of which you can have a limited amount depending on how strong the moves you take are. For instance, a kamehameha is just one move slot, but something like an item takes up a fair few. Depending on which transformations you choose before the fight, you can power up to the next level in a fight provided you have enough energy. You don’t need to work your way up, but can jump straight to whichever transformation you wish depending on how many energy bars you have. It’s simple, and works very well.
Some technical play comes in with the fact that you can also expend three bars of energy to dodge an attack and teleport behind your opponent for a counter, as well as enter Hyper Mode with the L2 key, and this puts you in a form of rage that makes you unable to be knocked down or stunned by an opponent not in Hyper Mode. You deal significant damage, and can also perform special Dragon Rush sequences if you smash your opponent, which are three part mini games in which your opponent has to guess which face button you press to end the rush, or suffer large damage if they’re incorrect. You can only select each face button once, and it drops away in the next part of the rush. If you play through the story and unlock all the moves, you’ll find tons to enjoy and mix up the experience with, which really becomes the best part of the game. There’s a strong sense of variety in the tactics you can use. For instance, you can select the Majin Vegeta transformation before a fight, which takes up most of your slots, but if you get to low health with Vegeta then you’ll see a special cutscene where Babidi inflicts the Majin curse on him. Naturally, you gain a massive power boost and lets you perform the epic Final Explosion. In many ways Budokai 3 is an absolute DBZ nerd fest, and I can’t help but love it.
Budokai 1 feels like a slower, more primitive version, and I honestly found it a bit difficult to play next to the third game. It’s not entirely the game’s fault though. At the time, yes it received mixed reviews, but it also showed promise. But putting Budokai 3 right next to it makes it difficult to want to play it. Still, I’m sure some fans will enjoy taking a trip down memory lane like that. The fighting mechanics are still quite solid, and its still very fluid to play. I guess also that the more focused story mode and various what-if scenarios, if we factor out achievements, could still entice serious fans, but that’s about it.
The HD graphics overhaul is fairly noticeable in Budokai 3, because characters have cooler and more visible lighting effects on them. Budokai 3 in particular hasn’t aged all that badly, and is still very pleasant to look at and watch in motion even today. The original struggles a bit more, due to its lack of cel-shading, and many may find it unappealing today. One thing that is to love about the HD collection is that loading times are extremely fast, which is always a major plus.
Now I know that back when I reviewed the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on PS Vita, which omitted one of the three games that were on offer in the console version of the collection, I still recommended it and said you can live with that, even though it was sorely missed when considering the value of the collection. So why am I more accepting of that than this? Well, firstly and most obviously it has being portable going for it, and secondly both games on the HD collection were still arguably two of the best games in history, and to play them on the go at no loss of quality was a great thing. You’d easily be able to go into and play both games until you’re completely done with them, extras and all. But in this DBZ collection, the omission of Budokai 2 firstly stops you from seeing the natural progression of the series, has no real base whatsoever, hurts fan preference and the missing gap actually means that all of your time will just go into Budokai 3, and the first feels so outdated in comparison that unless you’re in it for achievements, the third game makes the first feel redundant. I don’t know, playing almost the price of a brand new game for a seven year old PS2 title that completely overshadows the other inclusion in the collection seems like a rip off to me. Maybe if an online mode had been included, I’d be closer to a recommendation, perhaps still at a lesser price, but I can’t imagine buying this off the shelf.
If nostalgia or DBZ means that much to you, and you really find yourself wanting this, then I’d strongly advise getting it at a cheaper price. After all, the two games on offer here are highly entertaining and Budokai 3 is still great, but it’s not much of an HD collection to be honest. Admittedly, I did spend most of my time with Budokai 3, and that’s because it’s just the best game in the series in nearly all areas. Sure, if Budokai 2 had been included I’m sure I’d have felt that this collection was more valuable and I’d have enjoyed going through the series to see how it improved and changed, but naturally that isn’t an option. The price of this and omission of the second game is just really off-putting, in addition to a lack of online mode and change in soundtrack for Budokai 3. I’m sure you can see that this collection gave me a lot of mixed feelings, but the most prominent one is that I just wouldn’t spend so much cash on an HD collection that doesn’t feel worth it. If you’ve never experienced Budokai before, or are dying to get it again, then rather wait to get it at a much cheaper price. I’m done repeating myself now.
Perhaps the worst part about this HD collection is that for a little over half the price of it you could pick up Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, which is a fan dream game and plenty of fun too. I think that should put things into perspective, especially since the game I mentioned is a current-gen title.
The Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection gives you two fun games, but most of your time will go into Budokai 3, and with no Budokai 2 or online play, the asking price feels like a rip off.