Balling With Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z
I’m always filled with a giddy, boyish excitement whenever I see a new Dragonball release looming – I don’t think I’ll ever forget counting down the days and the hours until 5:30pm on Tuesday every week, when the latest episode of Dragon Ball Z would air on SABC 2. I shudder to count how many fillers I sat through waiting for the conclusion of one of the many pivotal fights, but every single one was worth it, because when the conclusion finally came it was everything eight year old Duncan had hoped for, and so much more – pure, unadulterated, awesome.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is a game that, whether through ridiculous 8-player free-for-all melees or 1-hit-KO Spirit Bombs, attempts to cut through all the facade and appeal to the childish madman inside us all.
Name: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z
Multiplayer: Online, no splitscreen
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita
Publishers: Bandai Namco
Release Date: 28 January 2014
Price: R699 (PS3, Xbox 360)
We know from gameplay footage and the demo that this latest addition to the Dragonball game series will return to its Budokai-esque roots, moving away from the (in my experience, at least) frustrating system of QTE-combo stringing found in Ultimate Tenkaichi. Thank goodness for that. Like many of its predecessors, the game boasts a fairly impressive array of playable characters. Marketing would tell you that there are 70 characters to choose from, which technically is correct (the best kind of correct) – the catch, however, is that the game will no longer feature in-game transformations – that is, you cannot rank a character like Goku up during an actual match by taking him to Super Saiyan 2, 3, and so on. Instead, the player will have to choose a certain form of Goku from the selection screen to play for the duration of the match – given that this system is used for most characters with multiple forms (Buu, Frieza, most Saiyans), you’re really looking at a character selection of around 41 characters, plus 3 DLC characters. Which is still formidable enough.
It is up to you how large a factor graphics is in the games you play, but the definite reality in Battle of Z is that they could certainly have done more not only with the graphics, but with the engine as well. Side by side, there doesn’t seem to be too great a difference between some of the older Budokais and this game – personally, I would say it does justice to the graphical style of the anime, and stays true to the artistic themes of the previous games, though those who say that more graphical detail should be coming out of a game released in 2014 wouldn’t be too far wrong. Engine-wise, the environmental destructibility certainly looks disappointing. Not that it is lacking, necessarily, but we are taken back to the comparison I made earlier – one would like to have seen more work done on the aesthetic improvements which can be made between early games like Budokai, and current releases.
Now that we’ve got all that out the way, let’s talk about the good stuff: game modes. Game modes all day.
A big part of what Bandai Namco are going for in this release is team and multiplayer gameplay. That doesn’t by any means write off a singleplayer campaign, but it does mean that the campaign they’re putting in place will be rewritten slightly in some parts to make team battles and co-operative boss fights a possibility. The missions themselves will span from way back in the Saiyan Saga, all the way to the Buu Saga and beyond – it’ll include missions based around the recently released Battle of Gods movie, and based off an alternate history of the Saiyan race. For each saga, the player will be able to play as either the heroes (Goku and co) or the antagonists (for example, Frieza and his various forms in the relevant saga) in order to complete the saga.
Character customisation returns, giving players the ability to edit a particular character’s stats, such that any character of their choosing can effectively be the strongest character – you aren’t shafted into playing Goku for every match. We don’t know for certain if this feature will be present in singleplayer, too (and thus have your edited singleplayer character carry over to the multiplayer portion of the game, but we know for a fact that it will be present in multiplayer. Personally, that’s a feature I’m quite excited for – watching my brother squirm as I beat his Goku’s face in with Krillin will be a moment I’ll savour, no doubt about that.
Seeing as we’re already there, let’s get our gumboots on and head into the multiplayer – knee-deep, of course.
Apart from the co-operative multiplayer, there are four game modes available in multiplayer. The first is your bread-and-butter team game, the crux of what Bando are pushing with this release; the aptly named Normal Battle. Two teams of four players each are pitted against each other, with the winning team being the one which manages to team-kill the other team until their ‘retry’ options run out. Score Battle is a slight variation on this first mode – also a 4v4, but instead of aiming to eliminate the other team enough to knock them out, the aim is to score as many points as possible in the allotted time, by knocking out as many characters as possible from the other team. Battle Royale is an eight player free-for-all; essentially, a cage match between eight immensely skilled fighters with the powers of demigods – casual stuff. The last game mode is an objective-based 4vv4, the Dragon Ball Grab. 7 Dragon Balls are scattered around the map, with the first team to collect all 7 being the victor.
One interesting thing to note about team battles is that the team will have a shared energy bar – players can deplete that bar to cast their more powerful spells, but might be incentivised not to – when it becomes full, one player in the team can cast an ‘ultimate’ attack. Think the nuke in Modern Warfare 2, or, more relevantly, the Spirit Bomb – if a team manages to get that puppy off, it one-hit KO’s players on the other team. This aspect of the one hit KO, as well as the other game modes and team gameplay add a level of depth to the multiplayer which one could argue was lacking in previous iterations, making the game itself far more interesting to play, and potentially the sort of game one could get far more drawn into than in previous releases.
The question remains, however: Should you get it? Some Japanese reviewers have been given early access to the game, and rated it quite highly – one site gave it a 32/40, meaning four of its reviewers gave it an 8/10. While some veterans of the series held reservations, too, the common consensus online appears to be that if one has reservations or pre-emptive criticisms, the best thing to do is jam some of the demo and see if they remain after that.
Suspected Selling Points
- Team battles add interesting depth to a historically one-dimensional multiplayer experience
- Singleplayer mode is co-operative playable, and adds non-canon missions for more diverse story
- Graphics/environment engine more outdated than expected from a 2014 release
- Some fans of the series may not support the removal of in-match transformations
- No PS4/Xbone release may discourage those switching consoles from investing in the game
If you’re a longstanding fan of the series, especially one who is friends with other Dragon Ballers, I would say go for it. Even if you don’t have friends, there’s always online matchmaking. If you’re on the fence about Dragon Ball Z as a whole, it might be worth your while to pick it up anyways – February tends to be one of the slower times for game releases (with only Castlevania and a new Final Fantasy slated for release), and the multiplayer especially seems like an enjoyable way to kill time at the very worst. If you’re not such a fan of the series, perhaps pass – but then again, why would you even have read this far anyway?
Have you pre-ordered the game? Looking forward to it, played the demo, or just a huge Dragon Ball lover? Let us know in the comments below what you think about the game, and where it could be taking the series.