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Jeremy Jastrzab
20 Oct, 2006

Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai Review

PSP Review | Take over the universe on the go.
Dragon Ball Z has a long history with video games. Unfortunately, a fair few of them have ranged from not that good to quite bad. Even though a few of the best were never released outside of Japan, at least the Budokai series has steadily improved to give quite a solid and faithful Dragon Ball Z experience. Using the experience from three titles, the Budokai series makes its way to the PSP in the form of Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai.

There wasn’t much around the release of this game, other than between the time that we found out about it and its release, there were a mere few months. Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai is something of a tribute to the twelfth DBZ movie – Fusion Reborn, as the main mode of the game, the Dragon Path, very loosely follows some of the goings on in the movie. Given the extravagant nature of the series, it’s a bit disappointing to see the “story” driven by a series of talking heads and mind-numbingly basic dialogue but they’re nothing more than an excuse to beat someone up.

The Dragon Path will take you a long a series of chapters, where each chapter has a number of battles that you go through. As you progress, the chapters will open up multiple paths. However, you’ll eventually be able to go through all the paths. Winning each battle will win you some Zeni, which can be later used to buy upgrades and goodies from the shop. This mode also serves as a mechanism for unlocking the characters in the game. This is by far the most substantial mode in the game, with five chapters in all.

No compromises here

No compromises here
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Other modes in the game include a standard Arcade mode, Survival, Time Attack, Network multiplayer and Training. Survival and Time Attack are pretty good on the go. Unfortunately, the Arcade mode is a tad drawn out, as it can take over an hours to complete. It makes it rather inconvenient to play, especially if you’re only after short sessions. Network multiplayer is great but infrastructure would’ve been greatly appreciated. These modes are a tad lack luster and a couple of the extras, such as the profile cards, leave a bit to be desired.

With the Playstation and Playstation 2 taking over as the primary systems for fighting games to appear on, it would make sense that some would flow onto the PSP. Till now, the number has been limited and there have been issues with games such as Street Fighter 2 and Tekken, who for all their pedigree and awesomeness, were let down by the PSP d-pad. Even with an average set of modes, the gameplay manages to hold up quite well.

Despite being a simplified version of the fighting system from Budokai 3, the game manages to keep most of the redeeming qualities of that have become synonymous with the anime (and the games). The reason that the game works well on the PSP is due to the dial-a-combo style of fighting. Punch a series of buttons together and watch as your character performs the moves. The use of the d-pad is nowhere near as taxing on the thumb but at the same time, let’s the game take its course.

We've seen this before

We've seen this before
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Shin Budokai manages to retain a lot that was good from the PS2 titles. For one it retains the pacing of the game and the bombastic, over-the-top moves from the anime. The controls are quite similar, though they have been simplified to fit the PSP layout. Even though the actions are somewhat simpler to perform, the game retains a need for skill. Dodging, instant transmission and some of the more intense moves still require you to learn the mechanics of the game. Once you do, the higher AI won’t be so nasty and button mashers will be walked over. That, and pulling off moves like a Kame-ha-me-ha wave from the other side of the stage is very satisfying.

Unfortunately, a few concessions have been made and the game eventually does hit a few of the same hurdles as its predecessor. A few of the better features such as the mini-game that accompanied some of the fight-turning moments aren’t present and power struggles often result in stalemates or are a matter of the first one to press the button. Then there is the issue where the game never aims to be a technical fighter. For some this will turn them off but for other is will suffice. Still, the game does get hindered by a familiarity issue, with most characters having very similar move sets. Even though this will be negligible for some, as some characters are faster or smaller, but inn general, it’s more noticeable than it ought to be.

That being said, as long as you can accept or know that this is not trying to be a technical fighter, there is fun to be had here. This is especially true if you’re a DBZ fan. The roster primarily consists of later day DBZ characters, primarily the main culprits as seen in the Buu saga, including Brolly, Freeza, Cell and the new additions of Pikkon and the kick-arse Janemba. You will start of with 13 characters with 18 being totaled by end, as well as several transformations. While by far the most basic selection from the series, you can’t go too wrong with the characters that are here.

With Brolly and Janemba, who else do you need?

With Brolly and Janemba, who else do you need?
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The game presents itself if a typically DBZ manner and feels quite close to the reminiscent of what has been seen in the series so far. However, we were quite surprised to see the quality of the in-game graphics. They were excellent. The series has never been the greatest looker but this entry is exceptional for the platform. Not only is it virtually identical to Playstation counterpart, it has some of the most fluid animations, excellent character details, environmental effects and all at a consistent frame rate. The look and feel of the anime and previous games has been recreated superbly. Furthermore, the load times are quick rapid.

This is easily one of the better-looking PSP games. The music is suitably upbeat and action orientated. The sound-effects get the job done pretty well and while there isn’t a lot of voicing in the game, players at least have a choice between English and Japanese voices. The least favourable aspect of the presentation is easily the talking head implementation. It wouldn’t be half bad if the dialogue wasn’t so awful but that’s what we’ve been stuck with.

Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai does a great job of keeping the spirit of the series alive and well. While it the modes aren’t as substantial as you’d hope for and some aren’t that well suited to portable play, the game makes up for it with solid and faithful fighting. Talking heads and banal dialogue aside it’s got great fan fair with a good selection of the latter (re: better) DBZ characters. While the fighting is a tad simplistic and some it may get a bit repetitive, the fact that the game won’t wreck your thumbs in the process of playing, not only makes it ergonomic, but fun and one of the better fighters on the PSP. So long as you aren’t expecting any revelations.
The Score
Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai provides good fan service, keeps the core, fun gameplay intact and manages to be one of the better fighters on the PSP. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai Content

Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai images
05 Feb, 2006 The slammin' first screens of the PSP exclusive title.
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26 Apr, 2006 With some new details.
Dragon Ball Z Shin Budokai unveiled
02 Feb, 2006 And it's a PSP exclusive.
2 Comments
7 years ago
PSP is getting more and more appealing now. Killzone PSP, LocoRoco, Shin Budokai, MegaMan...hmm.
7 years ago
Just so you know, theres a couple of technical problems with the links in the review.

Dragonball Z? Nah, I'll pass.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Publisher:
  Atari
Developer:
  Bandai
Players:
  1-2

Extra:
Wireless Multiplayer

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