If you’re under 30 years old, Dragon Ball Z was probably a large part of your childhood. It’s easy to dismiss Battle of Z as yet another Dragon Ball Z game that’s milking the series until the cow is all dried up, but I like looking at things a bit differently: The series is being introduced to a younger generation of anime watchers. Just look at Dragon Ball Z Kai and Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection. They’re both marketed to younger games and continue to hearken back to Dragon Ball Z‘s golden years.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z tries to capitalize on Dragon Ball Z‘s impactful anime success. It doesn’t hurt that it borrows from the PlayStation classic Dragon Ball Z: The Legend. Although The Legend was an extremely rare game stateside, some were fortunate enough to enjoy its multiplayer story that recreated Dragon Ball Z’s entire run.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z looks to recapture the multiplayer magic by allowing friends to play through the show together in a fully 3D fighter. I was able to sample the game at New York Comic Con and found it a generally fun game — one with a few weak spots that need to be corrected before the game’s 2014 launch.
Just from the presentation alone you can tell that this is an ambitious Dragon Ball Z title. Everything from the intro video and menu music paints a beautiful nostalgic portrait. Starting the demo allows players to choose from two familiar scenarios.
The first is the Saiyan Saga that pits you against Vegeta. For demonstration purposes, players are allowed to choose characters that don’t belong to the respective saga, like Super Saiyan Trunks, Super Saiyan Goku, and Super Saiyan Vegeta. You actually begin the battle at its conclusion. You face off against the arrogant Saiyan prince Vegeta in a tough but entertaining battle. Of course, the Saiyan Saga wouldn’t be complete without the battle against Ape Vegeta. What makes this moment so special is the fact that you can play with up to three other friends. The fact that you can relive those epic moments with friends adds a fresh dynamic to a story that gamers have played through time and time again.
The second scenario is ripped from the Android Saga. You face off against Android 16, 17, and 18. Right after that, you deal with Cell and all his perfection. The demo didn’t follow the plot exactly, but it captured enough of the moment to remain authentic. Hopefully, the final version follows the show exactly.
Gameplay-wise you’re thrown into a familiar environment from an episode you’ve probably watched. You’re given full 360 degree freedom to fly or run around anywhere in the arena to a extent. There are invisible borders that make sure you remain near the battlefield, but for the most part the areas are large. Your allies and enemies are also granted this luxury so it wasn’t a surprise when I attempted to flee and was quickly followed by a more than angry Cell.
The Battle of Z demo has a few glaring issues. I found the controls cumbersome. The L1 trigger serves as a modifier button for special attacks like ki blast or stronger strikes. The R2 trigger lets you lock on to enemies, but there were too many buttons to grasp in one sitting. L1 and circle modified Ki blasts, L1 and square made attacks stronger, and you’d have to lock off and lock back on to re-focus the camera. It was a bit confusing. Maybe I’d adjust if I had more time to play, but it was a drawback during the demo. Secondly, the action is far too fast for the camera. Characters zip and fly through the air at high speeds which caused the camera to spin out of control on multiple occasions — this is especially true if you lock onto your target.
There’s potential here and luckily the developers have until March 31, 2014 to fix these issues. But since the game has been out for quite sometime in Japan, I doubt this will be the case. Still, Dragon Ball Z fans will surely pick this one up and enjoy it with their friends.