In the early stages of being a teenager, Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 was booted up every day after school for me. I played through the campaign many times, fought against friends in Duelling mode and trained to become the best among my group of geeks. Now, 8 years after it’s initial release, I am finally able to play Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 in HD alongside the original Budokai game. It’s still dated in some ways but overall, the game is stunning to look at and fun to play.
In this HD Collection, Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 looks like a new release for PlayStation 3. Much like the previous Sly Cooper Collection from 2010, the cell-shaded graphics of Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 really stand out with the HD uplift. The game is colorful, bright and looks beautiful with its gameplay but the menus and cutscenes are still shots, dull to look at and awfully rendered. The text also looks washed out and the menus have terrible sounds attached to them when navigating through each selection. These issues plague the HD port of the game but, Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection as a whole runs smooth and looks crisp within the actual fight; that’s the main part of a fighting game to get right.
Another aspect of a fighting game to get right are the actual fighting mechanics and Dragon Ball Z Budokai (1 and 3) definitely gets that right as well. In battle, you have the kick button, punch button and a “ki” button. Ki is what gives all the characters power meters and with Ki, you can use moves such as the Kamehameha or turn into a super saiyan. Throughout a match, you will have to regain your Ki Meter by either charging up with a stance or long chains of combos. With Ki, you can also appear behind your enemy and slam them down before they even know it. Some may say it is cheap but the Ki power level will decrease rapidly before using it too often; it is a risk to use your Ki in such a manner and that is where Ki plays a large part in battles. There is a certain strategy of conservation with Dragon Ball Z Budokai 1 and 3 and if you are a fighting game buff wanting to try out a new (but old) gameplay style experience, look no further than the Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection.
Something Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 has gotten right that many other fighting games cannot is its training mode. Firstly, in Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, there is a list of 12 tutorials, which have the characters train with each other, learning each essential skill in this game through a mix of cutscenes and gameplay. Even though this is a tie in game, Namco placed a great deal of detail in this tutorial mode so players can be well versed in Dragon Ball Z Budokai’s intricate gameplay. One other great feature that many other fighting games do not, is that the symbols on screen describing which button to press are the same color as the triangle, circle, x and square inputs. This makes it much easier for beginners to the fighting genre instead of having a vague kick or punch symbol seen in other fighting games.
After the tutorials, the player will continue with Dragon Universe, a large story mode which spans over Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT and the standalone movies with many characters’ plotlines to follow. There is plenty to fight and find as you travel across Dragon Ball’s world. However as said before, the cutscenes are still shots but the authentic English and Japanese voice cast make up for the loss of anime or in game cutscenes. The story, however, is hard to follow for those who do not follow the series as Dragon Universe skips essential parts of the narrative. Dragon Universe also has a customization feature which allows players to level up their favorite characters and collect boosts throughout the world. For those who follow Dragon Ball Z and are fans of the series, Dragon Universe is a great way to re-experience the anime. The original Dragon Ball Z Budokai, however, is in an episodic format and caters much like the show. It is a cool concept but gives the feeling of wanting to watch the show instead. The original Budokai has the Kamehameha being an average looking yellow blast, which looks nothing like the show at all. The in-game graphics do not help either and make Dragon Ball Z Budokai feel very dated and cheaply made (even during the PS2 era). This reviewer’s advice would be to stick to Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3’s Dragon Universe mode because the overall package is well presented and the customization of your character throughout Budokai 3’s campaign gives you more freedom.
In an HD Collection, it shouldn’t be just about making it upscaled – it should also have a greater focus on sound quality. In the original Budokai, this is not the case. The voice acting, at points, sounds muffled and the choice of music at a key serious plot point sounds cheerful. Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 also has, as this reviewer stated before, some issues with its menu sounds as some sounding cheap and annoying to hear. The voice acting and the music, however, is strong in Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 and fit the mood of the game in the right points, plus, they sound much clearer and crisp than its PS2 counterpart. It definitely feels like Budokai 3 was worked on a lot more than the original Budokai. Maybe they placed the first game in there so they could package Budokai 3 in one box for $40 rather than having it as a digital $15 download. No matter if that is the case or not, this is the impression the first Budokai has left.
With over 40 characters to play with (after unlocking them in Dragon Universe), great updated graphics and fun/addicting gameplay that fits the hectic Dragonball feel, this game is a must have for the Dragonball Z fan and if you are a fighting game enthusiast wanting to find something completely different to play, give Dragonball Z Budokai HD Collection a shot. You may just want to avoid playing the original Dragon Ball Z Budokai however because of it’s dated graphics, sub par sound quality and lack of detail to the iconic Kamehameha move, which is an absolute crime to Dragon Ball name.
Thank you, Namco Bandai for providing PlayStation Euphoria a copy of the game to review.