Review by DarthHomer
Not Exactly Bursting At The Seams...
With every year in gaming, comes inevitabilities. Sports fans are treated to yearly entries in the EA Sports series of games, movie fans are catered with game adaptations of the biggest blockbusters or the year, Playstation owners are treated to games from Insomniac, and so on Dragon Ball Z is no exception. Ever since the release of the first Budokai game in 2002 (and effectively becoming the first Dragon Ball Z game to be popular in the West), fans have been treated to a yearly fighting game starring Goku and company. 2008s iteration seeks to be the most promising yet the return of original Budokai developers Dimps, a shift to a new generation, and an entirely new slate to work with. So how is Burst Limit, anyways? Kind of a disappointment, actually.
The first thing to take note is that the game uses the familiar Budokai combat system, a refreshing change from the somewhat jarring system present in the three Budokai Tenkaichi games. For the uninitiated its essentially a traditional VS fighting game. It takes place on the one plane on either the ground or sky, and the character is free to sidestep around the battlefield to avoid attacks. Taking a cue from the Tenkaichi series, Burst Limit adopts a similar method to perform special attacks. For example, in Budokai 3, had I wanted to perform Gokus Kamehameha attack, Id need to enter a five button combination Budokai Tenkaichi went around this by using a two button combination. Its the same system used for each character, and while some characters do have differing move combinations, it wont take long for players to be familiar with characters.
Speaking of accessibility, the fighting system has been changed slightly. Ki is now charged automatically, which does help. Also, Ki doesnt degenerate once youve reached a certain point, which does make for an easier fight. More powerful versions of special attacks are done by simple holding the combination longer before releasing. Ultimate Moves, which previously forced you to go into Hyper Mode to pull off, are now done with a simple button combination, which does save some hassles. Also, the annoying mini-game that determined whether or not you succeeded in performing the attack is removed. While all this does sound like it makes the game simple, and it does, theres still some depth in there for those who wish to explore it.
One of the biggest new features introduced in Burst Limit is the Drama Piece system which effectively replaces the character customization element present in the Budokai games. Allow me to explain in the Budokai games, you had the ability to pick and choose what moves a character could use, as well as equip bonuses to your character. The Drama Piece system works similarly except you choose bonuses, as well as a partner character that can determine which pieces can be used. Once in a fight though, the pieces you selected will kick in at certain moments during the fight. Youll know this because the fight will stop for a moment to show a cut scene of the drama piece kicking in.
Unfortunately, the Drama Piece system is rather annoying. For starters, it breaks up the fight at the most random moments. You could be firing off an ultimate attack to help score some serious damage, and just as the move hits, the drama piece cutscene kicks in, and after the brief cutscene of a character charging up their Ki or their partner attacking you, youll have used up all your Ki, while your opponent receives little to no damage. Its great if you werent on the receiving end, but frustrating if you initiated the attack. Though thankfully, its totally possible to fight without them, so if you want a more cinematic experience, at the risk of gameplay interruptions, then by all means, use the system.
The story mode of the game is also somewhat of a disappointment. It takes after the original Budokais story mode in that its a series of fights that take after the three out of the four main sagas of the DBZ storyline (for the record Sayian, Frieza and Cell). In a shocking move though youll actually have to have prior experience with the storyline of DBZ, because the game tells you squat. Literally, youll fight off Raditz as both Goku and Piccolo, then all of a sudden, the next fight is Yamcha fighting off against the Saibaman. Theres absolutely no description as to what happens between fights, save for a scant description of the fight it really does hurt if this is the first time that someone has played a DBZ game.
Speaking of story the limitation on content is one of the biggest disappointments in the game. Theres only 16 playable characters (thats not including transformation characters), which is barely a scratch on the near ludicrous number of characters present in Budokai Tenkaichi 3. Hell, the original Budokai had seven more playable characters than this game! Granted, the sixteen characters are some of the more important in the series, but its a massive disappointment overall. Not even the additions of Bardock and Broly (who were not in the original Budokai) can help this. Whats worse is that you can burn through the story mode in only a few hours, and as you unlock characters, stages and drama pieces at a frantic pace, theres little else to unlock or do in the game.
There is online play however a first for the series, and its not just limited to versus battles. While the online play does work, its a disappointment that Dimps didnt have to innovate for sake of it and remove the Budokai 3 customization options. It wouldve made for a great experience that would keep the player coming back for more. With no plans for DLC, its a shame that Namco Bandai are holding out for the inevitable Burst Limit 2, which will hopefully rectify these problems.
One huge positive for the game though, is its visuals. In stills, it looks barely a patch over a PS2 game, but in motion, the game looks absolutely jaw dropping. Its the correct amount of balance between framerate and cel-shading, and the effect is truly something to behold. Its also great to see that Dimps managed to also get the game running on the PS3 just as well as its 360 counterpart. Though at times, there is some slowdown, but this happens rarely. The only real disappointment visually is the animations it feels as if basically the same animations from Budokai 3 were lifted and used in this game, and anything new is just repeated for each character. However, seeing a shot by shot remake of the infamous Over 9000 scene in glorious high definition is well worth all the little flaws.
The same cant be said for the audio. The soundtrack itself is nothing spectacular the music is the same upbeat jazz/rock that youll have heard in previous DBZ games, as well as all the sound effects lifted straight from the anime. As for the voice acting, its the same stuff youll have heard before. While its great to see that Namco got all the correct VAs for their roles, if youre the kind of person whos heard it all before (or a hardcore anime enthusiast the subs not dubs kind of person), then its best to switch over to the Japanese VO. Otherwise, dont go expecting a great aural experience, even with the game in 5.1 DTS sound.
Overall, Burst Limit is more of a framework of what to expect in future instalments than an actual game. Its hard to recommend Burst Limit as a purchase with what little the game has to offer. Thats not saying that its a bad game dont get me wrong, the gameplay is great; you can have some close and frantic battles, but theres just not a whole lot to do. Even with the online play and gorgeous visuals, its really hard to recommend the game at full price especially if youre a first time Dragon Ball Z gamer. Despite this, the game makes a fantastic rental, youll burn through the game quickly enough to unlock everything and have a number of battles. If you must purchase a Dragon Ball Z game, pick up Budokai 3 (which should at Platnium/Greatest Hits pricing by now), its essentially the same game, but feels much more complete overall. It should work on any PS3 with Backwards Compatibility, and has enough of a feature set to tide you over until the inevitable release of Dragon Ball Z Burst Limit 2.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit (AU, 07/03/08)
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