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Dragonball Z Tenkaichi 3


Before Naruto was heating things up on the anime scene, Dragon Ball Z was quite possibly the definition of animated success. The series spawned hundreds of episodes, countless movies, and found its way onto other media such as video games. The first DBZ game was released many years ago but for some reason the series is still running strong. Case in point, Atari has just released the third installment of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi.

As a lover of all things anime, I must admit that I have grown weary of most video game adaptations. Quite frankly there are just too many anime-related fighting titles on the market and the field is saturated with poorly developed or pointless releases. Thankfully in Dragon Ball Z's case, the Budokai Tenkaichi (BT) franchise came along a couple of years ago and changed that. The series sought to provide a riveting experience, smart fighting system, and faithful representation of Toriyama's classic. After three installments in a short amount of time though, has the series lost some of its impact?

Thankfully, it really hasn't. The third outing for Goku and company is just as entertaining on the Wii as the second title was and that's quite a statement.

Gameplay


The game is basically the same as the previous title. There hasn't been much innovation as the gameplay hasn't been changed much and most of the modes are easily identifiable. Rather than rebuild the franchise from the ground up, the developers added to the existing material and tweaked in a minor fashion. The result may feel stale to some but it stands out amidst the crowd of anime fighters as the best on the market.

As far as single player is concerned, this release features a "Dragon History" which takes you through a variety of events from different points in the Dragon Ball saga. Unlike the deluge of information in previous title, BT3 is significantly more selective about the presentation. I suppose the developers figured by now you already know Dragon Ball like the back of your hand. You don't need a larger than life narrative and new content is limited since the series has been over with for the better part of a decade.

In addition to the single player, "Dragon History" is a survival mode, training space, and spot to customize a character. Most of these features are standard to the fighting genre and they feel a bit like tacked on features in BT3. Although they proved to be interesting in the previous installments and plenty of fans desire bragging rights in survival mode records; I'm just not into these modes.

A staple of the genre is the Duel (VS) mode. If you need an explanation, go look up the definition for 'fighting game'. While the PS2 version of the game only featured split screen combat, the Wii spices things up with some online offerings. Granted the online matchups are relatively slim and there are serious lag problems, but at least it's included. Split screen mode makes an appearance on the Wii version as well.

All game modes aside, any fighting game lives and dies by its combat system. If you have played the original BT or the sequel, then you already know the build for BT3 is easy to understand and highly addicting. The simplistic presentation allows for a plethora of combos, high-flying feats of Super-Saiyan skills, and wide open arenas to pound your opponent. The battles move at a brisk pace and require a bit of strategy, although some matches boil down to extensive button mashing. Granted that strategy may be cheap, but whatever works.

The Wii controls can take advantage of the system's motion sensing capabilities should you desire. Flailing your arms about like a madman and delivering pounding blows may seem exciting at first but it's ultimately tiring. You are really better off using the classic controller for most matches, but battling with a local friend via motion sensing can be a hoot.

BT3 provides a huge roster of characters to use as there are over 150 that can be unlocked. For the most part, they are alternate versions of existing models. For instance there are more Goku characters than you can shake a stick at, so don't be surprised if they tend to be similar. Folks from all across the Dragon Ball franchise are offered as choices which give credibility to this game as an official license.

Dragon Ball: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 proved that the series was still a lot of fun. It may not be in depth as Street Fighter or Soul Calibur, but it doesn't have to be. This game is only judged among its anime fighting peers and, graded as such, it's arguably the best title available. The fighting is fast and furious, the atmosphere is undeniably Dragon Ball, and the modes are time consuming. The poor condition of online play for this version was a bummer but hopefully we'll see the title become available for the PS3 and 360 eventually.

Graphics


In my review of BT2, I stated that I wasn't a fan of the show. Since then I have immersed myself in FUNimation's uncut Dragon Ball Z releases, have gone out of my way to check out some movies, and even dabbled a bit in Dragon Ball GT. I feel comfortable with myself among the DBZ crowd and can honestly say that, despite the show's flaws, it's greatly entertaining. I'd also like to state for the record that BT3 looks amazing!

This game features accurate representations of the characters and the design coupled with animation looks better than anything on the show. Compared to the PlayStation 2 version, the Wii is very similar with only minor improvements in clarity. Some flaws are still obvious but considering the speed of the action and design accuracy, chances are good that you just won't care.

Sound


While I have become a fan of the show, I'm still not keen on the English voice cast. The overacting is obnoxious and cheapens the series. That being said, this game does feature a decent audio presentation with mostly fine dubbing and some great music. The inclusion of in-battle dialogue was a nice touch as it helps the BT series match the show a little more.

Conclusion


What Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 lacks in innovation it makes up for with quality. This is undoubtedly the best anime fighter available and subtle tweaks have improved it over the previous installments. Unfortunately newcomers may be lost somewhat and the title does lose some of its impact due to other prominent fighters on the market. However, there's no better alternative for a violent anime fix. Every Dragon Ball fan should experience the BT franchise through this title.