When you sit and think about it, creating a new Dragon Ball Z game presents a whole host of problems. How can you condense the ridiculously over the top fights into just a few buttons? How can you keep it at a speed that won’t melt your face, yet will please the hardcore fans? How can you make it interesting, bearing in mind the whole world and his dog have played through the sagas multiple times now? Well, developers ‘Spike’ think they have the answer in their new fighting game ‘Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi’.[boxout] The first half an hour of Ultimate Tenkaichi is a daunting experience. Ploughing through the tutorials uncovers a wealth of information to be learned, and it’s a lot to take in. The main fighting mechanic that gets used throughout the game is the ‘Attack Clash’. This is going to sound a bit confusing, so bear with me.
After landing a three hit combo a button prompt will appear on-screen, signifying the start of a quick time event. If you press the relevant button in time you are given a 50% chance that your next hit will strike your opponent. If the dice rolls in your favour you enter into yet another quick time event, following on-screen prompts allowing you to dish out 30+ hit combos.
I’m going to be honest, I don’t like this system. I understand why it’s been implemented, because by keeping a lot of the action to quick time events they can move at huge speeds, with all the flash and pizazz one would hope for from a Dragon Ball Z game, and yes, the first couple of fights are breath-taking because of it.
However, you also spend large amounts of time not in control of your character. Massive combos are all well and good, but there’s precious little skill involved. The fact the computer gets to decide whether or not I win the Clash also didn’t sit right with me, as they can actually turn the tide of a fight and cause you to lose.
Elsewhere you also have your weak and strong energy blasts, as well as a number of special moves. These will be instantly recognisable to fans, and are definitely the high point when it comes to the combat. Seeing your Kamehameha barrelling towards an opponent is most satisfying, and the good news is that if you’re on the receiving end you are often given the option to try and dodge, or face the blast head-on with one of your own, starting some kind of energy-based tug of war.
Unfortunately the ‘Recover’ system is yet another downside to the combat. If you’re opponent manages to win a clash and start a massive combo you are given the chance to try and escape it using ‘Recover’. What this boils down to is smashing the absolute hell (and I’m not kidding) out of all four face buttons at the same time, very fast. It feels random, and most of the time doesn’t work, leading to very sore hands and a feeling of immense annoyance.
One thing Ultimate Tenkaichi can’t be accused of is lacking content. The story mode sees you play through the key moments of the various DBZ sagas. It even throws in a bit of Dragon Ball GT for good measure. This mode also introduces giant boss fights, such as the Oozaru, although these amount to little more than quick time events mixed with frantic dodging. The price for messing up one of the giant boss quick time events is usually very harsh, and you’ll find yourself right back at the start of the fight.
There are also chase events, which sees you either running away from, or pursuing an opponent. Yes, you’ve guessed it, this breaks down to pressing the right button at the right time. In terms of progression, whilst there are numerous cutscenes, it’s a shame that vast amounts of the story are chopped down and squeezed into a wall of text before each fight; the player is missing out on so much!
Case in point, after a particularly gruelling battle the game cuts away from the action to reveal a wall of text saying something like “Vegeta once again got up, but was then defeated by Gohan who had turned into a Giant Ape”. What?! Surely that’s something we could have experienced by playing through it?
Once you’ve gone through the Story Mode, which will take a heck of a long time, the very interesting ‘Hero Mode’ should be your next point of call. I say it’s “interesting” because, at last, you can create your own Saiyan! Appearance can be customized, along with fighting styles and specials moves which can be unlocked through training. Hero Mode also gets its own story, seeing your character heading off to try and unite the seven Dragon Balls. Unfortunately it still suffers from the lacklustre combat system.[drop] For those wanting a bit more, you can also play through tournaments. Online works well too, and although the options are basic it all runs without any lag. Sadly it’s just not that much fun due to most of it being quick time events.
Graphically Ultimate Tenkaichi is extremely impressive, and probably the best looking fighting game out there. In terms of quality it actually surpasses the anime clips that are scattered throughout the story mode, and the special attacks look absolutely stunning. The environmental destruction is also a nice touch, with huge holes being gouged out of the earth. It’s a pity they are limited to the quick time events, as the round returns to normal once the battle resumes.
One thing you will get used to throughout the game is the loading screen. Now, they don’t last particularly long, but they make up for this by the sheer number of them. Sometimes you’ll have a loading screen, a brief clip showing your character flying, and then back to a loading screen, and then a cutscene, then a loading screen, and then the actual fight.
- Looks stunning.
- Lots of content.
- Has characters from Z and GT.
- Hero Mode finally lets you be a Saiyan.
- The fighting system looks flashy, but gets boring.
- A lot of the moves are repeated from character to character.
- The loading.
In theory Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is the perfect Dragon Ball game. The gorgeous visuals, wealth of content and characters spanning Z and GT will delight fans. Unfortunately there’s no escaping the fact that the core of the game, the actual fighting, gets boring very quickly and dissolves into the same few moves time and time again.