Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is NAMCO Bandai’s latest entry into the Dragonball fighting series before they release ramped-up versions for the high-end next generation consoles. If you have all three consoles, the question remains, “Which one do I buy?” Do you snatch this one up simply because it would be neat to play with a Wiimote and a nunchuk? Or, do you wait to play it on the big boys with full expectation that graphics and gameplay might get notched up a bit? In the end, it’s more of a question of how much you liked the anime series.
Not having played previous iterations of this series, it is difficult to gauge whether this game is an improvement or not. As far as whether there have been any upgrades since the PlayStation 2 version, that is questionable as well. It seems to be a direct port. Sure, you can use the Wiimote and nunchuk in this version, but you can just as easily play it with the classic controller. Actually, before you start the game, it tells you that you can use the GameCube controller ot he WaveBird. Would I really buy a game for my Wii so that I could use my GameCube controller? I mean, it is somewhat neat to be able to throw a fireball by putting both your hands at your waist and then thrusting them forward a la Goku. Truth be told, though, it gets old pretty quickly.
There are actually not really any advantages to playing with the Wiimote and nunchuk combination. Even the menus are not controlled by pointing at the screens as with most other Wii games. Rather, it requires a flick of the stick on the nunchuk to navigate through the various menus. Let’s just say the menus are nothing to write home to mom about. They seem antiquated and as if they were developed for the DS or the PSP.
As I mentioned earlier, it all comes down to how much of a fan of the Dragonball anime series you are. It’s nice to go down memory lane and relive all of the various scenes of Goku’s life as you go through the game in Dragon History mode. For some, it will be a reminder of the first time you cracked open one of those strange-looking comic books to discover the captivating world of Akira Toriyama (next year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary since the series was first published).
Even the loading screens are a reminder of the quirky interludes in the anime series. Again, the novelty wears off pretty fast, but the loading screens have actually been made into mini-games where players can see how many times they can mash A to make the character on the screen perform some silly act (e.g. how many bowls of noodles can Goku inhale?).
What causes a break from this nostalgia, though, is the awkward way in which cutscenes take place. All throughout gameplay, there are the typical assortment of phrases that characters yell out after a special move has been performed. Yet, when it comes to a cutscene, one of two things happens. If there is another character in the scene, the current active character will fly up and off of the screen and the new character will fly down into the screen. Then, gameplay resumes. This can actually be confusing at points, because sometimes it is not clear why a character change has taken place. Although the goal in most games is to survive and beat the other opponent, there are some storylines that will not progress until the player is dead or almost dead. Sure, it’s faithful to Dragonball canon, but it goes against a player’s instinct.
The other thing that happens is that you can hear dialogue taking place between several characters, but you do not see the actual characters who are speaking. Apparently, there is either a graphical limitation which only allows two characters per scene or the developers just got lazy. Either way, it’s lame.
One other device that is used to break-up gameplay monotony is the use of scenarios in which the player takes on the role of the bad guy. This is the player’s chance to test their mettle against Goku and the Z Fighters. If you have ever wanted to see if you could kick Goku’s butt, this game is your chance.
In early portions of the game, the graphics are average. The graphics in the first few storylines is unimpressive, but they do get better towards the end of the game as the developers put much more detail into characters that come in later eras. Even the main characters themselves look pretty spiffy as they evolve through their various transformations.
The other modes were a nice addition, but more times than not, you will find yourself just returning to Dragon History mode. Dragon World Tour, for example, re-enacts the various tournaments that took place during the series and provide some replay value to the game.
In the end, this game is all about button-mashing and random waggling. Most of the player moves are the same, so as soon as you have mastered them for one or two characters, you have mastered them for all of them. It’s entertaining, though, to go through the more than 150 characters and see each of their finishing moves.