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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
game: Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
four star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Atari
developer: Dimps
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 12:00 AM Fri Dec 10th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Fri Dec 10th, 2004

Click to read.With each new installment, the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series has gotten better.  A big reason why is because the developer, Dimps, actually pays attention to fan feedback, and wants to do everything it takes to make DBZ fans happy.  That attention to detail, obvious love of the DBZ universe, and commitment to their fans pays off big time for in DBZ: Budokai 3.  This is by far the best Dragon Ball Z game ever.  I won't go so far as to say non-fans will enjoy it, since the story is wonky and the moves are pretty crazy, but DBZ fans are going to have a blast with Budokai 3.  

The core fighting in Budokai 3 isn't all that different from past Budokai games, but there have been a lot of little details added that make the experience a lot better overall.  As a pure fighting game, B3 is still rather simplistic and weak, but all of the new things that were added shore up the basic combat and make the game a real DBZ experience rather than a wannabe fighting game with DBZ skins.  Honestly, at this point I'm not sure if a deep, pure fighter would work nearly as well for a DBZ game as what we have in Budokai 3.  The fighting is very, very similar to what you see on the TV show and that really has been the whole point behind these games.  

All of these new moves and techniques are simple to use, but they make the combat look just like it does on TV.  This gives the game a very cool feel and it also means that you are able to do pretty much anything that you have seen on the show.  One of the new additions is an improved teleport system.  If you tap the D pad and hit X at the right time, you will teleport behind your opponent.  Your opponent can do the same thing to you if they are quick enough, though, so you have to use this power carefully.  In some situations you are able to hit your opponent and send them flying backwards, and if you teleport at the proper time, you can ping-pong them back and forth across the screen.  

Another new move is the dragon rush.  Dragon Ball Z is all about power levels and hulking up and stuff, and in order to do a dragon rush you have to enter hyper mode by pressing all four face buttons.  When you do this, you enter a special powered up state.  When in hyper mode, you can press the circle button immediately after you knock your opponent back.  This puts you in a situation where you and your opponent have to press a face button and if your press is different than your opponent, your character will launch some devastating attacks.  If the opponent chooses the same button as you, then they will block and counter with an attack of their own.  There are up to three rounds in a dragon rush if your luck holds out, and it is a lot of fun.  

Energy attacks are a big part of DBZ, and shooting massive balls of "ki" at each other has never been more fun than in Budokai 3.  You fill a ki meter by connecting with attacks, and you can then use the energy to do things such as transform to the various levels of Super Saiyan, as well as shoot projectiles at your opponent.  New in B3 is that when you and your opponent fire your primary special move at the same time, you enter into a beam struggle.  When in a beam struggle, the combined energies of your attacks join together into a giant ball of energy, which you try to throw back at your opponent.  You do this by simply mashing buttons or rotating the control sticks and hoping you are faster than your opponent.  These beam struggles are very simple, but it is just another thing that is exactly like you see on the show.  

What makes these simple additions to the game even better is that the camera work in the game has improved as well, and the result is a lot of dramatic cuts and great shots of all of the action.  Every move you make, from knocking your opponent through a mountain to the dragon rush to the beam struggles to simple punches and kicks, the camera moves around and gives you a viewpoint exactly like you see on TV.  The graphics and animation are amazing and very true to the show.  Little touches such as the energy crackling around fighters, or the way your character will quickly dodge attacks rather than blocking, make Budokai 3 look great.  

The Dragon World board game from Budokai 2 has been replaced with a more standard story mode for B3.  Dragon Universe is the new main simgle-player mode and it is especially interesting because it presents a unique story for each of the Z warriors.  It gives you some different perspectives of the DBZ story, which is nice.  One problem is that if you aren't familiar with the story already, nothing in Dragon Universe is going to make any sense whatsoever.  These are super abridged versions of the story where you don't fight in every major battle, and huge chunks of the story are skipped entirely.  You are just thrust from one conflict to the next with very little in between to set the stage.  One interesting aspect of Dragon World mode is that you are free to explore a large overworld map.  Each new fight is represented by a dot on your map and you have to actually fly there in order to continue the story.  All of the major areas from the show are on the map, and it is pretty cool to fly over the cities or Buu's little hut or Roshi's house. 

Budokai 3 features some limited RPG elements that help keep the Dragon Universe mode interesting.  You gain experience points for each fight and you can then use them to power up your fighter.  When you start the game you are fairly weak, but you work your way to full strength by the end.  It is rather satisfying to build your character.  Like the other Budokai games, your skills are broken down into little capsules.  You earn capsules by winning matches, but you can also buy them with money you win in the World Martial Arts Tournament mode.  You can find them on the world map in Dragon Universe as well.  You then assign capsules to your character and that is how you build your move list.  It is a fun idea that works just as well in Budokai 3 as it did before, and it's fun to be able to customize your character to fight the way you want to.  

In addition to the Dragon Universe mode, you can also enter the World Martial Arts Tournament, practice mode, versus mode (which allows you to set up human v. human, human v. computer, and computer v. computer matches), skill edit mode, and Dragon Arena mode where you can continue to level up your Dragon Universe characters.  These modes would mean nothing without a great cast of characters, and Budokai 3 features a lineup of 40 fighters from DBZ, DBGT, and the DBZ movies.  The different Buu transformations as well as all of the fusion characters are included in that number, but it is still a very impressive lineup.  All in all, this is a pretty extraordinary feature list that should keep fans very happy.

What holds everything together and makes it work so well are the fantastic graphics.  The cel-shaded character models are spot on representations of their counterparts on the show and they are very well animated and the game simply looks great.  Special effects for all of the energy attacks look really nice as well.  Tying all this together and really sealing the deal is the games camera, which delivers a perfect shot of the action in every situation.  

The sound is also really nicely done in Budokai 3.  All of the sound effects are taken right from the show and work just as well here as they do on TV.  A lot of the music was also taken from the show, but there are a few new themes that are of a similar style.  They fit right in.  Most of the voice actors for the American version of the show have recorded new dialogue for B3 and all of the voicework sounds just like you would expect.  The great graphics and sound are a big part of why Budokai 3 is so enjoyable.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 is the best DBZ game ever.  Yeah, I know that has been said about the last two Budokai games, but the gameplay in Budokai 3 completely blows them and every other DBZ title out of the water.  A lot of care was taken to ensure that you can recreate pretty much anything you have seen on the TV show, and this attention to detail makes Budokai 3 an absolute blast to play if you are a DBZ fan.  DBZ Budokai 3 is highly recommended for at least a rental, but it is big enough and fun enough that fans of the show can buy it and be very happy with it.  

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