Review: Dragon Ball Z – Ultimate Tenkaichi (PS3)
I really liked last year’s DBZ game, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit 2. It felt like the franchise had finally achieved some serious attention with a game that was both deep and fun.
This year, we get Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi, which feels like they took Burst Limit 2 out back and tried to killed it.
It’s not all grim. The character models look better, and there’s a different take on combat that is actually novel (but limited, more on that later)… but any good feelings are stomped by the game’s outlandish insistence on loading screen after loading screen after loading screen.
Ultimate Tenkaichi tosses another DBZ Story Mode on the fire. All the highlights you know and love, with some fresh additions… like Bardock’s fight against Freiza back when Goku was just a baby, for example. The game also includes massive boss characters, meaning you finally get to face off against Saiyans in Great Ape mode.
The structure for Story Mode, however, is a Great Bear. Encounters are selected by flying characters across a pointless overworld. Choosing a battle initiates a load, followed by a cutscene, and then another load. Finish the battle and win yourself another loading screen. The game helpfully puts a terrible minigame on the loading screen, a sure sign that the developer knows there’s a problem but has no real good idea what to do about it.
The battle controls shift to something less like a fighting game and more like constant Quick Time Events. Whether you’re in short range or long range mode (which determines if your buttons throw punches/kicks or ki blasts), you’re working up to triggering a “clash” that ends in either your or your opponent winning a QTE faceoff. Faceoffs can be chained into a sequence of pre-animated attacks that do a nice job of replicating DBZ-style battles.
Which will look neat the first time. After the fiftieth? Not as neat.
Unlike Burst Limit 2′s special attack system, Ultimate Tenkaichi makes character-specific attacks an oasis in the desert: rare and often an illusion. You need to meet certain conditions to pull off a special attack – both specific energy levels and position on the battlefield – and I felt like most battles were skating by without me ever reaching that point. Whether I was in Story Mode or Hero Mode or Tournament Mode, every battle became a race to get in the required number of attacks to initiate a clash, win the clash (which is little more than a coin flip) and then string together the big high-damage QTE hits.
Like I said, it’s a novel system, turning a fighting game into a QTE faceoff, it just needs way more options and animations… and even way more QTE challenges themselves. Holding left and hitting square will sail you through the QTEs almost every time.
I’ve often complained of the DBZ games’ pattern of ignoring the anime’s non-fighter characters, like Bulma and Master Roshi. Ultimate Tenkaichi makes a move towards opening up the playing field with all-new massive boss battles. No, it’s not Mr. Popo, but at least you get to fight something outside of the usual Toriyama musclemen.
Perhaps the single best addition is the ability to create your own Z-fighter in Hero Mode and tackle a wholly different Dragon Ball alterna-verse. Familiar characters will show up for fights, but it’s against a customizable, RPG-lite battler of your own design. There are even different voices to choose from, meaning the game bothered to have eight or so different voices run the script for the entire Hero Mode storyline.
Again, this is all great… except that you’re still stuck in the same repetitive QTE combat, chaining together similar attacks for the same net result.
In the end, it’s the constant, lengthy load screens that do more damage than anything else. DBZ fans are likely willing to sit through another tired replay of the storyline in order to experience a new combat system or see a few new characters… but nobody should have to sit on their controller for this long between bouts. Head back to Burst Limit 2, DBZ fans.
For a bulky, repetitive framework that wrecks some otherwise nice graphics and animation, Dragon Ball Z – Ultimate Tenkaichi gets 2 out of 5 Aeropausonauts.
Dragon Ball Z, PS3, review, ultimate tenkaichi
Dragon Ball Z – Ultimate Tenkaichi was released October 2011 (NA) on PS3 and 360.