|System: PS3, Xbox 360|
|Pub: Namco Bandai|
|Release: October 25, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Cartoon Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
If there are two things I love in this world, they're fighting games and anime. Like every anime fan, I still find myself waxing nostalgic whenever a new Dragon Ball Z fighting game is released. Now, the Dragon Ball Z games may not have the most complex fighting mechanics, yet I still can't stop loving them. To understand why that is, let's look at the latest—perhaps even the greatest—installment in the series: Dragon Ball Z Ultimate Tenkaichi.
The first thing you'll notice about Ultimate Tenkaichi is that every character controls pretty much exactly the same. They can all fly, throw flurries of punches, throw energy blasts, and blast huge craters in planets with special moves. Some are slightly faster and some are slightly slower, and, of course, every character's special attacks have different animations. In the end, though, there's no real strategy to picking which character to play since there's not a whole lot of difference between them.
The controls are incredibly barebones here. You can block, attack, throw projectiles, and charge your ki. Your health is at the top of the screen and a secondary spirit meter fills up below it, which is separate from your ki. (Your ki is used for mostly defensive maneuvers, while your spirit is used to execute your special moves.) That is about as intricate as the game gets. Everything else is pretty much a coin flip.
After every series of strikes, you can continue your combo into a rush or smash attack (essentially those quick teleporting punch flurry maneuvers you see in DBZ fights.) You do this by pressing a button in a cutscene that is suspiciously similar to a quick time event, but your opponent has the opportunity to counter you. The same holds true for any other attack in the game. Press left or right with correct timing to dodge projectile volleys, or counter with your own projectile volley and win by mashing a button quicker than your opponent. In fact, most of the game is spent in quick time event-style scenes rather than actual combo-based gameplay.
The gameplay in Ultimate Tenkaichi is extremely shallow, and I haven't particularly had the urge to take the game online and prove that I am better at mashing buttons than the rest of the world. But halfway through my time with the game, I stopped looking at it as a fighting game, and instead started looking at it as a cinematic experience. It's mostly quick time events with a side of cinematic banter, and the cinematic banter is actually the best part of the game. As you fire off special attacks, your characters will converse with each other, shouting out their attack names, grunting about how they hope their body can take it. A successfully landed super attack will blow huge holes in the earth, leaving permanent craters, shredding opponent's clothing, and, in typical Dragon Ball Z fashion, leaving them clutching their arm.
The camera will swing between multiple angles as you go in for rush attacks. Your character will monologue as they fire their planet-destroying beams to finish off each villain. Every fight looks like a scene from the anime, and that's actually why I think I enjoyed the game so much. In fact, I'd say the game looks even better, graphically, than the anime itself. Even though there isn't a whole lot of depth to the game, it actually feels (through the use of quick time evens and rampant button mashing) like you are in a real DBZ fight. And since there isn't a whole lot of depth to the anime either, the game certainly gets points for staying true to the source material. All in all, it feels as if the gameplay was developed to specifically target the nostalgia centers in our brains.
Considering the main draw of this game is nostalgia, the multiplayer is just a nice bonus. The single-player story modes are actually where most of the fun is, as they walk you through the entirety of the Dragon Ball Z story arcs, movies, and even parts of Dragon Ball GT. There are in-fight dialogues, anime cutscenes, and even boss battles in the story mode. And these boss battles are some of the most fun parts of the game. Here, you will have to fight characters that are many times the size of you—for example, Goku battles the giant ape Vegeta—and these fights also have special cutscenes and quick time events that mirror the actual events of the anime.