|System: PS2, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Spike / Namco Bandai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 13, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
The Dragon Ball Z franchise is one of the most well known and enduring animes and one of Atari's most beloved licenses. Each year, anime aficionados can expect a new DBZ game to showcase the antics of Goku as he protects the universe from various threats. Atari's newest title, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is the latest in the series, and although some of the BT3's additions should have been included in the last game, there is no denying that BT3 is the best in the series to date.
One major problem with the Dragon Ball Z franchise is that the anime series has been completed for a long time, which means that each new game is basically retelling the same old story again and again, rehashing it in a vain attempt to make it fresh. This year's story mode is probably the best attempt to date to recreate the DBZ experience for the fans and make the experience enjoyable. Dragon History, which is this year's version of the story mode, allows you to play through the various sagas that comprise the Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball, and Dragon Ball GT series. You will get to reenact some of the larger battles in the series, but this time, the game emulates the actual anime more, having the combatants talk and taunt one another during the fights. Also, sidelined friends also comment throughout the fights, encouraging you when you're being throttled and cheering you on when you're defeating your foe. The dialogue really conveys the spirit of the show, with spoken lines that, while not direct quotes, feel sometimes as if they should have been. There are also moments during gameplay where a prompt asks you to press the R3 button, which will initiate the next segment of combat, whether it is starting a blast battle or the next batch of dialogue. You have the option of ignoring the prompt and reshaping the battle so that it doesn't go according to DBZ canon, but there aren't any major alterations to any storyline.
Dragon History is a good version of story mode, but it is criminally short, cutting out a good number of the battles featured in the last iteration. Some battles jump from one point to another, cutting out a great deal of potential fights, such as the curious choice to start the Freiza Saga at Goku's fight with Recoome, completely ignoring possibilities like Vegeta's fights with Dodoria and Zarbon. If the developers had kept all of the battles from BT2 and incorporated them into Dragon History, it would have been the best story mode to date, but by omitting so many crucial battles, the story mode feels rushed and incomplete. Also, Dragon History uses the game's fighting engine to recreate all of the fights and "cutscenes", so there will only be two fighters onscreen at a time despite comments coming from various characters. The off-screen characters don't have any representation at all besides their voice, and it seems like the developers would have at least included a text box with the off-screen character's face instead of just voice and text. Anyone unfamiliar with Dragon Ball Z wouldn't know who was talking or what was occurring.
The fighting has been reworked to make the gameplay much deeper than previous versions. Additions like the Sonic Sway, which lets you dodge attacks and counterattack, and Z Burst, which lets you zoom in on a foe's blindside, deepen the gameplay considerably, although the addition of the Z-counter intensifies the gameplay the most, extending the quick teleport counterattacks that are the show's trademarks. A fighter can find himself ping-ponged between a foe's quick teleportation attacks, but with great timing can instantly turn the tables on an opponent. Nearly all of the attacks in the game can be countered, reversed, or avoided, making the gameplay interesting for anyone diligent enough to learn and explore the combat system. Also, the A.I. in the game is much improved, making the game far more challenging and requiring everyone to learn at least some of the tricks in the game to survive.