Reviewed on Playstation

Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3

Reviewed By: Sean Domis

Computer Platform: PlayStation II (Sony)
Produced by: Atari
Price Range: $31-40
Learning curve time: 31-60 min.
Age level: Teen to Adult
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Overall Rating:
Genre: Fighting
Christian Rating: 4 of 5
   (slightly offensive)
Gameplay: 5 of 5
Violence: 2 of 5
Adult Content: 4 of 5
   (barely present)

Dragon Ball Z.  Illustration copyrighted.

Dragon Ball Z. The MOST popular Manga in the world. It's now a fighting game. Not once, but thrice! This is a review of the third one, and they finally got it right.

Dragon Ball Z is a TV show/Japanese Manga that follows the exploits of Son Goku, a member of the race of ultra-powerful Saiyajins (SAI-uh-jinns, lit. Super People). He was sent to Earth long ago to destroy the populace in order to sell it to another race. He fell and bumped his head one day, and became the sweetest, if somewhat thick, man you'd ever meet.

The Main game, called Dragon Universe, is a free-roaming world that closely follows the main plot-line, from the arrival of Goku's brother, Raditz, to the battles with Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu. Eleven characters, from Broli to Piccolo, have their own story to play through. New to the game is the ability to edit the stats of characters. All the normal players are here: Hit Points, Attack, Defense. You can also level up the effectiveness of capsules and Ki gathering/attacks. Unfortunately, the cut-scenes from the first two games have been replaced with bad and often confusing still-life pictures over fuzzy backgrounds. No es muey bueno.

Gameplay mechanics stay intuitive: one button to kick, one to punch, one to guard, and one to throw simple ki blasts. Using the analog stick in conjunction with each produces different results, from powerful punch combos to devastating Ki attacks.

What has changed from the last two games includes:
Now super-moves, such as Kamehameha Wave and Innocence Cannon, can be performed on command, simply by pressing the Ki button plus the control stick in the left or right direction.

Another new addition is Hyper Mode. By pressing punch, kick, guard, and Ki all at once (conveniently, you can assign this to one of the shoulder buttons), you turn a glowing red color. Your attack power is enhanced at the expense of defense. From this state, you can launch into Dragon Rush (a paper-rock-scissors style with three “matches” between the two characters, culminating in either a quick recovery by the defense or a devastating finish by the offense in each match, depending on which buttons were pressed) or Ultra Moves, moves with the ability to destroy the entire playing field.

A new Evasion/Chase system has been added, as well, giving even more depth to the game. In keeping with the back-and-forth nature of the show, Pressing Forward+Guard the moment your enemy attacks you allows you to disappear and reappear behind them, giving them a “gentle” love tap. Pressing Ki as they're flying back from such a hit allows you to appear behind and volley them back and forth for up to three times. Evasion is accomplished by quickly pressing Guard at the moment your opponent attacks. Your character will dodge out the of the way, quick as you can blink, then return to the ready position. Both are useful for annoying human opponents.

Last but definitely not least is what I think is the best touch: Blast Battles. In the series, when two large blasts of Chi met in the middle, it was a battle between the two characters to come out on top. Until DBZ:B3, you couldn't do that. Thankfully, now we can. When two characters fire a Super Move at the same time, they meet in the middle. Twirling the analog stick around the fastest wins you the match.

Ki(from the Chinese “Chi,” lit. life energy) plays a huge role in DBZ:B3. By double-tapping and holding the control stick down while holding guard, your character assumes a crouched position and “gathers” Ki. Ki is used for basic, Super, Ultra Ki attacks, as well as Hyper Mode, Dragon Rush, and Evasion/Chase moves. Simply hitting a person can recover a portion of Ki lost.

Many things stay relatively the same. Transformations into Super Saiyan, different forms of the same character (Frieza, Cell, and Super Buu), versus mode, the capsule move-editing system, The World Tournament, and many other unnoticables are unchanged. A new mode, called Dragon Arena, allows you to level up the attributes of characters, such as Cell or Supreme Kai, who don't have a Dragon Universe story all their own.

The violence is ever-present, with characters being gored by beams of ki, tortured with repeated ki blasts to the relish of the attacker (a la Frieza), and many other depictions of pain and suffering. There is little to no blood, surprisingly, and the dirtiest language is mostly Vegeta calling Goku an idiotic clown. The women characters, Android 18 and Videl, are dressed modestly(though 18's jeans might be a bit too tight for comfort) and fight as well as the men.

Dragon Ball Z Screenshot

Some might be disturbed by the idea of Chi, wishes to Shenron the Great Dragon, the fact that Kami is actually a God in the japanese version, and the inclusion of aliens and android. Also, for those who think they know, Majin Buu is NOT a demon. He is a creation of the evil wizard Bibi-Dee.

The game's protagonists show compassion, fortitude, and a willingness to forgive their enemies. Many times, Goku gives his enemies the option to leave rather than fight. He even shares his energy with Frieza, allowing the alien to escape a dying planet Namek.

Another good thing is that the villains of the series are rarely romanticized: Frieza is an evil, pompous jerk, Cell is programmed to kill, and Super/Kid Buu is simply insane. Villains of the past, such as Piccolo and Vegeta, see the evil of their ways through the development of the plot. And even a shameless fake such as Hercule (ironically called "Mr. Satan" in the Japanese version) redeems himself by befriending and teaching right and wrong to the innocent and naive monster, Majin Buu.

The game also teaches coordination and memorization skills. There are many, many techniques to be learned, and a fun afternoon can be had, battling with parents and siblings.

Parents are cautioned that the violence should be put into perspective. Make it perfectly clear that violence is unacceptable, useful only as a last resort.

All in all, this is the game Dragon Ball Z fans have been waiting for. It perfectly captures the zany, over-the-top action of the show. Even if you've never heard of Dragon Ball Z, pick this game up, or at least give it a rental.

Year of Release—2003-2004

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Christian Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Films for Christ or the Christian Answers Network.

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