Being an avid DBZ fan, I always wanted a good Dragon Ball Z game as a kid. Sure, there were all those Japanese only releases, but nothing that would work on my unmodded consoles. Fun side story: when I was little, I bought a Japanese copy of DragonBall GT Final Bout thinking my Playstation could play it because I’m an idiot. Probably better that I never played it, anyway. Finally in 2002 though, Budokai arrived (with Budokai 3 releasing in 2004) and I was hooked on the series. But is Namco Bandai’s fighters collection worth it after 9 years?
I’ll start off by discussion whether Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is worth it for someone who already owns them on PS2: No. The collection includes the original Budokai and Budokai 3. I can’t fathom why 2 isn’t included, it just seems odd to leave it out. There isn’t anything added in but the trophy support, and the HD graphics aren’t exactly an overhaul when they already looked great in that art style. There isn’t online support, which would seem like a no brainer considering the times we’re living in. Plus it leaves out 2. What the hell? When did we start calling two games a “collection”?
I like to think of the Budokai series as fighters with training wheels. The special moves are easy to pull off and it’s not all about getting the highest combo. This really depends on whether you’re into fighters or not, but I think they’re incredibly welcoming games to all kinds of players. Which is perfect for non-traditional fans of fighting games like me.
Both games feature a lot of similarities with 3 being leaps and bounds ahead of the original. If the “collection” only included Budokai, this review would be incredibly negative, let me tell you. It’s not that it’s an awful game by any means, but it’s definitely not at its full potential. The fighting can be clunky at times, the enemies are incredibly easy, and the entire game can be completed to 100% in 7 hours. There’s something interesting Budokai does at a certain point, and it’s that it asks you to rotate the analog sticks to keep Goku (who’s holding Raditz) in line with Piccolo’s special beam canon. So it’s a terrible mini game, but it’s something different and interesting. Had it been executed a little better and had a mini game like that happened more than twice, it’d be a good mechanic. As it is, it’s completely out of place. So much so I felt compelled to mention how weird I thought it was on here.
There’s not a lot in Budokai that gives you the full experience of fighting like a Z Warrior. In fact I wonder if maybe my immense love for the original stemmed from not having anything else related to DBZ at the time. In any case, the tournament, money, and skill capsule systems are incredibly interesting concepts for the fighting game. They manage to add a lot more hours to the game as you’re trying to unlock everyone’s skills by buying capsules in the shop using the money earned during tournaments. The added customization of it all really adds a new depth to the fighter.
If anything, Budokai is to be thanked for leading the way to Budokai 3, the better Dragon Ball Z experience. 3 includes everything that Budokai brought to the table but enhances it. The story mode is opened up to 11 characters, there are 42 playable characters (as opposed to Budokai’s 23), and many different collectibles for players to go after. The combat is also improved as everything is more fast-paced to coincide with true DBZ nature. At a tap of the X button, if you have enough Ki, instead of simply blocking a strong attack, you’ll actually teleport behind the opponent. It’s small things like that, that add all the DBZ flavor to the battles.
Another awesome change is there’s a world map where you can search for dragon balls, fight random encounters, find new capsules, and generally just fly around visiting locales as your favorite DBZ character. It’s really great fan service in a way that made me totally giddy. I will say though that 3 shouldn’t have done away with the cutscenes that Budokai had, instead trading them for visual novel-esque ones. Also, some of the more powerful skills, while being easy to initiate, are hard to actually land and rely on a lot of luck. I think Budokai 3 is good, but I don’t think it’s good enough to save the collection for anyone that’s not a big DBZ fan.
All in all, I’d say this collection is perfect for anyone that doesn’t already own them on the PS2, because they are fun games. They’re just not anything “must-have” or otherworldly. The trophies alone aren’t worth full price and you’ll spend a lot of time wondering where the online (And 2, where is 2?!) play is. Honestly, it’s one that we could have done without until they added more to it. You may even feel a hint of sadness as you realize that maybe all those fond memories you had playing them are just due to poor video game critique as a child. Stupid little Yami.
[+Great graphics] [+Fun gameplay with one of the games] [+Interesting customization options] [-Easy difficulty] [-More powerful skills have an annoying mechanic] [-Clunky controls for one of the games] [-Budokai 2 left out] [-No online play]