Version tested: PlayStation 2
So it's been at least a month since the last Dragon Ball Z game and by now all you crazy kids must be clamouring for another one, right? Or maybe not. Regardless, Atari is back with another slice of anime-inspired action for you to ignore on the shelves of your local videogame boutique despite the fact that it isn't anywhere near as bad as you might think. In fact, if it weren't for a couple of really basic errors, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 would be a perfectly acceptable brawler.
After Super Dragon Ball Z attempted to take the series down a more traditional 3D fighting route, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 goes back to the old way of doing things and it definitely feels more natural. Controls are pretty complex, with most of the Dual Shock 2's buttons assigned to some command or other, but there's a friendly training mode on hand to help you pick up the basics with ease.
But once you finish this and jump into the adventure proper, your new-found confidence should prepare itself for something of a battering. You see, BT2 is tough. Extremely tough. After a few winnable fights, the game just starts throwing silly hard opponents your way in vast quantity and watching them dance around your every attack before belting you with a huge combo of their own isn't exactly what we'd call fun. There's some kind of solution to this problem but it's not exactly an appealing one - by flying to a couple of places on the world map, you can challenge the same rivals over and over to build up experience and boost your stats that way. It's massively time consuming, though, with stats creeping up until you finally have enough points to take on the next story challenge.
To make matters worse, if you're not down with the DBZ narrative, you can expect to throw away power-ups at an alarming rate. Each character can be powered up with a number of items that grow in effectiveness with experience - a system that would be great if the fighters you trusted with these useful bonuses didn't just die forever at a given point in the story (even after winning certain fights) and take your goodies with them. It's a real shame that this difficulty barrier presents itself too early too since as we've seen before, the fundamental elements of the game are surprisingly strong for what many would brand a 'kids' game.
Up close, you've got the usual range of combos, juggles and throws (replete with evades, counters and escapes for all you hardcore types) but the game engine thrives on having a decent ranged game as well as a workable close combat system. Energy blasts can be thrown, dodged or deflected and by using the high-speed dash ability, it's easy to mix up your long and short-range games to keep your opponent on edge.
Add in the massive arenas and the fact that all combatants are capable of flight and you'll understand how Budokai Tenkaichi 2 has the potential to get quite confusing at times. Find yourself on the receiving end of a hiding and its often a good idea to speed away from the fray and hide out behind something large for a bit, recharging your powers for the next onslaught. Since most characters can't see you through objects, they can't lock on to you either, making finding you or even barraging you with Ki blasts pretty difficult. Of course, this gives your opponent the opportunity to recharge too and knowing who is capable of transforming into a more powerful form is pretty crucial here too -
the last thing you want to do is take a breather while your enemy morphs into something ridiculously powerful.
To be frank, only hardcore Dragon Ball fans will have the time and motivation to put in enough work into levelling up the right characters to make it through the adventures on offer here. There's fair potential for multiplayer frivolity too, but, once again, finding one person willing to get to a decent standard is hard enough work - let alone getting two or more of said individuals in the same room.
Solid fundamentals, a good selection of modes and a huge cast will no doubt make this top of the must-have list for followers of the series but unless you're ga-ga for Goku, there are definitely better, flashier and more rewarding fighting games out there.
6 / 10