Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
- Developer: Spike
- Publisher: Atari
Just as Akira Toriyama's inimitable art style earned the Dragon Ball saga a significant pedestal in the halls of manga history, so too has the Budokai Tenkaichi series in beat ‘em ups. It's managed to carve its own niche as a unique hyper-kinetic blend of aerial 3D combat and fast-paced attack and defence that screams epic rather than intimate.
Its latest iteration, then, is its biggest yet, evidently so when you've got a line-up that puts even the bloated Mortal Kombat: Armageddon to shame. BT3 features a ridiculously large roster of fighters - one hundred and sixty-one if you include the various versions of every character - all fighting to see who's got the spikiest hair. More than you'll ever need but also an indication that not every fighter has been honed to perfection.
If you've just arrived at the series, it's plainly bewildering at first, and easier to initially bash away at the buttons. But despite having only the same basic attack commands for each fighter, it can often be a fruitless task against the game's tough AI. A comprehensive tutorial on counters and timing eventually gives some semblance of finesse, and practice leads to offensive exploits, yet, like Naruto, even with tactics to hand, the game never truly gets as deep as you'd like.
Again, like Naruto, BK3's graphics are cel-shaded, aiming to replicate Toriyama's style. It's arguably not as good a result. It's clean and manga-fied, sure, but there's certainly no wow factor to its look. Characters never really come to life, and fighting stages are often more functional backgrounds than gorgeous arenas. Much to most people's relief, however, you can at least switch to Japanese audio once more.
Various modes, tournaments and sub-RPG customisation bolster the single player content and there's enough here to keep fans happy. For DBZ veterans, it's enormously impressive. This is more of a culmination of everything that came before than an evolution of the series, diving headfirst into the story's enormous inkpot. Just going through and trying out the long list of combatants is enough entertainment in itself, although it remains questionable as to how much more you can really wring out of this if you played the last one to death.
For everyone else, it's a tough and not entirely rewarding slog that you may tire of before you see the fruits of your labour. If you're not prepared to wallow in the minutiae of Dragon Ball Z, there are far more competent fighters out there.
High School Musical: Sing It
- Developer: Disney
- Publisher: Disney
Would I be asserting my manliness if I commented that I didn't particularly fall for the cult smash that is High School Musical? Or would I just look like a grumpy sourpuss? Don't answer that. Whatever your opinion, I was a little underwhelmed with this tuneful teenage love story and its cast of perfect hair and white teeth. After all the hype, I was prepared for something phenomenal. Instead I got something a little part charming, a little part cliché, and a whole lot of cheese. The problem is that the songs, as well done and slick as they are, just aren't musical classics. I just don't understand why people like it so. In fact, I commented as much to a friend, who replied that maybe it was because I hadn't grown up with it. Maybe it can't leave a mark on me in the way it will in the minds of today's impressionable kids. I'm still not convinced, though. How can this be a patch on Grease or Bugsy Malone or even Little Shop of Horrors, tell me that?
My name's not Jonathan Ross, though, so to the game instead. If you're of the generation who can't get enough ohmigosh!, here's a treat for you: all the songs from the first and second movies and a handful of extra pop from artists you've never heard of on one sing-a-long-a-disc. Ohmigosh! Despite selling with Singstar mics, this is a PS2 karaoke game that wasn't built by Sony. In other words, it doesn't have Singstar's sleek interface or modes, opting instead for its own solution. That also means a few amateur niggles like not being able to save in Story Mode (i.e. singing through the songs as they appear in the film), or having to click through the menu options twice in order to properly select a song or singer.
One of the worst things, however, is the requirement to amass a cumulative high score throughout the game in order to unlock every last song and surrounding knick-knacks. Only the first movie's songs are available at the start, everything else involves singing away for access. While the good news for the tone deaf is that scoring appears to be more generous than Singstar, there's a lot of it to do to get everything unlocked, making it more of a chore than a challenge. It's a needless feature for a game that, for a party title, really should have had everything open from the beginning.
Videos of songs are gone too. Instead you pick an animated version of the movie's characters to perform in front of various backdrops of school. Each song is sung as a duet, usually split between male and female parts, but the game isn't gender fussy when it comes to who plays which role. Depending on whom you've chosen, boy or girl, this leads to amusing moments when the voice coming out of the singer's mouth doesn't always match the sex. Bizarre.
Getting to the point, though, a lot of the songs don't entirely evoke that karaoke feel and the bold, physical dance numbers of the movie don't always translate perfectly. That's not to say upbeat songs like 'Start of Something New' and 'We're All In This Together' didn't melt my cynical, icy heart. They did. They got me singing along like any good Singstar package could without too much in the way of irony. Sadly even that lapse of masculinity didn't stop me noticing that the remainder of the package is tame Disney-sanctioned soft-pop they wouldn't even play on lunchtime Radio One. It's all a bit too wholesome, and I'd sooner be singing along to The Sound of Music if I had a choice. Start waving your jazz hands in the air in protest and demand a proper Singstar Musicals package instead.