Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit
- Publisher: Namco Bandai
- Developer: Dimps
Maybe it's because of the link to the often-impenetrable TV series, but I've always been surprised that the Dragon Ball Z games have never made more of a splash with fighting fans. Burst Limit marks the series next-gen debut, and continues the trend of increasingly complicated combat married to retina-blistering anime presentation.
After the introduction of fancy new viewpoints and collecting capsules in previous games, things have been reined in for this version to make it a more traditional fighting experience. Combat is mostly on a 2D plane - though you can dodge and feint around your opponent - and the camera angle adopts a more traditional side-on view.
Livening things up are oodles of short cut-scenes stitched seamlessly into the gameplay. Each character can have up to three "drama pieces", triggered by certain in-game conditions. These can refill health, cause damage or raise stats and take the form of tiny narrative interludes, created using the game engine. It sounds distracting but it actually works incredibly well. These moments don't break the flow of the fight, but really do enhance the action. Coupled with the bold and colourful graphics and hilarious excessive punches and energy blasts it really does warrant digging out that old "it looks like you're playing a cartoon" chestnut.
Gameplay has apparently been simplified to allow inveterate button-mashers some measure of success, but I still had to play through the multi-tiered tutorials several times before I even began to retain the numerous combo types and their multiple offensive and defensive uses. It's not that the combos, counters and blocks themselves are complex - most simply involve a button and a direction - but that there are so many of them, requiring various trigger and shoulder button modifiers to work. You can progress fairly well simply by mastering the basics, but the effect can still be fairly daunting.
The same is true of the story, which will only make sense to those who religiously follow the series. Chopped up into bite-sized chunks of combat, and culling over twenty playable characters from throughout the cartoon's epic timeline, trying to follow the story can be a thankless task. One minute you're fighting against someone, in the next section you're playing as that character, with absolutely no explanation as to who they are or why they (or you) have switched sides. There's lots of grunting and shouting and Shatner-esque voice acting, and it's all very amusing and visually exciting for the layman, but also utterly bewildering. In a fun sort of way.
There's online play, which is okay if a little laggy at times, and the expected Survival and Timed modes. These aren't quite as streamlined as you'd hope - Survival mode really needs to speed up the transition from one fight to another, as it drags a little - but as bonus practice sessions they do the job well enough, and allow you to see some of the characters you may not have unlocked yet.
It's a comment that seems to be made every time a Dragon Ball game arrives, but despite the stinky stigma that generally - and understandably - lingers around cartoon adaptations, this is another meaty and enjoyable fighting game. Its kinetic manga style makes for a refreshing change compared to the more earthbound Tekkens and Dead or Alives of this world, and for those who are willing to invest time in the deep combo system the rewards are numerous.