Dragon Ball Z is one of if not the most loved anime series to ever air in the United States so it should be no secret that Bandai would be on board to create a fighting game based on the hit series, enter the Dragon Ball Z Budokai series the first major console release of a Dragon Ball Z game outside of Japan. When these games came out on the Playstation 2, Dragon Ball fans and anime fans in general rejoiced to finally be able to play as their favorite characters and launch giant shiny blasts at each other. Fast forward several years and Namco decides to bring the popular Budokai series up to High Definition standards so they release Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD collection, but has the game held up over time or is it a relic of a bygone era?
Initially when starting up the game you are given a choice between the original Dragon Ball Z Budokai and Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3….wait a minute something is missing here isn’t it? That’s right for some reason they left out Dragon Ball Z Budokai 2 with no explanation, which is sort of a bummer although 2 was my least favorite of the three as it lacked the great story mode present in the other 2 games and didn’t have the great roster featured in Budokai 3. Basically you choose your game and press start and then the intro video to the game plays.
Budokai 1 is pretty much a bare bones Dragon Ball fighting game, the modes include a “capsule shop” where you can unlock items, a World Tournament mode where you can earn money to use in the capsule shop, a training mode, and a standard versus mode. The graphics in the first game are pretty standard ps2 graphics although they have been upscaled and cleaned up a bit for the HD upgrade, the graphics in this installment were more 3D than the cell shaded direction the series would ultimately end up going. The story mode in the game was at the time one of the best story modes I had ever played in a fighting game (especially one based on an anime series) essentially it was like playing through part of the series (up until the end of the Cell Saga) except the cutscenes were done using the in game graphics and not clips from the anime series. The sound in the first game is pretty standard for what you expect from a Dragon Ball game a few tracks are original to the game itself and then there are some familiar songs from the series as well.
The gameplay in the original Budokai is a fairly basic fighting game style. There are punches, kicks, throws, and special attacks, you have to “power up” when you run out of energy or you won’t be able to do anything, if two people fire blasts at each other you can have a beam struggle which is won by spinning around the LS. The gameplay is solid but nothing that hadn’t been done before in a fighting game.
Budokai 3 was the culmination of building on two great games (Budokai 1 and the MIA Budokai 2) it took the great story mode from the original and added on it by allowing you to fly around an overworld map and explore to find items and unlock characters. Additionally Budokai 3 covered the entire series as well as some of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT and has a vastly larger roster than the other games in the series. The game has all of the modes present in the other games as well as some others and allows much more customization to be done with your characters. The graphics have been slightly cleaned up to HD standards, the music is still as good as it ever was, and the gameplay is just as fun as it was when I played the game on the ps2, not too complicated but not so basic that it isn’t fun.
Budokai 3’s gameplay is as fun as it was the first time I ever played it, as I said before it builds on the previous games in the series and includes some awesome new features such as the “Dragon Rush” which burns all your energy but boosts your attack power and allows you to form special finishing moves. Additionally there are more transformations for many of the characters which are accessible by pressing the R2 button. The gameplay is fun and not over complicated and would provide an excellent building block for the “Budokai Tenkaichi” games that would follow Budokai 3.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD collection is a solid HD port of two very fun fighting games that are “must play” for any fan of the Dragon Ball franchise but there are a few gripes to be had. First as mentioned at the beginning of the review is the glaring omission of Budokai 2 which would have made Budokai 3 stand out even more than it does when just being compared to Budokai 1. The other major gripe I have is that they didn’t include online play for either titles, while the game is a direct port with upscaled graphics, it wouldn’t have been too hard to work in online fighting. Still with all these gripes the game is definitely worth it if you are a fan of fighting games or even more so if you are a fan of Dragon Ball who never had the opportunity to play the original Budokai games on PS2 though those expecting a completely new Budokai game will be disappointed as the game is pretty much a straight port of the PS2 versions.