Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is an action fighting game based on the highly popular manga/anime series Dragon Ball. Developed by Artdink and published by Bandai Namco Games, Battle of Z puts you in the shoes of Goku, his friends and even his enemies to fight it out – Saiyan style.
Being that I’m a pretty big fan of the Dragon Ball series, I was quite excited to see this game getting a release for my favorite little handheld. The only thing I worry about with multiple platform releases is whether or not the Vita gets forgotten or the release just runs really badly – thankfully I got to spend a ton of time with this game to find out just that.
The first thing of note is that Battle of Z‘s story is there, but it’s not as fleshed out as one might hope. Before every battle you get a quick rundown of what’s going on at this point in the timeline, in the form of a cut-scene. It’s nothing spectacular, but does help you to at least know why you’re fighting your opponent. Battle of Z‘s story missions are separated by what saga things take place in, for example – you have the Saiyan Saga which follows the Z Fighters route and the Saiyan route. When playing single player you can only select characters that would have actually been there at the scene during that part of the story, but playing co-op mode you can be whomever you like.
The story is an important part of Battle of Z, but what this game does best would have to be the actual gameplay. Each battle area has limited space, but you are able to fly around the whole level – which means that the fighting takes place everywhere. At first it can seem a bit overwhelming, but when you learn the controls… nothing feels better then actually pulling off a kamehameha right in someone’s face, or launching someone across the map and then flashing to their current position and slamming them into the ground like a bag of potatoes.
Controlling your character can be a bit overwhelming (like I noted earlier), but over time becomes actually quite easy. The Vita, as we all know, lacks a couple of inputs the console controllers have – so to fix this they had to use the touch screen a bit to fill in the gaps. Removing your fingers from one side of the Vita can be annoying as this is a fast paced fighting game, but the buttons they have set as default to the touchscreen don’t get used as much as controls mapped to the physical buttons do.
After you get over the control bump the game just feels much better, but it also depends on which person you choose to play as. One of the keys to playing well is figuring out what character class best suits your play style. Do you want to be right in someone’s face? Well then choose the melee type. Perhaps you see yourself as the person helping others, then you should be the support character. Figuring out what type of character you play better with might take some time, but when you do find that person you’ll know almost right away.
Each character in this game is unique which makes trying out all the characters very interesting. All of them have card slots that you use to better load them with attack power, health, ki blast power, special powers, speed, skill cards, and an item card. These cards will in the end effect your power level. All characters have a base power level which you can see when you highlight the character you want. The game makes setting your cards really quick if you don’t feel like taking the time to go through it. You can use the auto-select feature, which will select the most powerful cards automatically. This is by far one of the better aspects of the game, especially in single player where you have to choose three other A.I. characters to accompany you on your mission and then select their card load-out too.
Along with the single player missions you can also take part in some co-op missions. These missions are the same as the single player missions, but the big difference being that you can play as any character you like. This makes completing the story much easier as you can communicate with a friend via the party app or just chat through the game as DBZ has its own game chat. I found that at times there would be a connection issue, but it wouldn’t stop or break the game. It would just slow down for a bit and get right back into the action.
I wish however this was the same for the competitive multiplayer. When hoping into a match and testing my Saiyan abilities against some randoms, I found myself struggling to even do anything with the amount of lag the game experienced. I would say it practically unplayable at times. It’s not to say I couldn’t find a smooth match but 9 out 10 matches would have this problem. With this issue being present I can’t see myself coming back to this game very often unless I’m itching to beat the crap out of someone, but that’s not to say the rest of the game won’t keep you busy for some time.
When anime is turned into a video game, one of the biggest things you want to see brought over would be the same voice actors from the show. Well I’m not totally sure if it’s the same actors as the anime for each character, but the characters and sound effects all seem to sound just how they should – which for me is a huge deal, and really helps immerse you in the game.
The only flaw in this though is that even though they took a good step forward they ended up taking two steps back, because the audio at times doesn’t seem to sync up with their lip movements due to it being a dubbed audio track. It’s definitely an area of letdown for me, but all in all wasn’t a deal breaker. If you happen to prefer the original Japanese voices though, you can download those as DLC off the PlayStation Store – something I know people like our Editor in Chief would appreciate. I haven’t myself, so I can’t tell you whether or not it makes it better – but it’s certainly nice to see the support for it.
Everyone already knows how much we talk about what games look like on the OLED screen and here I am to confirm that Battle of Z doesn’t differ from that statement. This is a great looking game, in fact it looks pretty much just like the anime. When I first started playing I was so happy to see that the Vita version didn’t seem to have many if any cut backs in the graphical department, and if graphics are your thing you shouldn’t be too disappointed in this one.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is one of those games that I think is a must-play on the PlayStation Vita. Even if you don’t like the Dragon Ball Z anime/manga this game plays and feels amazing, brand aside – this an excellent action title which stands on its own and would be fun even without the Dragon Ball “skin”. Though there are a couple of flaws that could of been fixed given more time, I still love this game completely; the graphics are fantastic, the feeling you get when you annihilate your foe is exhilarating, and the Dragon Ball element is done with some quality and forethought. This one’s high on my list of must-haves, and should be high on yours too.