Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is a fun trip down memory lane for fighting game enthusiasts and DBZ diehards.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is the latest in a long line of HD re-releases for modern consoles. The collection features two games- Dragon Ball Z Budokai and Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3. The first Budokai was released in 2002 and launched a slew of Dragon Ball fighting games and a big cult following. Budokai 3 released a few years later, expanding upon the formula, and is cited by many fans as the best in the series. The question is: how do these titles hold up after all these years?
Dragon Ball Z Budokai was developed by Dimps and follows the Saiyan, Namek and Android Sagas, and you’ll get to control multiple characters from these storylines. The story mode is well-executed and presented through fantastic 3D in-game cutscenes. Between the combat and the cutscenes, Dimps did a great job of bringing the Dragon Ball Z experience to consoles. Besides the main story mode, there’s also Duel, World Tournament and an unlockable mode called The Legend of Hercule. Duel is essentially an exhibition mode where you can challenge the computer or another human player, utilizing the game’s 23 character roster. World Tournament is obviously a tournament split into a bracket, where you’ll consecutively fight all opponents until only one contestant is left standing. If you’re a WWE fan, it’s essentially King of the Ring.
In Budokai 3, the story mode has sadly been replaced with the lackluster Dragon Universe mode. While I greatly enjoyed Budokai 1’s story mode as it essentially recreated the events of the show in 3D (and explained the sagas well for newcomers like myself), Dragon Universe pales in comparison. You get to fly around a 3D hub, which is undoubtedly quite cool, but all story is just text-based. You fly around the world and collect capsules and money, and fight people. It should be modded as Russell Crowe’s Fightin’ Round The World. It needs to be stated that Budokai 3’s highly superior fighting system (in comparison to Budokai1) and an RPG-esque leveling system do prove to be a relatively addicting combination, but I can’t help feeling that if was married with the great 3D cutscenes of the original, it would feel like a much more complete experience. Still, upgrading your favorite characters and unlocking Trophies/ Achievements makes for a worthwhile time sink.
In terms of combat, Budokai 1 hasn’t aged as well as Budokai 3. Budokai 1’s fighting feels quite slow and stiff compared to the silk-like fluidity of Budokai 3. However, both games feature compelling gameplay and interesting ideas, such as the use of energy abilities like Goku’s Kamehameha and Spirit Bomb. You can knock opponents into the air and continue fighting mid-flight, which really feels ripped from the show. You can even knock your opponents through the stages and alter the environment with energy attacks. There’s also interesting ideas like where if two players initiate an energy special, the beams will connect and the two players will need to rotate the analog sticks in a bit of a test of strength.
The differences between Budokai 1 and 3 continue through to the visuals. Budokai 1 did a decent job of emulating the show’s look, but Budokai 3 took it to a whole new level with great cel-shading effects that really brought everything to life. Whereas Budokai 1’s HD remaster is well-done and is definitely an improvement over the original, Budokai 3 almost looks like it could be a PlayStation 3 game. Developer Pyramid took Dimps’ stellar groundwork and not only raised the resolution and improved the coloring, but also added some noticeable lighting effects that really tie everything together and give it a next-gen sheen. For some reason, though, cutscenes and menus still retain the original 4:3 aspect ratio as opposed to 16:9.
The sound is great as well, and most of the effects sound ripped straight from the TV show. Some audio is noticeably compressed, but this is a problem with the source material having to be shrunk down to fit on a PS2 DVD. Also, it needs to be said that the soundtrack is not the original- some tracks have been replaced with music from the Tenkaichi series due to a lawsuit involving composer Keiji Yamamoto.
Overall, Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is a solid effort as an HD remaster. Fans had been begging Namco Bandai to re-release this series for a long time, despite the company releasing plenty of Dragon Ball Z titles for modern consoles. The gameplay is well-suited to fighting game enthusiasts, as the combat is not for button mashers. These titles feature deep gameplay, and Budokai 3 in particular has a ton of replay value. It might be a bit odd that Budokai 2 is conspicuously absent, and a lot of fans will surely miss the awesome original soundtrack, but Pyramid has done a great job of polishing up Dimps’ original work to make it shine for a modern audience, and diehard fans alike.