Review: Dragon Ball Raging Blast (Sony PS3)

coverDragon Ball Raging Blast
Developer: Spike
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 11/10/2009

After a slew of Dragon Ball titles under other publishers, Namco Bandai has now thrown their hat in the arena, so to speak, with a new title from developer Spike. With so many other fighting games in this series, how does this one really stand up though? Is it just another forgettable license, or a must have for Dragon Ball and fighting game fans alike?

Story/Modes:

The game itself, while lacking the Dragon Ball Z moniker, really is set in that series, not just the first Dragon Ball or in Dragon Ball GT. As far as a story goes, one of the modes lets you get in and play the main stories from the Dragon Ball Z series. This story mode is called the Dragon Battle Collection, which really breaks down the stories by their respective sagas in Dragon Ball Z, and then from there each of the major battles in that saga. The dialogue here is pretty much what you’d expect from the show, and with Funimation involved you’re also getting the same voice actors, but I’ll touch on that more in the sound section. One thing they’ve added in are What-If battles, with differing fights you’d never really see in the series, like Future Trunks fighting young Trunks or several of the different Fusion fights.

Overall the Dragon Battle Collection was by far my favorite portion of what’s available to play. Being able to play the villains in the main story line and wipe the floor with both Krillian and Goku had me chuckling away. Dragon Battle Collection also lets you collect points and unlock new moves and characters, depending on how well you did and on what difficulty.

Super Battle Trial has several different options built into it. Arcade pits you against 10 foes you have to beat and plays just like you’d expect from an arcade mode. In Survival, you just keep going until you collapse, in Time Attack you have to defeat 5 opponents as fast as possible, Score Attack puts you against an invincible enemy and asks you to try to get the highest score possible, and finally, in KO Attack you play the unbeatable guy and try to get as many KO’s in the shortest amount of time. Each of these games within Super Battle Trial have a few options to them, and they are fun to mess with.

screen001Versus is what you’d expect. It’s single matches, but with options. Here’s where you can go head to head with a friend, or just watch the CPU fight itself. You can assemble teams based on power ratings as well, which was neat, instead of having to fight just one on one. One of the neat options I liked here was the ability to save an entire fight to replay it later. You can even change the camera angles, so if you just gave your friend a major ass-kicking, well, you can replay it over again, to his embarrassment, for your other friends. Of course, that works the other way too.

World Tournament puts you and up to 15 other people into a tournament to fight for the world’s greatest champion (although only two play at a time). You can also fill out the slots with CPU players if needed, if you don’t have a ton of friends or are lacking a second controller for your PS3. Within the tournament you have a few options, such as fighting through the tournament, or the Cell Games option, which is kind of like the Survival Battle where you don’t fill up between battles and have to go on whatever health you have, as a sort of Iron Man tournie.

Looking to practice your fighting skills? Head to the Dojo. They’ve got a ton of settings for you to practice with, without it affecting your rankings. Not happy with your character’s play style? You can go in and customize them by customizing what has been dubbed the character’s ‘deck’. You’ve got a ton of ways to arrange or rearrange a character, and you can save up to 3 custom decks per character. There is a lot to do there if you’re so inclined.

You can also take this game online. They have a world tournament mode, as I talked about earlier, only against other online people, player and ranked matches that play like Versus mode, and Friend matches that are only against your friends list and don’t count towards ranking. Your Ranking and Battle Record are tied to your saved game data, so if you lose that it’s gone for good. There’s also a museum area to listen to the music and a character encyclopedia. Overall I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer amount of stuff crammed into this one. I wasn’t expecting half of what’s here and most of it is a lot of fun, if not challenging.

Story/Modes Rating: Incredible

Graphics:

screen002While the game does a great job of translating the show’s look and visuals into a 3D environment, and I do mean great, as quite a bit of the time I felt like I was ‘playing’ the show, you’re not going to get a ton out of this visually. Even when you’re destroying the environments, pummeling your opponent into a building, and so on, visually you won’t see much of a difference between this and some of the PS2 titles from the Dragon Ball Z fighting series. Sure, things are smoother, and I’m sure the models are a lot more detailed, but really you’re not going to see it here. I think one of the better done aspects of this game was the cityscapes you fight in. The number of buildings and the detail they showed was the only real clue that this is a next-gen title.

Really though, capturing the entire look of the show is a feat in and of itself, especially the moves, the effects, the destruction and so on. Well, that’s been done here pretty well. If you’re buying this game to showcase what the PS3 can do visually though, you’re going to be disappointed.

Graphics Rating: Very Good

Sound:

Funimation is involved with this game, so if you’ve watched the Dragon Ball Z series dubbed, many familiar voices will be making an appearance. This was something I felt helped the game, as I’d only really watched the show dubbed many years ago on Cartoon Network. Yeah, it’s been awhile. If you liked the music from the show, though, and the effects and voices from the Funimation dub, you’ll be in heaven, although I missed the English version of the Dragon Ball Z theme. Never was fond of the original intro to the show.

The dialogue is what you’d expect from Dragon Ball Z, so don’t expect anything too intelligent or refined. Even at its best, the show is based around people kicking the crap out of each other, so there’s not a lot of earth-shattering thought here. I was expecting a Dragon Ball Z style soundtrack, though, and the game delivers.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

Control and Gameplay:

screen003Like most fighting games, this game has evolved beyond simple punches and kicks to include combo attacks and what the game has dubbed “super attacks”. You can learn a lot by just button-mashing, but you won’t be very good at playing much beyond the easy setting if you do. The combos are long and I recommend heading over to the Dojo first before you try to do too much or you’ll just end up sprinting around throwing blasts, punching and getting frustrated.

As far as moving around and using the environment, because the characters from Dragon Ball Z could fly, you’ll end up all over the place. It’s a ton of fun to fly up and pelt you enemy with Ki blasts, drop down, toss them into some water and then continue pummeling them there. Usually I’m not a fan of 3D fighters because they never move around the environment very well, but you’ve got a lot of freedom to fly or move around here, which is great.

One thing you have to be prepared for is that your enemies move around just as much as you do. My first arena fight with Gohan and Vegeta, I got ready to throw down on Vegeta when he popped out and I was expecting him to drop behind me, but the little guy had flew way up and decided to gathering energy to lay waste to me. The CPU enemies were surprisingly good at using the environment and making me come after them, even on the easier settings. For once I wasn’t cringing while playing a 3D fighter because the 3D movement was handled well, and I actually looked forward to playing it.

There is a bit of an issue though. The characters, while having different strengths, all seem to have a similar play style to them. To trigger the different combos, it’s all pretty much the same button presses to set them off. Sure, one character can’t fire off as much Ki as another and so on, but once you’ve got the combos down, you can pretty much play as any of the characters without issue, which can be good and bad. In most fighters I’ve played, each character has a completely different play style you have to learn, and with Dragon Ball Z that should be true as well, but it isn’t here, and it really makes the combat system feel far too simple. Sometimes the camera is in a bit too close as well, but that’s usually when you’re up against a wall or rock face, and it never gets to the point where you can’t see the enemy.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good

Replayability:

screen006There’s quite a bit to unlock here, and the story mode is a nice touch, plus the What-If battles and the online mode add to the game a bit. This game is really just what the friends of someone who wants everything unlocked wouldn’t want said friend to get a hold of, because he’ll play obsessively to unlock everything, much to his wife’s dismay because she’s not at all into Dragon Ball Z at all. Seriously though, I could go in and just set up match after match against Krillan or Choutsu and pound them into the ground over and over again and I’d be a happy, happy man. For Dragon Ball Z fans, there’s a lot here to play with, and being able to completely customize the characters and play around with those custom settings on top of it all should keep people coming back for awhile.

Replayability Rating: Classic

Balance:

With the holidays looming, there’s a few sales out there for this already, but it was originally priced at the normal PS3 price point of $60. If you’re a Dragon Ball Z fan, I’d honestly say it’d be worth getting at that price. If you’re only a casual fan, though, find it at a cheaper price. While there’s a lot here to offer, I’d have waited for it to drop in price and I definitely fall into the casual Dragon Ball Z fan section.

The game itself is balanced pretty well. If you play on the easy settings, and only do the basic combat actions without any of the power combos, you’ll do decently, but never score well. On the harder settings you’ll get creamed, as well. I was surprised how well this balanced out, especially since the last several games I’ve played based on franchises or shows haven’t managed to do this all that well, or at all, and end up being a breeze to play through even on the hard settings.

Balance Rating: Good

Originality:

screen010This is the latest game in a long string of Dragon Ball Z games out there, so it loses a ton of points there. But including so many options and customizations, and adding other factors to the experience, really ups this section a bit. The What-If battles were also a nice touch, and being able to play through so much of the Dragon Ball Z saga was also fantastic. But really, anyone who wants to play a new Dragon Ball Z game isn’t looking for something original anyway.

Originality Rating: Enjoyable

Addictiveness:

While at first I was just button-mashing and flying around the screen like a madman, there was just something about this one that kept me playing and learning the game. Hell I haven’t watched Dragon Ball Z in years and I kept playing through the saga to see how they handled the next few fights. Being able to jump around in the Dragon Battle Collection, I got to play my favorite fights first, just because I could. Then, of course, there’s pitting the underdogs against your favorite Super Saiyan and then trying out your skills online. There’s a lot that kept me playing, and like I mentioned, my wife was baffled as to why.

Addictiveness Rating: Great

Appeal Factor:

screen021While there have been a number of Dragon Ball games released to the market already, the online element of this one seems to have people really getting into this one. I haven’t had a lack of players to play against, and that well doesn’t seem to be drying up anytime soon. It is a pretty decent, if not advanced, fighter that does take a bit of skill to play. But really, how long can the Dragon Ball Z bandwagon continue to roll on?

Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average

Miscellaneous:

Being a long-time casual Dragon Ball Z fan, I actually found myself enjoying this game. While the combat system is pretty simple, it does lend itself to the more casual fans who may or may not be any good at fighting games, but love the show. So while I think a lot of fighting game fans will be disappointed by it, I think this game will really speak to the more casual fan who just wants to kick someone around as their favorite character, and this game delivers on that end of things.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Incredible
Graphics Rating: Very Good
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good
Replayability Rating: Classic
Balance Rating: Good
Originality Rating: Enjoyable
Addictiveness Rating: Great
Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresizeThe latest in the seemingly never-ending parade of Dragon Ball Z based fighting games, Dragon Ball Raging Blast has some nice elements to it that long-time and casual fans will love. The fighting system is a bit on the simple side, but works quite well here, and the sheer amount of play options will keep a person busy with this title for a long while. If you have your doubts, definitely rent this baby, as the demo doesn’t do it justice, but I’d have waited until it was cheaper either way.

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