Review: Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury (Game Boy Advance)

Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Rating: E for Everyone
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Webfoot Technologies

I love my Dragon Ball Z. It’s obvious by now, isn’t it? I’m unrepentant, I know. I bravely represent this anime that features nothing more than people with really big hair, voice acting that ranges from decent to horrible, and a whole lot of crap being blown up. The video game series based off of the anime has had its ups and downs. Well, ok, I’m not sure I can actually pluralize ups. But at least things seem to be heading in a better direction as evidenced by the relatively new GBA fighter, Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors. Now we find ourselves with yet another new DBZ game for the GBA, and obviously that will be the center of this review. Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury has been out for a little bit now (although the release dates have been very weird…I have had my copy for a little over a week, yet the offical website has November 4th, which is obviously way off as the date, and some stores don’t even have it yet, although most EB’s *should*. If you really want it I would suggest since they have it shipping within 24 hours.), but I just couldn’t let it pass us by without weighing in on it for the Inside Pulse gaming readers,and fellow DBZ addicts who may be in the audience. This game is not a fighter, instead we find that this is the conclusion to the Legacy of Goku series which to be honest hasn’t been bad, but it certainly hasn’t been wonderful either. Still, the fighter genre has dominated most DBZ games out there, and it is a bit refreshing when this pseudo-RPG’s come out just to see Atari has done now. Oh Atari, I have such a love/hate relationship with thee. On one hand you actually give me DBZ games, which I appreciate. On the other hand, up until recently, you tend to give me crap in a box labeled Dragon Ball Z. So what’s it going to be this time? Let’s find out as Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury (from here on it will simply be referred to as Buu’s Fury.) gets the Inside Pulse treatment.

1. Story

It’s faithful to the DBZ anime, that much I can say. Buu’s Fury picks up right after the Cell Games, with Goku’s decision to not return to earth. From there we progress into the Majin Buu Sage, which actually entails about one hundred episodes of the series. So, needless to say, they are packing a lot into this game. It’s fast paced and definitely not casual fan friendly. It certainly helps if you are more than a casual fan of the series to understand where everything is going as the game progresses. Things get complicated as Buu changes form numerous times, splitting in two eventually into a good and bad Buu, not to mention the host of other side stories that are going on at the time with characters such as Gohan, Goten, Trunks, etc. So this game may be a bit of a disappointment for those out there who didn’t know what they were getting themselves into before they bought it. Buu’s Fury takes about seven to twelve hours depending on if you complete side quests, so their packing a lot of information into a very small window of time. If you’re playing and not paying decently close attention, chances are pretty high you are going to get lost a bit along the way. Yet, I’ll give Atari and company credit. They remained faithful to the story despite the fast pace, and relatively short play time of Buu’s Fury which I imagine it not an easy task.

As for the story itself, I’m a bit biased. I love Dragon Ball Z, and while the Cell Saga is my favorite “era” of the anime, the Majin Buu Saga runs a close second. It’s serious at times (ex: Vegeta accusations of Goku at the World Martial Arts tournament in the show was seriously some of Funimations best voice acting ever) and yet it also degenerates into a lighthearted tone when you get to some characters like Gotenks, and especially Mr. Satan. So, yeah, I really do enjoy this storyline, because it’s something I grew up with. Hell, glancing to my right I see the whole series on VHS staring me in the face, so it’s tough to criticize something I enjoy so much. I do think this game is suited more towards the DBZ faithful than for someone who catches it from time to time on Cartoon Network. In that respect Atari does fall flat a bit, because making a game more accessible to broader audiences should have been something to aim for. Still, it’s a good story, and I think if you give it half a chance you’ll agree.

Overall Story Rating: 8/10

2. Graphics

Sadly, things go a bit downhill from here, as Buu’s Fury doesn’t come through graphically. If you have played the previous Legacy of Goku games then these graphics will look familiar. They have, in many places, simply been taken from those games and put right in here. The lack of innovation really is startling. Now I know that the characters themselves do not change appearance. But when numerous maps and geographical areas have been simply recycled a line needs to be drawn. The GBA is a powerful system as evidenced by the wide variety of graphically great games out there. Buu’s Fury just doesn’t put any effort into the graphics department when it comes to in-game play. The artwork; however, is what you would expect from a game based on an anime: it’s gorgeous. Then again, I find it hard to give credit for simply putting good artwork in there; because honestly that is at their disposal from the get go. The real letdown is the in game graphics, and it’s just another slap in the face to DBZ fans who may have bought this game. Call me old fashioned, but when I pay thirty dollars for something I expect a quality product in return; not a rehash of a game we have already seen twice. Don’t misunderstand me, these graphics aren’t horrible. Their simply unoriginal and only mediocre to start with anyways with no improvements made.

Overall Graphics Rating: 3/10

3. Sound

If you read the graphics section, and just replace the word “graphics” with “sound” you’ll be set. Once again you’ll be hearing themes and overworld music that has appeared in the previous Legacy games already. They do a good job of capturing the themes from the show, but that’s where the goodness in the sound department stops. Laziness in video games is one thing I truly disdain, and Buu’s Fury unfortunately has a lot of it in the two vital areas of graphics and sound. Quite frankly, you WILL get the same game experience if you simply go buy one of the first two, which can be found for considerably cheaper. The only redeeming part up to this point is the story. What gets me is that the GBA is a decent system for sound, and once again Atari (with Webfoot) fails to take advantage of the tools at their disposal. Being content to just slap music you already created into a new game in the series is not something to be proud off, and it definitely hurts Buu’s Fury in the end.

Overall Sound Rating: 4/10

4. Control

I have a dilemma here. The controls of the game are the best of the series. But unfortunately the challenge of Buu’s Fury renders that useless. However, that falls under the balance category, so I’ll stick to the controls here. Everything responds as it should, and you’ll rarely (if ever) find yourself confused or befuddled by the set-up. Fans of the series will, obviously, have no problems. The controls remain mostly the same, they are simply just better in terms of refinement and detail which makes the game play experience easier to deal with. For those of you who are just getting into this series of games then you’ll find yourself having a learning curve of roughly fifteen minutes before you’re pretty much set to go for the rest of the game. Atari does come through here, because I’m always a sucker for decent controls. It almost makes up for the lazy graphics and sound. Yet, as I said this sound control system has a glaring flaw, which we will get to in a little bit. Overall; however, the controls come through for Buu’s Fury and help players of all walks get into the experience.

Overall Control Rating: 7/10

5. Replayability

Oddly, there some side quests (some newly made and some based on the DBZ movies) that appear here and have little to do with the original plot. There existence does add a bit to the replay value of Buu’s Fury, but as I alluded to earlier in this review, the completion time is roughly between seven to twelve hours. Once you complete the side quests and the main game there is simply no reason to pick this back up again and play through it. Diehards of the DBZ series might be enticed to play it a few times, but I find myself being more inclined to watch the actual anime to brush up on the Buu Saga instead of wanting to pick this up again. It’s not a horrible game, it’s just simply lacking in extras. In an RPG world where games tend to run a lot longer, Buu’s Fury just falls short in replayability. Where Supersonic Warriors succeeded, Buu’s Fury fails, which is saying a lot since the former is a fighter and the latter is an RPG. Usually the roles would be reversed with those genres, which is all I really need to say about Buu’s Fury and its replay value.

Overall Replayability Rating: 4/10

6. Balance

Remember when I said that the controls where undercut by one thing? This is it: the challenge of Buu’s Fury is non-existent. It turns a nicely designed control scheme into nothing more than a button masher. You’ll find that by simply pounding the crap out of the melee button (the A button) you’ll pretty much dominate every enemy and boss in this game. The game’s AI is pathetic, with even the most powerful bosses being mere pushovers. That is due to the bad AI, but it is also due to the overpowering of the characters as well. You start off powerful to begin with (which I suppose makes sense since this is the 3rd installment of a trilogy) but once you start leveling up with certain items like training clothes you’ll power up faster than you’ll believe. All of this just amounts to a challenge that just isn’t there. Any gamer worth their salt will be insulted at the ease of this game. It undercuts a lot of the good in this game, and only joins the graphics and sound in terms of areas that weigh Buu’s Fury down.

Overall Balance Rating: 3/10

7. Originality

Ouch. This pains me to write this, because I really do want to like this game. As a DBZ addict it’s a knee jerk reaction I think. Yet this is, perhaps, the worst category of them all. I have already described the graphics and the sound in detail. This is also the third game in a series that for all intents and purposes does not deviate from the formula set out in the first Legacy of Goku. The battles remain the same, and while the menus and little details of the game do have a bit of an update they remain very much the same as well. Like I said before, this game plays just like the first two installments of the series. As a result originality is not exactly in abundance in Buu’s Fury. New fans of the series will probably not be too disappointed since this would be their first encounter with the series, but those of us who have played the first two will definitely walk away wondering what went wrong, and why more effort wasn’t put into Buu’s Fury.

Overall Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

With a low replay value, little in terms of originality, and poor graphics and sound, the addictiveness of Buu’s Fury is not very high for me. However on a broader scale this is still a DBZ game, and I know there are enough fanboys out there who will love this game and enjoy it immensely. That is exactly the reason why we continue to get DBZ games, that on a whole, remain disappointing. This is a step in the wrong direction for the series, and it really is a bit more disappointing then usual for me. After Supersonic Warriors I thought we might have been heading in the right direction, but once again Atari and company have dashed my hopes. This isn’t Taiketsu levels of bad, but it definitely is marred in mediocrity to the point where any addictive qualities of this game have simply ceased to exist.

Overall Addictiveness Rating: 4/10

9. Appeal

This game will be appealing simply because it has the DBZ name attached to it. Let’s face it people: DBZ is still very popular here in the West, and based on video game sales for prior games based off of the anime, Buu’s Fury will do very well in terms of total units sold. Certainly there are better games out there in terms of RPG’s on the GBA. Hell, I could name at least fifteen I would take before Buu’s Fury. It’s a shame, because the Dragon Ball Z faithful are STILL holding out for a great game based on this series, and once again we are left empty handed. The appeal is there, but the content is not. It’ll sell, but that doesn’t make it good. It just makes it nothing more then an average game that will capitalize on its namesake and turn a nice profit from it as a result.

Overall Appeal Rating: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

There is more detail in this game in terms of game play. However, the lack of innovation, and recycled elements of Buu’s Fury just leaves a halfhearted attempt of a game in your hands instead of a worthwhile product. This game is the swansong for the Legacy series, and I firmly believe it is the weakest of the three (with the second being the best). This game is doomed to obscurity and will not be one of those titles that you will look back upon and remember fondly. This year has been the year of the GBA, but Buu’s Fury falls well short of the new bars that have been set by some of the greatest games in recent memory that have come out this year. Not every game can be amazing, I understand that. But asking for an above average product is not something I deem to be unreasonable. Hopefully Atari will learn its lesson one day. Until then, we’re right back at square one with another game in the DBZ series that is mediocre at best.

Overall Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

Story Rating: 8/10
Graphics Rating: 3/10
Sound Rating: 4/10
Control Rating: 7/10
Replayability Rating: 4/10
Balance Rating: 3/10
Originality Rating: 3/10
Addictiveness Rating: 4/10
Appeal Rating: 5/10
Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

Overall Score: 5.0