By Amanda L. Kondolojy
Dragon Ball Z titles slowly began to creep back into the mainstream in 2002 with the release of the RPG-like, Legacy of Goku. This title was the first to be developed by an American company and was part of a trilogy released exclusively on the Game Boy Advance platform.
The first titles were met with fairly negative press reviews, but that changed as the trilogy progressed. These handheld games ended up selling millions worldwide, and were effective at showing the sheer amount of fans who wanted Dragon Ball Z games. These titles helped to set the stage for the Dragon Ball Z's mainstream console debut.
In late 2002, the first Budokai title was released for the PlayStation 2. It was also released for the Nintendo GameCube in early 2003. Although the simplistic fighter received rather cold reviews from critics, fans of the series were quite pleased with the title. It gave fans an opportunity to extend the life of their favorite series, which had been slowly winding down. However, unbeknownst to these fans, the first Budokai title would be the beginning of one of the biggest franchises in video game history.
The Dragon Ball Z Video Game Revolution (2003-2005)
Notable Games: Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
After the commercial success of the original Budokai series on the GameCube as well as the PlayStation 2, the inevitable sequel came in 2003. Interestingly enough, the title hit US shores almost a year before it was ever released in Japan, despite developer Dimps being located in Osaka.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 was met with a much warmer reception upon release, and critics largely praised the cel-shaded style of the game. They were also beginning to warm up to the skill-based combat system in Budokai. The gameplay was largely the same as in the original, and featured characters and situations from the beginning of the series through the Android Saga.
Budokai 2 was fairly successful, just like the first installment, but the series received its first blockbuster in Budokai 3. Budokai 3 was exclusively released for the PlayStation 2, and can be best described as an extreme overhaul for the series. The battle system in this title was completely reworked. It included a base ki system that could be built upon as opposed to the stagnant skill-based ki system of the previous two games. Budokai 3 also added modern brawling staples such as the ability to dodge, teleport, and transform. These components, along with a more cinematic look, new modes, more characters, and better production values helped catapult Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 into one of the most popular games, not only for the Dragon Ball Z franchise, but for the PlayStation 2 platform.
The Dragon Ball Z franchise was beginning to really pick up steam once again, and now that the video game series had established itself as a force to be reckoned with, DBZ mania was starting to reach a fever pitch. A whole new Dragon Ball game series for consoles was on the horizon, and it seemed like the Dragon Ball Z franchise was showing no signs of slowing down.