By Amanda L. Kondolojy
Dragon Ball Z Games Come Into Their Own (2005-2007)
Notable Games: Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3, Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu, Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai Another Road
After the wild success of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, the series was reinvented yet again. The Budokai Tenkaichi series was created in 2005 and became the biggest Dragon Ball Z franchise to date. The first title took many of the most critically acclaimed elements from Budokai 3 and expanded upon them. It featured 56 playable characters, new stages, and now had storylines that not only included the anime, but also the Dragon Ball Z films as well. It also had a different camera perspective that allowed players to experience the action from an "over-the-shoulder" point of view.
One of the really unique and fan-appreciated facets of the original Budokai Tenkaichi game was the presence of "what-if" scenarios. The game presented stages where the player could assume the role of a villain and defeat a hero to see what might have happened. While some series purists decried these situations as insulting to the spirit of the original, many more saw them as an entertaining way to give the series even more longevity.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 was the first title to be released for the current generation of consoles. It came to both the PlayStation 2 and the Wii consoles and was met with great reviews, especially for the Wii version. Even though the gameplay was essentially identical to the original Budokai Tenkaichi, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 upped the roster to a whopping 129 characters. The Wii version also implemented some pretty tight motion controls, which was (and still is, some might argue) a rarity in third party Wii titles.
On the handheld side of things, there was a little-publicized game that was actually rather interesting in relation to the history of the Dragon Ball Z gaming. In 2007, Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu was quietly released for the Nintendo DS. The gameplay and story weren't exactly remarkable by themselves, but the game played almost exactly like the older SNES titles that never saw a US release. As such, it was sort of a homecoming for longtime fans of the series.
Another groundbreaking handheld title released during this time was Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai Another Road. This title took a completely hypothetical situation involving Trunks and expanded it into an entire game. Although die-hard traditionalists were upset again by the branching storyline, the game pleased many who had been waiting a long time for a Dragon Ball Z title that didn't feature the same story as all the others.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is the most recent iteration of the series, and was also released for both the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo Wii. This title again upped the roster, this time to an incredible 161 characters. Many fans were amazed at the sheer amount of characters, although many were so minor that casual fans had never heard of them. Character recognition aside, Budokai Tenkaichi was another solid entry in the series, and the Wii version of the game marked the series' first foray into the world of online gaming.