The Plan to Eradicate Innovation?
Dragon Ball Z is probably one of the most popular and well-known anime series in the U.S. The adventures of Goku and pals were introduced to America over a decade ago, presenting Japanese cartoons to Americans and paving the way for Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist, and all of the myriad animes that have found their way overseas. While anime aficionados owe a great debt to Dragon Ball Z for opening the floodgates, fans must also recognize that DBZ, while well-loved, has become dated. This is most evident in the annual Dragon Ball Z games, which rehash the same stories that have been resolved for years. Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 is the latest of these games, and while it is fun, it doesn’t offer up anything innovative enough to warrant a new iteration. Sadly, Raging Blast 2 is, for better or worse, Raging Blast with a few more characters.
One of the major problems presented each year for Dragon Ball Z titles is the problem of innovation. All of the DBZ fans know the sagas backwards and forwards. The Saiyan Saga, the Frieza Saga, the Cell Saga, and even the Majin Buu Sagaâ€¦all of these stories have been told, retold, and explored into oblivion. It’s is an understandably difficult task the developers have in attempting to make these old stories fresh for their fans, and the DBZ developers have tried a number of different methods. However, in Raging Blast, the developers seemed to have given up, nearly abandoning the story mode completely for Galaxy Mode. Galaxy Mode simply allows the player to follow a single character through their “career,” battling one foe after another with little variation. The developers must have decided that since the stories have been retold so many times, they don’t need to subject the player to story by providing context or cutscenes. This creates disconnect from the story and character motivation. While this is DBZ and not Shakespeare, it is always more exciting to confront Frieza as Super Saiyan Goku after witnessing Goku’s rage at Krillin’s death, or see Gohan explode into Super Saiyan 2. The developers also neglect the casual fans who might not know the dialogue of every episode and may become lost without a framing story.
There are quite a few modes for players to battle through. Tournament Modes allow players to battle against up to sixteen other combatants, whether computer-controlled or online opponents. Museum Mode allows you to watch replays and brush up on DBZ history and character bios. Ultimate Customize lets you alter your favorite characters’ movesets and items. Obviously, there are also versus modes that let you play against friends to prove who is the galaxy’s strongest warrior.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played Raging Blast, or even the Budokai Tenkaichi series. Attacks are performed with a single button, as are ki blasts. Special attacks are initiated by flicking the right analog stick in a direction, giving any character an available four special attacks and a super attack that is activated by pressing the right analog stick. For a gamer new to the series, the control scheme will take some getting used to, but dedication will unearth a fighting system that is a lot deeper than it appears. There are counters and defensive teleports that can be completed by a gamer with excellent timing. While there is deceptive depth, Raging Blast doesn’t approach the subtleties of deeper fighting games like Tekken or Street Fighter, so gamers expecting multiple attack buttons, parries, or super combos should look elsewhere.
The graphics in Raging Blast are beautiful, as the games have surpassed the visuals of the anime a long time ago. The cel-shading in the character models is greatly detailed and shows a marked improvement over the original Raging Blast. However, the backgrounds are a bit bland and could have been spruced up.
Speaking of backgrounds, Raging Blast 2 has the same flaw that nearly all of its predecessors had – the invisible border. While the landscape appears to stretch out for miles around the battlefields, there are invisible borders that fence the combatants in. It really shatters suspension of disbelief when Vegeta smashes Cell through the air, only to have Cell collide with open air and promptly drop to the ground. While it is obvious that the invisible walls are utilized because of hardware limitations, there should be a way to incorporate limits in the game in a less intrusive way. If the developers cannot create the illusion of openness, perhaps they should confine the player to enclosed arenas.
One of the biggest draws of Raging Blast 2 is the inclusion of the new anime feature. The Plan To Eradicate the Super Saiyans isn’t exactly new, as it was released in Japan years ago as a “visual strategy guide.” This feature has been remade for American audiences and will introduce many to the villain Hatchiyak for the first time. Hatchiyak also appears in the game, making his (American) video game debut with the feature providing his backstory (since the Galaxy Mode refuses to do so). While The Plan To Eradicate the Super Saiyans can’t really be reviewed as part of the game, it is a nice inclusion and adds value for anyone attempting to justify a purchase.
As always, the voice casts reprise their roles and provide convincing performances. While DBZ isn’t a serious drama, the voice actors all still do a great job in their respective roles. The option to retain the original Japanese voices is also available for purists. The soundtrack is decent, though largely forgettable.
One of the greatest things about Raging Blast 2 is the vast amount of unlockables. The game presents the player with numerous goals and rewards the diligent gamer with numerous unlockables which run the gamut from anime stills to new characters. There are a lot of things to unlock and collect, so gamers with the “Gotta Catch Em All” syndrome may find themselves entertained in their quest for completion.
Ultimately, the pleasure a player receives from Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 depends on a lot of different factors. Aside from a few characters that have never been in a DBZ game before, Raging Blast 2 doesn’t offer anything new. The fighting system, the environments, and most of the characters appear to have been copied and pasted from Raging Blast. However, there is fun to be had in smashing your opponent through mountains or blasting them into oblivion – if you can forget that you have done in many times before.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Stunning cel-shaded visuals bring the characters to life. 3.8 Control
Decent responsiveness allows the depth of the fighting system to shine. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voiceovers are true to the anime with a decent musical soundtrack. 3.5 Play Value
There is a lot to do and a lot to unlock – although it all boils down to different ways to frame fighting. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.