Goku Rages On
Dragon Ball: Raging Blast is this year’s newest Dragon Ball-branded brawler. The DBZ fighter has become somewhat of an annual tradition, and since last year’s Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit was very well-received, so naturally excitement for this newest entry in the series was quite high. However, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast is definitely not as good as its predecessors, taking several steps back from the formula that worked so well in previous titles.
One of the first things you’ll notice that has changed in Raging Blast is the combat. While the DBZ series has never really been known for its complex and challenging fights, Raging Blast simplifies it to a very base level. There are two basic types of attacks: Physical and Ki. The Physical attacks generally involve throwing, punching, or kicking an opponent in up-close combat. These moves are very low-powered and require immediate proximity to the target to be successful.
The other type of attack is a little more interesting. The Ki system has been a staple of the DBZ franchise ever since its inception and involves sending high-energy blasts hurtling towards your enemies. The Ki attacks range from simple energy bursts to full-blown special attacks, and there are plenty of strategic uses for the different levels of attack. Ki attacks are definitely a lot more useful than the Physical attacks, but because there are only a handful of attacks that each character can perform, battles get very repetitive. Instead of planning and executing combos and timed special attacks, I found that the best strategy for success with the game’s battle system is to run around the stage, wait for the Ki meter to fill, and then attack. This is definitely not a fun strategy, but, unfortunately, it is the only one that really works, especially because the Physical attacks are so underpowered.
Another big change to the battles in Dragon Ball: Raging Blast is the stages. Instead of having small 2.5D backgrounds, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast features expansive arenas complete with familiar landforms and buildings. Characters can fly around these buildings and use them strategically to hide or even trap opponents. However, even though these environments are certainly expansive, they are often very open and it is fairly easy to see where the different traps are and avoid them.
Another issue with the open environments is the camera tracking. If you stay on the ground during battles, then you’ll have no problem with the camera, but as soon as you start flying around the stage, the camera suddenly loses both you and your opponent. Though it will catch up eventually, battling without being able to see what is going on, even for a few seconds, can be a death sentence in a battle, and it will lead to extreme frustration.
The only thing that Raging Blast really has going for it is the story mode. Although other Dragon Ball Z games have followed the story behind certain sagas, Raging Blast incorporates several sagas, including the Saiyan Saga, the Buu Saga, as well as several “What-If” scenarios a la DBZ: Another Road. The game also gives you the option to play through the different sagas out of order, so if you really hate the Cell Saga, you can just skip right over it and come back when your are ready.
There is enough of a mix of old and new content in the story mode to keep it fresh and interesting, and for a Dragon Ball Z game, that is saying a lot. It would be almost impossible to recount how many games have told the Cell Saga over and over again, and being able to experience the battles of the story both in a traditional format as well as in a “what if” scenario provided the player with plenty of options and some incentive (beyond character unlocks) to keep playing.
Speaking of characters, they’re another thing the Raging Blast gets right. With over 70 playable characters, Raging Blast has plenty of characters to play with, each with their own distinct moves and special attacks. The game also features several characters that have different forms (such as Goku, Frieza, Trunks, and Cell) and the game allows you to switch between these forms during gameplay. This is definitely an advantage, as a third-form Frieza will have a more devastating Ki attack than a second level Frieza. However, I found it was a little bit easier to just select the strongest-form character from the character select screen than try and level them up while in-battle.
As far as multiplayer modes are concerned, Raging Blast fails to impress. Though there are some decent online multiplayer modes, including ranked, unranked, and World Tournament modes, there are serious lag issues that make it difficult to finish just one match. Though the game provides plenty of incentive to play online, the lag issues make it simply impossible. There is also an offline versus mode where you can play against a friend. However, this mode features a vertical split-screen, which combined with the poor camera controls, makes for a very confusing multiplayer experience.
However, despite all the poor multiplayer and gameplay aspects of the game, there is at least one bright spot: the game looks good. Last year’s Burst Limit certainly pushed the series miles beyond anything we had seen before for the series, but Raging Blast continues to add detail and polish to the overall package. Character models and animations are extremely sharp, and feature a lot more detail than they did previously. The only aspect of the visuals that does not belong in the “much improved” category is the environment. The wide arena-style stages feature plenty of space, but there just isn’t that much filling up these areas. Landforms and buildings also don’t feature a lot of detail, and the ground often has repetitive texturing issues.
Dragon Ball: Raging Blast has a lot of things going for it including an interesting story mode, great graphics, and a huge character roster. However, the foundation of the game – the battle system – isn’t very fun, and that sinks the whole experience. I would have really loved to get the full Dragon Ball Z experience with this game, as it is the most inclusive entry in the series to date. However, between the clunky combat and the whacked out camera, I just can’t recommend Raging Blast to anyone. It’s too bad, as this game could have been great, but for now, it is just a missed opportunity.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
Cel-shaded graphics and animations look great. 2.1 Control
Battle system features a lot of single button spamming. The ridiculously simple combat is one of the worst aspects of the game. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voiceovers feature many of the original English and Japanese voice actors, but repetitive phrases during battle get annoying fast. 2.5 Play Value
The battle system is repetitive, the camera is bad, and the multiplayer options definitely don’t get the job done. The story mode is great, but using the battle system to get through it makes it a chore. 2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.