Another Dragon Ball Z Flail-Fest
Remember MoCap Boxing, that motion-controlled boxing game that made a splash in arcades in the early 2000s? It was pretty cool, but was mostly stationary. You threw punches and kicks, and bobbed and weaved to dodge the enemy’s attacks, but you had no control over the movement of your character. Essentially, you were just standing in place, flailing like a madman. This is pretty much exactly what Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is all about.
The game lets you choose from one of thirty characters from the Dragon Ball Z universe and control them in first-person perspective against their bitter rivals. For example, one of Goku’s opponents is Frieza, who comes with all the silly monologues about what a frustrating monkey he is and how the planet is going to blow up in five minutes.
During normal gameplay, your job is to flail your arms and legs to reduce your opponent’s life gauge. Much like MoCap Boxing, there appear to be certain points when your opponent is actually vulnerable, but the rest of the time they’ll just dodge and counter all of your moves. So most of the game is actually just a slow grind, getting in damage when you can and avoiding damage when it comes your way.
As far as special moves go, you don’t appear to have access to them at all times. Instead, when the battle progresses far enough, you’ll get an onscreen prompt to do a special move motion. To the game’s credit, these motions do actually appear to mimic the true motions of DBZ characters. The Kamehameha, for example, asks you to crouch down with your hands behind you before thrusting them forward to fire the beam. This is probably the coolest part of the game, sure to make fanboys squeal with delight. However, the limited usefulness of special moves turns them into gigantic quick time events. Sure, they may have novelty value the first few times you throw a gigantic beam, but I’m guessing this will get tedious by the fifteenth time.
Speaking of quick time events, they are all over the place in this game. When your opponent uses a special move, you have to bend and duck at the right times to avoid it. The same thing goes for your opponent’s normal attacks, but these are more evenly dispersed throughout gameplay and feel less like “follow the onscreen prompt to not die.” Sometimes your attacks will clash, which prompts you to, once again, flail your arms in order to increase the power of your attack. I would think that this breaks the immersion of the game, considering Goku never pumped his arms like a wild man to increase the power of the Kamehameha.
In fact, it appears as if NAMCO Bandai has missed one important aspect of DBZ fandom: screaming like a nutcase. There is absolutely no voice control in this game, which is a shame considering the Kinect is fully capable of it. It would have been awesome if you could use your super moves at all times just by shouting a voice prompt. When beams clash, it would have been great if you could increase the strength by yelling rather than pumping your fists. Then again, this would probably keep your neighbors up at night.
The game also has a built in QR code system that will unlock new characters by scanning cards. As of now, we don’t know how fans will obtain these cards, but it feels like a needless tack-on. At best, it’s an extra step in unlocking characters to play; at worst, it’s a flat-out money grab that will require you to buy expansion packs or other products that contain the QR codes inside them.
Dragon Ball Z features characters who are simply more powerful than others. If this game has any sort of expanded versus mode, these cards can be used in horribly exploitable ways. Everyone is going to want Vegito, and no one is going to want Krillin, for example.
Dragon Ball Z games have never had a whole lot of depth, but Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect seems to be one of the shallowest exploitations of the franchise yet. Frankly, I’m not even convinced that the Kinect will have what it takes to accurately detect the movements of a Kamehameha, which would mean this game will be reduced, once again, to another Kinect flail-fest.
The whole movement-controlled DBZ thing has been done on the Wii several times, and it never really worked. Frankly, I don’t know what made NAMCO Bandai think that the Kinect would do any better. Unless the game changes significantly before its release, Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is probably a game you can feel free to pass up, even if you are a hardcore DBZ fan.