In 2002, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai was released on the PS2 to mixed reviews. Two years later, the third game in the series was released, with higher marks. Both games, and DBZ Budokai 2, cater to a niche, albeit large, demographic of DBZ fans. As someone on the outside of this fandom, the Dragon Ball games are a tough one for me to get into, but as a gamer I can see both merit and questionable decisions in this HD Collection.
Let’s begin with a brief look at the phrase HD Collection, which can mean different things from different publishers. The key for any consumer is to not assume that an HD Collection for a specific franchise includes every release of said franchise, with HD-ified visuals or not. In the case of DBZ Budokai, it’s reasonable to assume that it would contain all three Budokais, and possible even the Budokai Tenkaichi games, but that may be going too far. Still, even if the rosters between DBZB 2 and 3 are the same, there are surely differences in modes, controls, special moves, backgrounds, or something that differentiates 2 from 3. I haven’t played either much at all, so I couldn’t say for sure, but assuming I’m correct, it’s unfortunate that part 2 is not part of the Collection.
Secondly, while adding Trophies, the DBZB Collection foregoes any online play, instead including three single player modes and local two player support. The games are deep enough and generally loved enough by their fans that not having online modes may not be a bother, but gamers are again reasonable in expecting such modes to be included, even if they were with the original release. Still, Achievements and Trophies are here which are likely to keep fans busy.
As far as presentation, the most obvious purpose and focus on this release, both games do look very colorful and crisp, and the framerates are silky smooth. Naturally, Budokai 3 looks significantly better than Budokai 1, but both are certainly playable and neither presentation is disappointing. Namco has shared some comparison screenshots from the original PS2 versions and the difference is, not surprisingly, major. Certainly enough that nostalgic and current fans of the old versions would benefit significantly, from a visual quality perspective, from this new release. However, the soundtracks for both games are completely new, which is probably because a license expired or something from the PS2 releases in 2002 and 2004. Even with the original English and Japanese voices, not having the original soundtracks is an odd and noteworthy omission. Some parts of the game, cutscenes especially, are in 4:3 instead of 16:9, by the way.
As for gameplay, well, I’ve never understood the appeal of the DBZ universe and I struggle to play any of the videogames therein, but if you’re looking for a fighting game that’s easy to get into and challenging to fully master, you could do a lot worse. I should point out that both games have the default CPU difficult setting on easy, perhaps to be more welcoming to casual or younger gamers, I’m not sure. For someone with some fighting game experience, the difficulty should be raised. The original Budokai features a Story mode, two player competitive, and a World Tournament that puts your character of choice in a short knockout tourney. There are twenty-three characters in all, while Budokai 3 features over forty. Unlike some of the more recent DBZ games, these two Budokai games take place on a single plain, meaning the perspective is not capable of transitioning to 3D, which is fine. One other key difference between the two is 3’s use of the Dragon Ball Universe, a quasi-open world map from which players must fly to points on a radar to advance the story, while the original is more ‘to the point.’
Priced at $40, this isn’t a bad deal for modern DBZ game fans that either haven’t played the originals or have thus far chosen not to. The style, control, and feel of both of these games will feel very similar to any other DBZ game from this generation. Still, you can’t help but speculate as to why the second Budokai game was left out, along with online modes.
To the summary…