I jumped into the newest Dragon Ball game from Namco with little to no experience with previous Dragon Ball games, or the Dragon Ball universe for that matter. As such, I can't draw interesting comparisons between Raging Blast and previous Dragon Ball titles like Burst Limit or the Budokai Tenkaichi series, but I can say that as a fan of fighting games, Raging Blast offers some compelling reasons to check it out -- but also several other reasons to skip it. Let's take a closer look...
Now With 30% More Rage - Modes of Play
Before getting to my experiences with Raging Blast, a few facts: first, gameplay is based off of the DBZ series. Battles are generally 1 vs 1, but team battles are also available. The energetic combat takes place in wide open spaces and includes over 70 playable characters, although you'll start off with only about twenty to choose from. All of the well known characters make the roster along with transformations of most of them, including Gohan, Goku, Piccolo, and many others.
A variety of modes and sheer number of playable characters make Raging Blast a deep fighter. You may want to head into the Dojo mode like I did to get started. The Dojo mode includes a freestyle practice mode as well as a structured tutorial. The tutorial follows Goku through dozens of instructional demonstrations. Players will learn the most basic fundamentals of the game from moving to Ultimate Attacks and well beyond. The tutorial is broken
up into three different tiers, beginner to advanced, with in-game points (as well as Achievement/Trophies) also being awarded. About the only complaint I would have about the Dojo mode, at least in the tutorial, is that it's rife with lots of short load times and a lot of screens to click through. That's really a minor gripe in the face of what is otherwise a very handy mode.
In addition to local Versus play and Xbox Live / PSN support, much of your time will go towards the other three major modes: Super Battle Trial, World Tournament, and Dragon Battle Collection. Additionally, you may spend some time in the Museum mode where you can read up on the different characters, sort through the background music, and watched saved replays.
Super Battle Trial is a ranked battle mode that boils down to a variety of challenges. In this mode, players select a
character and then choose from a handful of different game types. These include an Arcade mode where you play against random CPU fighters, a Time Attack mode that pits you against the clock, Score Attack, Survival, and KO Attack. Most of these are self explanatory, but KO Attack deserves some elaboration. In this game, players are given infinite Health and Ki and must defeat as many enemies as possible in a given time. This is different from Time Attack in that you are given infinite Health and Ki. There are a few other game types within Super Battle Trial that can be unlocked, but I have yet to do so.
The World Tournament allows for up to sixteen player battles, with the CPU being able to fill in as many slots as necessary. Players can configure their preferences for the tournament before hand, but by default you're looking at a textbook single elimination tournament. In this mode and in some others, if you stick with the same player the entire way through, you'll get special prize, like a new maneuver for a character, if you win it all. This mode is part of the of online multiplayer, too. You can get through a sixteen player tournament within an hour, although it isn't as rewarding as the Dragon Battle Collection.
Dragon Battle Collection was made for Dragon Ball fans. It's chock full of content that allows you to replay events in a variety of Dragon Ball storylines. Specifically, these playable stories include: the Saiyan Saga (Goku and friends battle Vegeta for the fate of Earth), Frieza Saga (Goku and the Z-fighters fight Frieza), Bardock Saga (Frieza battles Goku's father, Bardock), Androids Saga (Z-fighters fight Androids who want to kill Goku), Majin Buu Saga (Z-fighters fight for fate of universe with Majin Buu), and the Legendary Super Sayian Saga (Broly fights the Z-Fighters). Plus, a What-If section is available that includes another dozen or so battles.
The final mode available is the Ultimate Customize mode where you can tweak the control layout of your Super Attacks and examine any items you may have unlocked.
In my experience, I played the World Tournament mode the most. The Dragon Battle Collection is neat in that you have a structured story to follow instead of just a random battle, but the stories aren't told with enough detail to really do a newcomer like me much good, so it wasn't very interesting. Dragon Battle Collection is sure to please fans of Dragon Ball, however, which is of course the core audience of this release.
Controls, Camera, Presentation
Raging Blast offers full customization of controls, but I found the default scheme to work fine. Players move with the
left stick, use their Super Attacks by pressing in the four cardinal directions on the right stick, dash with A (or X), melee attack with X (or Square), "use Ki" with Y (Triangle), block with the Right Bumper (R1), and ascend and descend with the Left Triggers. Ki power is also charged up by holding down on the d-pad, but doing so leaves you vulnerable for attack. Balancing your Ki level is vital; Ki allows you to execute Super Attacks and even your Ultimate Attack if you manage to fill your Ki meter twice over. If you can build up your Ki meter this high, you are in what's known as High Tension, and your ultimate attack (performed with R3), can do tremendous damage.
In actual practice, the controls do okay. I noticed some lag at times with them, but given that combat tends to boil down to controlled button mashing, the infrequent and short bouts of unresponsiveness don't really add up to much of a problem. And while raw button mashing won't get you very far, you don't need much more than that with Raging Blast. The game strongly encourages the fanciful Super Attacks, especially with the inclusion of massively destructible environments. Objects -- be they mountain sides, silos, or the pavement -- can be shattered to bits with powerful attacks. If you manage to send your opponent flying into such an object, you'll do a lot more damage, not to mention it looks cool.
Despite the ease in which you can execute these powerful moves, I found dashing right up to the player and doing
repeated five hit melee combos to be very effective. With melee attacks, your character builds up their Ki while doing at least some minor damage (if the opponent is blocking) if not heavy damage to your foe. Mixing melee attacks with the Y or Triangle button proved highly effective.
While the controls have some issue, their problems aren't enough to break the game. When you couple mediocre control with a bad camera though, things start to get a little more concerning. I don't think I've ever lost a fight directly because of bad camera angles, but I will say it makes things a lot more frustrating when you're battling against the camera as diligently as you are against your opponent. In my experience, the camera tends to go wild more often whenever one or both fighters ascended rather than just staying at ground level. The worst part about this is losing your enemy in the mix of a hyper-jumpy or narrow angled camera. There is no on screen indicator to tell you where your foe has gone either. I've had times where there was a solid five to eight seconds of "where the heck did he go??" moments. It seems like adding an on screen indicator to show what general direction your enemy has gone would be an obvious idea, so maybe Spike decided to leave that out on purpose. No matter the reason, I found it to be a drawback.
No matter what mode you're playing, you can expect a consistent quality of graphics and audio. Graphically, it's a vibrantly colorful game. From the opening menu, you can tell Spike has packed their presentation full of energy, which does get kind of grating, admittedly. That said, count on smooth framerates, huge outdoor battlegrounds, and tons of flashy effects to round out what is an overall nice graphical package. As for the audio, the Battle Commentary (which you can turn off) gets old in a hurry as each fighter only has a few lines of dialogue. The dialogue sounded authentic relative to the anime, however. The music and effects are fine, I wouldn't call them outstanding, by they are certainly fitting.
With that, let's get to the summary...