November 17, 2010
Dragon Ball is one of those anime shows that seems to have been around for ages and has a very specific audience. Considering the fact that just one fight can take up about ten episodes of the show – if you’re lucky – then you know that you need a thirst for action and a high patience threshold in equal measure. Translating the sometimes over-the-top action into a fighting game hasn’t proved to be an easy task over the years, and the series has never quite taken off outside of its own fan base. With the recent love for all things cel-shaded though, can it be time for a rousing comeback? Time to power up to 9000 and find out.
The art style for Dragon Ball will be instantly familiar to anyone that has played a Dragon Quest game or the more recent Blue Dragon, as Akira Toriyama is the man responsible for all of the above. The manga version of Dragon Ball followed martial artist Goku on his quest to find the mystical dragon balls. Along the way he found out he was a member of the Saiyan race and could draw upon their incredible powers; he also managed to get hitched, have children and fight a number of powerful foes along the way. To further confuse matters, some enemies then became allies and vice versa, not to mention the fact that even death didn’t seem to stop fighters from popping up with alarming regularity. It’s the kind of series that demanded attention from the start in order to properly understand what was going on and that is part of the problem with the game.
There is no story mode as such in Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, instead you can fight through ‘Galaxy’ mode with most of the fighters. This mode does recreate famous battles from the series, but as they are without any form of explanation, the meaning behind them is totally lost on newcomers. Each fight has its own difficulty, combatants and set of stipulations too, some of which can seem a touch unfair. Taking on two fighters – one after the other – is a tricky proposition at the best of times, so how about five in a row, all while your health is decreasing? Frustration is the name of the game here.
Winning battles will unlock new challenges, often in other fighter’s Galaxies too, so you always have a new goal to aim towards. There are also annoyingly tough ‘Ultimate’ battles that only the strongest will survive. Other modes let you set up tournaments, fight your way through battle zones of specific fighters or even head online to beat up your mates – all of which are just variations on the same theme.
The real problem is laid bare as soon as you go into the ‘Tutorial’ mode, as there are a massive array of moves that can alter depending on whether you are on the ground, moving or in the air. Plus, a lot of fighters can transform into alternate forms which alters their move set once again. It all seems straight forward at first, with basic and charged attacks mixed together into combos, but it never quite pans out that way. You can also unleash a variety of super moves and ultimate attacks, and use a mix of speed bursts and aerial attacks to get the jump on your foe. The problem is that things just don’t seem to work.
Unfortunately the ‘Combo’ attacks seem incredibly twitchy at times, with moves either failing to trigger when you expect them to or the wrong move entirely emerging. It’s also far too common to get caught in a ridiculously damaging combo, from which there is no escape, leaving you near to death without landing a credible hit. You could argue that you can dish out the same treatment to the AI as well, as even on the harder difficulties you can pummel your foes mercilessly, assuming you catch them while they are down, and pretty much win a bout in one fell swoop. It just makes the whole thing about who traps the other player first and removes any sense of fun. Each of the battlefields is massive too, so you could theoretically just run away when your foe powers up or activates a certain move, and be assured of safety, which is surely not what a fighting game is all about. Things also get amazingly lost when one fighter is in the air and the other is on the ground, as the camera struggles to keep up and attacks often fail to register even when they should do.
On the plus side, the game has the look and feel of the Dragon Ball universe, and there is a positively massive roster of characters to choose from, including all the various transformations each person can go through. There are also a number of giant arenas from the show, which you can blast your foes through to your heart’s content. Not to mention a lengthy animated episode on the disc, a bunch of pictures, music and character bios, all of which means you can immerse yourself in the universe. Again though, this is all tailored to the die-hard fan and doesn’t really appeal to anyone just picking the game up on a whim.
Don’t be expecting an easy ride in terms of achievements either, as the list will require plenty of grinding. First and foremost you will have to complete all of the ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Battle’ modes, which is a major challenge, as well as all of the ‘Ultimate’ difficulty modes, which are a pain in the ass to do, meaning this one will only be for the most insanely dedicated completionists. Assuming you can manage that then, you will probably unlock all of the characters, items, music and pictures long the way too. Not to mention racking up the victories online and fulfilling very specific criteria for beating certain opponents; which is no easy feat. Throw in winning a couple of Tournaments on Hard difficulty – which is actually one of the easier tasks – and this game is best avoided for those seeking 100%.
The Dragon Ball series has been trying to peddle long range, multi-tiered combat for quite some time now and it never seems to pull it off. The controls and combos in Raging Blast 2 can be fiddly at the best of times and fights can become decidedly one-sided which is annoying, even when it’s in your favour. Getting stuck in one long combo without a means of escape soon gets old, and the fact you can treat the AI in the same way is hardly a comfort. The lack of a proper story mode is a real letdown as the ‘Galaxy’ mode never quite takes off, so the intricate plot is never really explained to newcomers. In essence, Raging Blast 2 is a game for fans only and doesn’t really try to open itself up to anyone else, and when a fighting game doesn’t even get the combat spot on, then you know it’s in trouble.
Decent voice work and the usual over-the-top effects mean that the battles are certainly a spectacle. Though why does Goku seem to have a girl’s voice in the Japanese dub? Crazy.
A nice rendition, but one that sees the characters lose some of their charm thanks to the blocky 3D nature of the combatants. Plus, while the battlefields are large, they can often obscure the action especially when things get destroyed.
Simple enough to pick up, but the ‘Tutorial’ demonstrates just how many combos there are and remembering all of the variations can become a pain. Sometimes the timing for certain attacks seems overly finicky too, as does the collision detection, depending on whether you are hovering or not.
The’ Galaxy’ battles will be familiar to fans, but are never really explained enough to appeal to anyone else. Plus, the multilayered fighting never convinces either.
A nice mix of achievements, but you’re looking at a major grind in order to get everything done, as completing all of the ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Battle’ modes will be a massive time sink. You’ll also have to unlock all of the music, characters and pictures, as well as getting a bunch of wins online. A tough cookie this one.
Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 is a decent fighting game, but one that doesn’t really do much to follow the twisting plotlines of the show. All of the fights feel very individual and the multilayered and long range fighting style is frustrating rather than innovative. With the lack of a proper story mode, Raging Blast 2 is ideal fodder for fans, but remains incomprehensible to anyone else.