Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit Review

Joe Otis

If you watched Cartoon Network back in the late 90's, chances are you either saw or heard of Dragon Ball Z at some point. Whether or not it kept one’s interest varies depending on who is asked, but there is no denying the anime’s wide appeal and large following. Having been a regular series in Sony’s repertoire for the longest time, it’s nice to finally see DBZ venturing onto the 360. Unfortunately it seems as if we were ripped off in some ways.

I’ve always been a fan of the Budokai Tenkaichi games’ fighting style. The fact that you can back up hundreds of feet away from your opponent and still effectively fight, then rush into close-quarters combat and have an experience that’s just as amazing really got me into console-based DBZ games. Being a fan of that fighting style, I was a bit disappointed when I heard Burst Limit would be more closely related to that of the Budokai series, both because of my lack of skill in that fighting style, and my distaste of being stuck in relatively close combat. Strike one? Nah, I can learn to love the Budokai-esque style.

Another thing I favored in the Playstation games was the sheer amount of plot line content in the campaign modes (most prominently shown in Tenkaichi 2). Somehow the developers were able to pack in every moment of the major, bonus, and even the "What If?" sagas and still keep things somewhat fresh. Perhaps I’m just a Tenkaichi fanboy, but I really feel that the second game in the series did the anime justice, and is probably the best anime-to-game translation I’ve played to date, if only because it contained so much of the anime’s story. Yep, I’m a fanboy.

Unfortunately, and for whatever reason, developer Dimps (known for its work with the Budokai series on the PS2) decided to only include up to the end of the Cell saga, with the Broly and Bardock extras included. This was even more of a disappointment for me than the fighting style, since Tenkaichi 2 easily managed to contain a wide variety, yet Burst Limit (fitting title) is stuck with three main and two extra sagas. What makes this even more of a disappointment is the fact that the first thing you notice when starting up the game is the lack of choices in the main menu. What reason could there have been that so much of the anime’s plot had to be sacrificed?

Trunks always was one of my favorites.

Regardless of the plot drawback, the fighting style is relatively easy to get into, especially with the aid of a three-section tutorial outlining the game’s basics. As with the previous DBZ games the controls are split with each of the four main buttons having their own purposes. You’ve got your quick attacks, strong attacks, ki blasts, and blocking. Combos are still around, but you’ll soon find semi-random button mashing can save a lot of time and effort, especially when playing online and it all comes down to dodging some kid who uses the same Forward + X combo, then returning the favor with your own choice rapid-press technique.

The right trigger is your “Ultimate Guard”, which is exactly what its name indicates. This is the strongest block in the game, though it consumes your ki meter the longer it’s used (for those new to DBZ games, ki is power used to fuel your energy attacks and power up). The left trigger is an attack used to toss your opponent away and the right bumper is used to transform. What’s that leave? The trusty left bumper, which brings us to a new feature for the DBZ series: Aura Spark. Basically this is a different way of powering up that gives you access to stronger and different attacks, making battles a bit different while not completely affecting the outcome.

Another feature in the game is called “Drama Pieces”, which are like support items. These are triggered by different in-battle conditions, such as the player’s health dropping below 50% or surviving a certain attack. When triggered, a short cutscene pops up that involves either a pre-determined fighter aiding the character or the character having an epiphany or powering up to another level. In the end, it usually descends into a CPU opponent getting more benefit out of their drama pieces than you with yours, and the feature really ends up disrupting the pace of fights and hurting you rather than helping.

After starting a new game in the Z Chronicles campaign mode, you are plunged into the beginning of the Saiyan saga, right at the start of the fight against Goku’s blood-brother Raditz. Little is explained about the show’s past or present plot, so newcomers to the series won’t understand much right off the bat, an unfortunate thing seeing how there’s so little plot in the game anyway. If the lack of extra sagas was to keep it simple for new fans, the lack detail involved in these early stages was somehow overlooked, leaving potential fans in the dark.

Each saga is broken down into just over 10 battles, each with the same exact purpose: defeat your opponent. Regardless of whether or not you are forced to play as the good guys or villains, the only thing to do is win the fight. Gone are the “survive three minutes” and “defeat Perfect Cell with a Father-Son Kamehameha” objectives, which really kills the playability of the game, as it gets old rather fast. Still, the cutscenes and character models are well done, with the voice acting staying true to the anime and slightly improving upon the older games’ 3D qualities.

Recoome on the other hand…

To break up the monotony, we are given three battle modes tied into one section called “Trial”, which consists of Survival, Time Attack, and Battle Point modes. Unfortunately just like Z Chronicles, every fight is all about winning, the only difference in these modes being that you are meant to get as many kills (Survival), points (Battle Point), or finish 10 opponents as quickly as possible (Time Attack) in an attempt to beat the records set.

However, the heart of every fighting game lies with the multiplayer portion. Unfortunately the character choice is limited by the few sagas that are included in the game. You’ve still got your main characters such as Goku, Vegeta, and Piccolo, though Vegeta and Broly seem to be the powerhouses in the game and thus everyone’s main choices. Aside from that, there are a few different locations to fight in, each with their own alternate version. Once again though, it all comes down to the same thing: fight to KO your opponent. Other than deciding on how many rounds to have in a match, the match length, and whether or not to allow the use of drama pieces, there’s not much in the way of customization. It all winds up becoming very dull once you’ve run out of friends to play, and with the somewhat laggy online, you’ll likely lose interest after playing the game for a while. Replayability is always important in fighting games, and Burst Limit just doesn’t have it.

On the visuals front, Burst Limit does a good job of staying true to the series while maintaining a decent-quality 3D standard. Each character looks like his/her anime counterpart and the fighting locations are just like in the show. Yet all of this is to be expected, as the same has been done in previous DBZ games. It’s good but not much different from what’s used in the other games, which is not necessarily a flaw, more of a slight disappointment. But then again, what can you do to improve a cartoon?


The audio aspect is about the same, following the show with direct quotes and nice voice acting as usual. I did notice that Frieza called Krillin a “monkey” at one point in the game, but it’s a minor detail, as it was just a drama piece-related dialogue rather than part of the story.

The achievements consist of the basic “beat this mode” and “unlock these characters”, and even collectible-based achievements which requires you to collect every drama piece in each of the sagas. A few difficulty based achievements come into the fray, the most difficult being to obtain a Z rank (meaning nearly perfect) in every chapter on the hardest difficulty mode, Z. Thankfully the points are spread out rather intelligently; the previous achievement I mentioned is worth a massive 100 points while story-related and basic achievements (like clearing each saga) tend to be worth less. Surprisingly, or rather “thankfully”, only two achievements are online-based. One requires that a player join (and finish) 10 sessions, the other requiring you to host the 10 sessions. This is somewhat shocking, since you’d think a fighting game would invoke more online play than this, but due to the lag and cheap-combo-using players online, it’s a blessing in disguise. Overall it’s not an inventive list by any means, but one that will inspire multiple playthroughs and will certainly be one for patient gamers to fully complete.

I've used the term “disappointment” quite a bit thus far, and while it strikes me as a bit of a harsh word, I think it suits the game fairly well. Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is by no means a terrible game. Fans of the series and the PS2 fighting games (moreso Budokai) will likely enjoy this game for a little while. Unfortunately with the lack of much of anything extra, the aforementioned fans will eventually return to the previous games. On the opposite end, newcomers to the series will no doubt be confused due to the lack of explanation in the campaign’s plot, and won’t favor the repetitiveness in the fights.

All things said, it is nice to finally see DBZ hitting the 360, and now that Dimps and Atari have something to learn from, the next game should be that much better. If you’re interested in this game after having played previous games in the series, be prepared for a letdown of some sort. If you’re new to the Z universe and are looking for a great entrance into its fighting games, your safest bet would be to dust off your PS2 (or pick one up cheap) and buy the Budokai and Budokai Tenkaichi games at your local gaming store. They’re much less expensive, and in this reviewer’s eyes, much more enjoyable.

Again, little has changed from the PS2 games. The voice acting is still good and the battle sound effects are just like the show, but it’s all the same as it’s been in the past.

Nothing new at all, but that’s not to say the character models and scenery don’t look decent. Everything is sleek and reminiscent of the anime series, but there’s really nothing else that can be done. Solid visuals that fans will love, yet they aren’t pushing the envelope.

The included tutorials are very helpful when adjusting to the 360’s controller, but learning combos seems to be a waste of time as calculated button-pressing seems to do just as well in the long run, and you’re not exactly fighting the brightest AI on the easier modes. It seems calculation only really matters once you’ve hit later stages and the higher difficulties, as until that point the AI jumps around like a rabbit without much kick. Anybody can pick this up and knock around Cell, especially on the easier difficulties, but I don’t see anyone playing long enough to take the time to master it. With little replayability outside of achievement gathering, you’ll probably just want to rent this one.

DBZ has finally come to the 360! Unfortunately it’s little to be proud of, as Burst Limit seems to be stripped of everything that made the previous games great. Newbies to fighting games will catch on, but the same can’t be said for newbies to the anime.

An average list in almost every single way. You’ll find it will take some time to complete, but once you’ve gotten all the easy tasks out of the way, it all boils down to whether or not you want to get Z rankings on every level for three different difficulty levels then hunt down each drama piece. There’s a good blend of easy and difficult achievements, but nothing new at all.

Sadly this was not the hit it could have been. Burst Limit was a poor start for DBZ’s future with the 360, but it could have been worse. The art stays true to the series as do the cutscenes. The fighting is most easily comparable to the Budokai series, which may be hit or miss for some people. Yet with all those similarities, BL seems a bit empty. Whether this is because of the lack of story in the campaign mode or a lack of characters, Dimps should seriously analyze the game’s flaws and use what they learn to produce an amazing game the second time around. Best of luck to you Dimps, I still have faith in the series.

Rent if you’re interested, but consider the PS2 games as a stronger alternative.

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