Games

Super Dragon Ball Z

Super Dragon Ball Z is a PlayStation 2 game with coin-op motivation.

Publisher: Atari
Genres: Fighting
Display Artist: Crafts & Meister
Price: $39.95
Multimedia: Super Dragon Ball Z
Platforms: PlayStation 2
Number of players: 2
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Meister
US release date: 2006-07

I like when developers mess with my games a little, and you probably do, too. After all, what's more annoying than picking up a long-awaited sequel, playing it for a while, and realizing it's the exact same thing you've been playing for the last few years, except now there's just a new character or three and maybe a few new special (read: useless) features to go around? Very little, that's what. That's why when it was announced that the latest in the long-running series of Dragon Ball Z fighting games would be helmed by Noritaka Funamizu, who was responsible for plenty of games in the latter stages of the classic Street Fighter series, the buzz was palpable. This was the sort of excitement, particularly among those who already appreciated the Dragon Ball Z series of fighters, which could have led to a blockbuster.

And instead... this.

Were the developers on a tight schedule? Was there simply not enough room on a DVD for more?

As an arcade game, I'm sure that Super Dragon Ball Z (actually known as Chou DBZ in its Japan-exclusive arcade incarnation) is fine. It eats coins. It gives the (rare) single player a decent challenge. It's fast paced and features plenty of decent combos for the advanced players to use while they're overwhelming the newbies. And it's colorful! Oh yes, the colors are fantastic, making for perhaps the most vibrant Dragon Ball Z game ever committed to ones and zeros. All of this is translated near-perfectly to the PlayStation 2, allowing for an experience remarkably similar to the arcade.

The problem, then, is that a PS2 is not a coin-operated machine. It is a home console, which means that the people who scrounge up their $40 to buy this game are expecting it to have console-type features. You know, there should be things like a myriad of unlockable secret characters, lots of play modes, stat-keeping, multiple endings, and bonus features out the wazoo. Or at least some permutation of such. There's just so much more potential to be had in a console experience than an arcade one, simply because of those little memory cards and the ability to play as much as one wants without the stigma of having to put more quarters in the machine.

Sure, there are some new features. There's a Z Survivor mode that makes you play one-round battles over and over again without being able to regain your hit points (barring a lucky turn on the mini-lottery after each battle), which starts out fairly easily but ramps up the difficulty rather quickly. Aside from that, however, it's just the original mode (beat seven guys and win, which will take you about 20 minutes after you rip the cellophane off of the case), Versus mode, and Training mode. That's it.

The supposed variety, then, comes in the form of player cards, in which a gamer can take on the role of one of the fighters and, via a not-all-that-complicated combination of gaining experience, wishes from the dragon Shenron, and "training", customize that fighter by adding moves, changing outfit colors, and granting powers.

And that's it.

All right, so there are a few characters you can unlock (though the frustration continues when, having already mastered Piccolo, one realizes that King Piccolo is one of the unlockable "new" characters), and you can even customize your gaming experience by having one of your favorite characters narrate the entirety of the game (go ahead, imagine listening to Majin Buu for hours on end), but the most egregious problem in the game is how you unlock these things: obtain seven Dragon Balls, go to Shenron, and wish. Whether it's via the original mode or the Z Survivor mode, you have to play and win enough matches to get seven Dragon Balls, and then you can go to Shenron and wish for, say, a new color. Then, go back and get seven more Dragon Balls. Wish for a new move. Go back and get seven more. Wish for a new character. Seven more. Extra strength. And so on, ad nauseam. It would literally take over a hundred of these wishes simply to enable all of the different colors and outfits for the playable characters, not to mention how many more it would take to actually do things that will affect gameplay at all.

Take into account that original mode has an incredibly unsatisfying ending that doesn't change from character to character, Z Survivor's arena and music never changes, and that so many characters have moves that are incredibly similar to each other, well, it all adds up to a seriously tedious gaming experience.

I don't even want to get into the squirmy feeling I get when I'm using Goku, I happen to be fighting Chi Chi, and her pre-battle "taunt" is "Please, Goku, no more fighting for our son!" As a married father myself (admittedly a minority in the demographic for this game), it suddenly gets awfully tough to find any satisfaction in then willing Goku, via my fingers, to try and beat the hell out of her. A fighting game with undertones of domestic violence? Not good times.

The more you play, the more things start to bother you. Glitches appear (falling through the floor on multi-tiered levels), the music is utterly inconsequential at best, and the characters you unlock never get used by the computer in the otherwise-randomly generated single-player battles. Sure, experienced players will find nuances and tricks in this game, mastering it like any other game, and Versus mode is obviously fun if you've got a buddy around to beat up on, but where's the motivation? Maybe that's the biggest difference between a coin-op and a console: motivation. The motivation for a coin-op is a short-term thrill, something that'll allow a kid with a pile of quarters to get his jollies beating up on something. The motivation for a console is a long-term gaming experience, something that you can keep coming back to and finding new ways to enjoy along with new things to do.

In the end, that's the game's fatal flaw: Super Dragon Ball Z is a PlayStation 2 game with coin-op motivation.

4

Music

Books

Film

Recent
By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam
Music

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.

Music

Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.

Music

L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.

Books

Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.

Music

Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.

Music

Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.

Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.