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
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

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.