If there’s one thing that’s synonymous with Dragon Ball Z, it’s blue and orange…I mean fighting. It’s fighting…whilst wearing blue and orange that is slowly destroyed over the course of said fight. You know things are galaxy threatening when your hero is soaring into combat wearing only tattered Hammer pants. But I digress. With a story spanning more than it’s fair share of years, DB has plenty of canon to draw from, bringing forth a fighting game of varied roster…kind of.
For those unaware, Extreme Butoden is a 3DS installment in the DBZ franchise. Though handheld games have excelled in leaps and bounds over the past few years, they still lag behind their less portable companions. This particular Z combat simulator takes a side on, 2D perspective, a la your traditional fighting games. Though far from a revolutionary decision, it is a sound one, with the style fitting well onto the 3DS screens. In addition to allowing combat to remain manageably simple, this viewpoint allows the character sprites ample space to shine, and shine they do. Utilising a pixel style that also works well for the console, the characters possess a surprising amount of detail in their relatively small frames.
As far as combat goes, I have already mentioned that it is manageable in its simplicity, unfortunately it doesn’t extend too far past that. Traditional button mapping will tip you off to the fact that there is a light attack, heavy attack and energy attack. Combinations of these lead to certain attacks and a simple two button input will provide you with a quicker, less dramatic strike. That being said, the speed with which you move through the various modes may have you skipping over special moves entirely, as the ratio of cutscene to damage dealt is far from ideal. In the time it takes for the Super Kamehameha to fire, you could probably just punch Piccolo to whatever semblance of death constitutes the end of a fight. I will admit however that the fact each character possesses one special move did lead me to try out the available roster, especially given that Adventure Mode allows you to mix it up every battle, despite the story dictating Goku is the one fighting for the safety of the Universe…again.
Segueing into what is possibly my main gripe with the game, the story is pretty lackluster. Now I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “What is this guy on about? The combat mechanic are way more important than story in a fighting game” To this point I concede. However I have played enough DBZ games to know when the story is at least trying to retain interest in the repetition of a mechanic. Your typical game will throw the Z Fighters against resurrected and empowered versions of previous villains, and to that extent Extreme Butoden is no different. However, the story in this case draws the roster into the harsh light of criticism by constantly basing a story on characters that are not playable. Whilst you Cell, Frieza and Buu make the cut, certain faces will appear before and after battle with claims of participation. Sure they’re in the Z Assist category, but Adventure mode had multiple moments where one character took the place of others from the arc. I’ll give a pass for Piccolo substitiuting Demon King Piccolo, but after listening to Doctor Gero introduce Androids 19, 16, 17, Super 17, General Blue and his new and improved self, I got a touch annoyed when I had to fight Android 18 three times in a row. Whilst I appreciate the roster limitations of the console, I just feel it was a weird choice to constantly draw attention to where the game was lacking. Heck, I would’ve been happier if the story explained Frieza was progressively getting stronger over three battles, rather than having him as a stand in for the majority of the Ginyu Force…except Captain Ginyu, he made the cut.
Now that I think about it, I should probably mention the Z Assist system, considering it’s presence in the game. Now, when choosing your battle roster, you are given the choice of three playable fighters, essentially granting you three lives with which to play. If however, you prefer a more…monogamous approach, you are able to substitute one playable fighter for two assist characters. As you may expect, these characters each provide a unique for of assistance when summoned into battle, usually taking the form of a single strike or area attack, though some specialised allies may throw out a healing item or throw up a defensive position. Luckily for proponents of assistance, this roster is around quadruple the size of the playable list, including such favourites as Yamcha, Tien, and Oolong, as well as some forgotten faces like Android 8, Mercenary Tao and…Devilman I guess? Regardless, they can really help you out in a pinch and definitively show once and for all that Chi Chi’s lot in life is to just yell at Goku a lot…
So, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden, where does it lie? On one hand, it is a simple, clean fighter that harkens back to the roots of what made the genre such a conitnuing force in the world of video games. On the other hand, it really doesn’t offer anything that we haven’t seen done before, or done better by previous DBZ titles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the franchise and played the HFIL out of Tenkaichi and Legacy of Goku, but this game just doesn’t have the same staying power. I continued to play through the mode for the sake of the review and really didn’t feel like I experienced anything other than what I got from the very first battle against Raditz. Sure it’s fun to play through the story modes, but I can’t escape the feeling that they are what drives this game into tedium well before its time. I never exect the world when playing a 2D fighter’s story, but Butoden’s Adventure Mode consisted of mostly unnecessary fight that revolved around the text box “I need to see if Goku is strong enough.” I know Shonen isn’t the most inventive genre in the ‘verse, but it just felt lazy to me. Trust me, I’m just as upset having to write this as fans are to read it, I love DBZ and am always ready for the next time draining game. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is it.
If you feel ready to save the ever in peril universe once more, why not stock up on some Senzu Beans over at Bandai Namco?