Ah, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3. A wonderful balance of anime insanity and well-designed gameplay. Man, I spent an inordinate amount of time playing that game, I … (cue the fond reminiscing complete with flashback music and blurriness). Anyway when I first heard that Budokai 3 was being re-released in HD, my first thought was ‘hell yes!’ My second thought was ‘where the hell is the second game?’ My final thought was ‘well that doesn’t really matter because I only give a damn about Budokai 3 anyway’. Having played the remastered version of the original Budokai, I can honestly say that’s a justified thought to have.
Budokai 1 is well, it’s pretty bad. It hasn’t aged well at all and compared to its successor its terrible. The story mode is ridiculously short, the graphics are ugly, the voice acting, for some reason, is Japanese only, all the characters play pretty much the same and the combat is clunky and lacking in depth. Frankly, anything it does, Budokai 3 does infinitely better. The only reason why you’d bring yourself to play this one when you could be playing the other is out of nostalgia or to get achievements/trophies. Comparing the two, playing Budokai 3 is like sailing through space on the back of a rocket powered tiger while Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now plays. Playing Budokai 1 is like wading through sewerage whilst being barraged with insults. Without the rose tinted viewpoint that only fond memories can bring, I’d have to say that Budokai 1 is just plain bad.
But that’s fine, because Budokai 3 is still a great game. The gameplay is infinitely smoother, faster, more complex, and successfully captures all the intensity and madness of the anime series. Beam struggles, teleporting behind opponents, planet cracking super moves – it’s quintessential Dragon Ball Z, and provides a surprisingly deep and very entertaining, if not particularly balanced 2.5D fighter. Although, when you think about the characters and the power imbalance, that makes perfect sense. All the important characters are in the game, and each one is customisable. The Capsule System allows you to equip characters with different moves, passive buffs, or one shot items to use mid battle. There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff to do in this game.
Multiple playthroughs of the story mode. Unlocking characters. Finding and buying capsules to broaden your options. A tournament mode, Dragon Arena mode – which is kind of like a primitive Ghost Battle mode. The one thing that’s pretty bad about this game is that it takes an irritating amount of time and effort to get all the good stuff. Trawling through the game can get really tedious when all you want to do is get right into the thick of it. Especially when the story mode has a largely useless world map for you to fly around and find stuff in. In terms of presentation, Budokai 3 still holds up well. Thanks to the joys of cell-shading, this game looks great, and you get your choice of English and Japanese voice acting. People who actually played the original Budokai 3 on Playstation may be somewhat disappointed by the fact that the soundtrack isn’t the same as it was back then. I know I was.
However the overall package is let down by the puzzling lack of Budokai 2, and the fact that this game is practically crying out for an online mode. It’s rather odd to have the collection skip out on the second title in the series, after all, this is the Budokai: HD Collection. Moreover, if this thing had online it would’ve been amazing. Playing two player in Budokai 3 is an intense experience, and being able to do it online would have been fantastic. Alas, without it the Budokai Collection is just another nostalgia title.
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