Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is a fighting game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita and PS3. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is the latest instalment in the fighting games franchise based upon the popular Dragon Ball Z Japanese manga television series.
The story of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z may not be so clear to anyone who has not watched anything Dragon Ball Z related before they play the game. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as this arguably plays to the strengths of the game as it comes across as though you are not required to have any prior knowledge with the story simply acting as a path from one battle to another, rather than re-telling stories that have already been told and experienced before, which if anything opens the game up to a wider audience beyond just being a game for fans of Dragon Ball Z.
You start playing as Goku, but as you progress through the story; you will start to unlock an entire host of characters from immediately after having successfully completed the second mission onwards that will certainly be familiar to anyone that has ever watched Dragon Ball Z before. There are dozens of characters including: Kid Gohan; Raditz; Krillen; Tien; Yamcha; Piccolo; Saibaman; Nappa and many more besides, while also including brand new characters from the film Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is not your typical side scrolling arena based fighting game; as you will find a much more open 3D world akin to a Dynasty Warriors game in regards to design, but obviously with nowhere near as many fighters on screen at once, although the battles still tend to get pretty intense. The environments vary from mission to mission ranging from wastelands to plains to mountains and more besides with some missions taking place at different times of day to give some of the environments a different look and feel to them. The arenas are mostly destructible environments with trees that can be uprooted and destroyed as fighters can be sent crashing against them or through them; rocks and boulders that can be destroyed with fighters sent flying through them and dirt from the ground that can be uprooted as fighters can be sent hurtling back to Earth with a bump from an aerial position.
The fighting moves and combos are relatively simple compared to other fighting games, which can be deemed as a plus point as it makes the game more accessible, while it can also be thought of as a negative as it provides less of a challenge in regards to not having quite as many combinations to learn as you progress through the game.
The EXP, ranking and level rank systems are all tied together in the sense that the more EXP you earn; the more you will increase your ranking, while a great performance in a mission will result in a high level rank, which will in turn provide more EXP points. The level rank is decided upon your total score, which comprises of a clear score, battle score, link bonus and special bonus. The momentum of an ever increasing ranking for your fighter is quite important as you will only be able to equip certain attribute cards when you have reached a higher ranking, which I believe is a positive design choice as it fuels you with a genuine reason to perform as well as you can to improve your characters’ personal levels of progression via advanced attributes.
The card collection boasts a roster of 140 collectible cards that can be used to improve the performance of your fighter. The cards can be collected for successfully completing missions with one or more cards being added to your collection after you have completed each mission. Each of the collectible cards provide boosts to various attributes, such as increasing your maximum health capacity or speeding up how quick you can recover your energy with each card having seven phases ranging from improving the statistic by 10 points for the first card; 15 points for the second card; and a progressive improvement until the seventh card of that particular attribute. Make sure you check which cards you have unlocked after every successfully completed mission as you must equip these attributes from the card collection screen before you head into battle to attempt another mission in order for them to take effect, although you must also be aware that you are required to reach a certain rank before you are allowed to use the particular attribute cards that you may have in mind.
The play log provides a record of your battles with various statistics for your overall period of time playing the game, such as player rank; total EXP; the amount of EXP required until you reach the next rank; and the VS medals you have gained, amongst many more statistics. There is statistics provided for each mission, such as the name of the mission; the rank that you achieved in that particular mission; your highest score in that mission; the quickest time you have cleared the mission in; and the number of times you have cleared the mission with the option of moving the statistical analysis into separate categories of fighters. There is also statistics provided for each character, such as the name of the each character you have played as; the amount of times you have played as each character; the number of KOs you have achieved with each character; the number of times each character has been KO’d; and the partner rank with the option of moving the statistical analysis into separate characters of fighters. The play log feature is important as you can analyse what you are doing enough of in your attacking and what you need to improve upon and learn more about in your attempt to progress with your fighting style and level of performance.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z supports cross-save between the Vita and PS3. The cross-save functionality allows you to sync the progression of your save file from your Vita to your PS3 and vice versa, so you can start playing the game on your Vita on the way to and from work, sync your save game when you return home and then resume were you left off by loading the save game and continuing via the PS3 version. The cross-save feature is made possible by uploading your save file to the cloud on one console and downloading it from the other console.
The controls are very well mapped to the face buttons and can be configured to your personal preferences from the options menu, although unfortunately the control layout does not make any use of the rear touch pad or gyroscopic motion controls. The default face button control scheme consists of pressing X to descend; square to ascend; triangle to perform a melee attack or triangle while locked onto a downed ally to revive a soul; O to perform a Ki Blast attack or O while locked onto an ally to share energy; L to guard; R to lock onto or lock off the targeting of a particular enemy; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to switch between enemies when targeting a particular enemy or to move the camera when you are not locked onto an enemy; and pressing start to display the pause menu. There are plenty of fighting moves that requires a combination of multiple buttons, such as pressing X or square while moving to perform a dash; pressing L while moving the direction of the left analogue stick to perform a step; pressing L and triangle to perform a Strike Impact; pressing L and O to perform a Blast Spark; pressing L, X and square to perform a Charge Ultimate; and pressing triangle and O to perform a special move. There are certain face buttons and controls that are only available during multiplayer, such as pressing the select button for comment entry in co-operative and battle modes and the use of the directional pad for the leader to provide commands for allies. The default touch screen control scheme consists of tapping one of four areas of the screen that are sectioned off into quarters with the top left referred to as V1; the bottom left referred to as V2; the top right referred to as V3; and the bottom right referred to as V4 with V1 and V3 used to perform unique moves, while the leader of an online multiplayer match can use V2 to mark a target and V4 locks onto or locks off an ally.
Graphically, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z performs as though it has just been lifted straight out of the television series as the character models look great and are well animated with the surrounding environments looking pretty good too, although the emphasis is certainly placed on the character models and the near ground battles, rather than far away landscapes.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface that is navigated by the face buttons with support for the left analogue stick and directional pad across various menus such as the main menu, command menu, play log menu, options menu and various gameplay menus, although there is no support for navigation via the right analogue stick, touch screen and rear touch pad. The background of the main menu screen features a ball of energy in outer space that is growing larger as it collects energy from Earth, set amongst the backdrop of the entire galaxy of stars; while the counter of world energy (WE) continues to grow in size.
The audio consists of the type of voice-overs, sound effects and music that you would expect from a Japanese oriented fighting game. The voice-overs help to tell the connecting story as the battle within a mission is progressing and also provides a bridge from one battle to another, while the sound effects are essential to the experience as punches, kicks and various special moves make their mark on your enemies with appropriate sound effects and the music mostly consists of Japanese rock music.
The trophy list includes forty-nine trophies with thirty-four bronze trophies, twelve silver trophies, two gold trophies and one platinum trophy. There are easier trophies that tend to be earned naturally be completing missions and routes, while there are a number of harder trophies that will also be earned as you progress through the game, but will take considerably more time, such as the Now It’s Real silver trophy for attaining a player rank of 99; the Real Warriors Don’t Sleep silver trophy for attaining fifty hours of mission play time, which is the trophy that you will spend the most of your time attempting to work towards; the Legendary Super Saiyan gold trophy for attaining 150,000,000 EXP; and the Super-Powered Warriors gold trophy for maxing out partner ranks on all characters, amongst other trophies. I would estimate depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around sixty to seventy-five hours to platinum the trophy list.
There is a five star difficulty level system for each mission, which is clearly presented in the mission information screen with one star representing the easiest difficulty and five stars representing the hardest difficulty. The difficulty level depends upon such factors as the amount of enemies and mission parameters with the difficulty level naturally getting harder as you progress further into the game, which is a positive design choice as it provides the necessary period of time to learn the fighting moves and skills required to become a better fighter in the world of Dragon Ball Z.
There are no online leaderboards, although the play log feature technically replaces online leaderboards, but only in the instance of a guide to how you can improve upon your performance or by how far a margin you have already done so. The online multiplayer features two game modes including: co-op mode and battle mode, which can be played online or via ad-hoc with various customisation options for adjusting the time limit of each match, setting the validity of enhancements and skill cards, the arena can be changed to be selected at random or a particular arena, you can shuffle the player positioning for each battle and set the maximum amount of players allowed into the online multiplayer lobby. The co-op mode allows up to four players to play any mission together co-operatively, while the battle mode features four different methods of gameplay including: Normal Battle in which a team battles with a team declared the winner after their opponents have reached no remaining retries; Score Battle tasks players to score points by beating enemies within the set time limit; Dragon Ball Grab pits two teams against each other with the team that collects the most Dragon Balls declared the winner; and Battle Royale is a free for all battle where up to eight players fight for the crown of being first place. Despite embracing cross-save; there is unfortunately no cross-play multiplayer between Vita and PS3, which is really the only thing that the online multiplayer portion of the game is lacking, alongside the very rare occasional halt to proceedings in online multiplayer when a player leaves the game, which results in a synchronizing message for only a second or two.
The replayability of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is certainly provided by the dozens of unlockable missions, characters, collectible cards and items, alongside the levelling up mechanics of you and your partners and the unpredictability of the online multiplayer components of the game, which will all have you coming back for a long while after you start playing it.
Overall, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is an accessible fighting game that will appeal to fans of the genre regardless of whether you are a fan of Dragon Ball Z or not with lots of content spread across the board as there are dozens of missions, characters, collectible cards and items that will keep you playing for quite a considerable period of time, while the online multiplayer certainly helps to keep it feeling fresh due to further game modes and customisation. If you are a fan of fighting games; Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is certainly worth a purchase, particularly if you are looking for an immediately accessible fighting game.
At A Glance
- Title: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z
- Publisher: Namco Bandai Games/Studio Artdink
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PS Vita Card/PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Cross Save: Yes
- Online Multiplayer: Yes – Co-Op Mode (2-4 Players) / Battle Mode: (2-8 Players)
- Memory Card Space Needed: 1Mb (PS Vita Card) 1.4Gb (PSN Download)