Review: Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2

Dragon Ball Z is sorely lacking in passable fighting games. When you look at how impressive the repertoire of Naruto releases really are in terms of graphics, mechanics, and voice work, it’s kind of upsetting considering Dragon Ball Z’s status as classic shonen anime, one that started many lifelong love affairs with the genre or anime itself. The last decent release that comes to mind is Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, but that was years ago. There were some shining moments on the Super Nintendo and some equally impressive sprites therein, but none of those made it beyond import status. Dragon Ball Z Budokai was impressive for a while, but never really sated the hunger I have for a spinoff title that address canon character stories, a wide variety of characters, or true-to-the-show voiceovers and lines.

I thought I found the best of all of these worlds in Dragon Ball: Raging Blast, but alas, it was simple, mediocre, and riddled with camera issues. It was more of a “timewaster” than an enjoyable, frenetic fighter worthy of the ranks of the Z-Fighters. It was a drastic disappointment, especially with the then-recent emergence of Dragon Ball Kai and the surge of popularity the series had yet again found. I was a rabid fan feeling burned yet again by the video game industry.

So of Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, I only asked a few simple things: get rid of the camera problems, let me experience the silly, campy drama of the series, let me pit Fat Gotenks against normal Gotenks, and let me play as Vegeta. Unfortunately, this second attempt only really speaks to my inner fangirl: I can play as Vegeta, if I want to deal with subpar movesets and action, ho-hum features, and iffy controls. Maybe that would have cut it years ago in grade school when I carried around my little folder of Vegeta pictures, but I’m an adult now, and I need a little more substance than what’s offered in Raging Blast 2.

At its core, this is a watered-down version of what has been seen in recent fighters such as Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, where battles take place in open environments as seen in the series. Rather than attacking each other in a 2D plane, the fight is taken to all depths of the venues involved. Take the battle to Namek, where you can pit Nail against Piccolo (obviously an impossibility later on in the series), re-create the Cell games, or just wreak havoc in the cities, where miraculously, no one ever finds anything strange about grown men battling it out in the air. A good variety of backdrops for your scuffles provide some interesting eye candy for fans of the series such as myself (“Oh look! That’s where Frieza first battled Goku!” etc.), but as far as interactivity or originality goes, they’re just plain boring.

I hate to say it, I really do, but so is duking it out. You’d think with the ability to fly, charge ki blasts, and power up into enormous bleach-blonde behemoths that there would still be something interesting here, but instead of challenging combos and authentic character attacks, what you really have is a set of uninteresting punches, kicks, and teleports that seem to work best when button-mashing. Quite often, especially if you’re starting out, you will be knocked off your feet and encouraged to press a button to “recover,” but this hardly works as quick as is necessary to pull off a successful counter-attack, so much of the aesthetic appeal of forceful, vicious fighting is removed from the start. Goku can’t even push back an attack from teen Gohan? Please.

Pulling off the available combos seems to put you at a bit of a disadvantage, what with the significant slowdown and wait time between different attacks. Blocking, rushing at your opponent, and pulling off a flurry of punches is much more efficient and rewarding, and that’s a shame. Half the fun of a fighter is learning to master the moves for each character, but instead I just felt as though I did more damage simply punching, kicking, and pulling off random powered-up attacks.

Special attacks aren’t even all that interesting and vary little from character to character. Playing as Fat Buu should not feel similar to playing as kid Trunks — to put it in layman’s terms, an amorphous pink blob of a villain should not mirror the moveset of a spry young half-human, half-Saiyan warrior. And that’s a prevalent problem throughout the entire game. There may be a decadent variety of characters (90 to be exact) but since they all feel the same, it may as well be one big palette-swap after another.

Raging Soul mode is at least an interesting addition. Fighters can no longer fire off special attacks after building up their ki to the limits, but melee attacks become especially powerful, accompanied by a relentless flurry of physical attacks. Unfortunately, this involves both combatants standing, screaming, charging up ki, and bringing the flow of battle to a screeching stop.

There are quite a few different modes to explore—Galaxy mode being the closest to a story mode the game has to offer. Unfortunately, the tiny snippets of plot it has to offer are told through arbitrary, nonsensical lines before and after battle, as well as unimportant cut scenes. Unless you walk into this game with an extensive Dragon Ball Z character motive lexicon crammed into your brain, it’s likely you’re not going to understand or care why you’re fighting each other. You explore a map littered with spaces that require certain prerequisites to be filled: complete a battle in a certain amount of time, defeat fighters without using moves, defeat fighters who are constantly fleeing, etc. More often than not, these rules are unclear and quite vague. Missions seem to be chosen at random rather than following the canon of the series, and because of these factors they feel more like small chores to push through rather than to sit back and enjoy as an ardent fan of the characters and locations found throughout the story. It’s a shame that the best stories are found within the handheld Dragon Ball Z role-playing games.

Aside from Galaxy mode, you can hit the Battle Zone for souped up tutorials, play online or offline multiplayer matches, and Training mode will attempt to help you out the next time you want to learn how to string proper combos together. Very garden variety modes for an even more garden variety fighter. At the very least, there is decent online play. I found smooth matches and painless setup, though it’s unlikely you’ll find many players online to match up with.

Though fighting is grating and dull, at the very least Raging Blast 2 looks great. Bright, crisp cel-shading is done so fantastically you can almost forgive the fact that a few of the arenas are in fact recycled from the previous game. The fighters are fleshed out lovingly and it’s obvious this was meant to be a game for the fans. Unfortunately, the very same camera issues that plagued Raging Blast have reared their ugly head again. Specifically, if you lose sight of your opponent, so does the game. Picture Frieza or Trunks far above you, charging a special attack. The camera, for some reason, cannot keep track of your enemy, and thus you are left looking at a clear sky and empty environment, boosting your way over to find them. It’s frustrating, and a reminder of just how empty your surroundings really are. I was hoping that at the very least this had been fixed, so it was quite disheartening to see the same problems rise again.

Raging Blast 2 is what Dragon Ball GT ultimately was to the series. I’d just rather pretend it didn’t exist. It’s obvious this $60 piece of fanservice was meant to sway old and new DBZ junkies into a purchase, but as the entire game feels more like an expansion pack or a cheap cash-in attempt, there’s nothing here to recommend over importing some of the more polished 2-D sprite fighters or at the very least checking out Budokai on the PlayStation 2.

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