We’re not going to lie, at Gamestyle we know of Dragonball, but our knowledge is that is exists and that is about it. So jumping into Dragonball Z: Battle of Z was done pretty much blindly. Literally not knowing what to expect, we came out of it rather impressed to the point where we’re eager to find out more about the Anime itself.
However, back to the game, what you have here is an arena battle game, that has plenty of focus on the action. You control one of the characters from the popular anime series and battle your way through various missions.
There is a story behind this all, which may well make sense to fans of Dragonball Z, but to those coming in from outside, it may not be easy to follow, but essentially each mission has an intro and uses the basic outline of plots around Dragonball Z to allow missions to be set up. Honestly, we were left a little lost with what any of the plot really meant, but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a good time with the game.
Each mission is a decent sized arena, controlling one of four players from a party in the single player mode, you need to defeat all the enemies that appear, including a few different bosses, the further you progress, the more difficult the battle become. Playing is pretty simple too, with controls for flying and running, different types of attacks, modifiers for those attacks and various unique specials for each character.
Everything is fast and frantic and it can be a little overwhelming at first, but you will get used to the mechanics fairly quickly and feel you are more in control of things than when you first start. It is the little touches that you need to grasp, such as being able to command your party to perform in a certain way, such as going all out and attacking everything they see.
The issue is, that missions don’t really flow in a way that explain things properly. You will need to feel your way around a little as the hint boxes that do appear are filled with references to the world of Dragonball Z, which again for newcomers won’t make sense, but do for fans. It is an issue, but one that can be overcome a few missions down the line.
As you complete missions you are rewarded with XP and cards which can be used to upgrade your character. The cards you earn have various categories and will improve things like defences, attack, health, speed, specials and more. Some cards can 0nly be used once you reach a certain level and they can be split across your party. It requires a bit of thinking and planning to work out how to divide up your earned cards and on whom, as whilst possible to bulk up your own character, you can leave the other three members of the party weak, which can make missions all the more difficult.
This isn’t immediately obvious though and again it takes some feeling around before you get a decent grasp of how this best works. As you can also buy Premium cards from Premium Points earned through battle, which supposedly give you even greater benefits, over the card earned through the battle themselves. It again has a bit of an assumption that the player is familiar with the series and doesn’t exactly help the newcomer.
It isn’t just a single player experience though and outside the main missions, there are the options for a co-op mode, which allows you to team up with friends to take on missions and also a battle mode which is as it says, a way to just jump in and do battle. The battle mode is great fun and has various modes attached to it, with the kind of variation you’d expect from an established FPS.
You have standard 4v4 battles where you simply have to beat the opponents more than they beat you, score based 4v4 where you battle to reach a score count before the opposition a free for all mode, where teams are out the window and it is every man for himself and also Dragonball Grab, which see teams battle to get the 7 Dragonballs around the level, similar to a capture the flag type affair.
The netcode works really well on the Vita and is actually a hell of a lot of fun. Unlike online modes for other genres, you actually feel like you can compete, learning the controls and mechanics in the single player and using what you have learned for online. Even on the very first play you don’t feel too overwhelmed, or that you are wasting your time trying to compete, it is fantastically balanced.
One main criticism is that perhaps the game is a little too easy, at least early on. Of all the missions played we were able to pick up an SS rank, even on levels we weren’t particularly sure on what we were doing. However they do get a bit more challenging later on, where you will fail on occasions, but again it seemed to be fail or get a top rank, there didn’t seem to be anything in between.
What this game has done though as mentioned at the start, is peak our interest, we want to find out more about Dragonball Z, from previous games to the Anime itself. One thing we did pick up on, is how good the visuals for the game are when compared to the Anime, it is a faithful representation and feels like an extension of what exists, rather than a cheap cash-in based on the licence. Something that not every licensed game has been able to do.
What really impresses is the amount of content available, even after a good few hours of play, it doesn’t feel like you have scratched the surface, each level will take between ten and twenty minutes and never feels like you are grinding or repeating what you are doing too much. It provide a very well put together game which is very hard to put down once you start playing.
Dragonball Z: Battle of Z is a decent game, that anyone can dive into, but it is one aimed at fans first and foremost. Fans will lap it up, but there is room for the newcomer, as long as they are willing to take their time to buy into it and learn more about the Dragonball Z world.