Did gaming REALLY need another Dragon Ball Z fighting game? This question nagged at me the entire time that I played Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z. On average, it seems that there is at least one fighting game based on the franchise per year, sometimes even more. Why don’t developers spread out and explore other genres? At any rate, Battle of Z does at least attempt to do some things a little bit different than what we’ve seen from previous Dragon Ball Z fighting games, but at the end of the day it is just another boring slog through a story that has been told and retold to the point that even a diehard DBZ fan like myself is getting sick of it.
Battle of Z is a fighter that focuses more on co-op. The single player is all about going back through the same old stories (with the new story from the new movie being barely glossed over) that we’ve seen time and time again in the manga and anime, sometimes from the perspectives of the bad guys to get a little “What if…?” story that is not even nearly fleshed out enough to actually resonate anything meaningful.
The cut-scenes are lazy and dull. The best parts of the stories are left out, and they really serve only as an excuse to have these particular characters battling any given mission. The game does manage to capture the look and feel of the series quite well, and I’m not going to lie and say that it’s not exhilarating at first, zooming around the arenas as Goku and blasting everyone in sight. However, this quickly gets old, especially thanks to the combat system that is just as lazy as the cut-scenes.
Most of the game consists of is mashing on the Y button. That’s really all there is to the combat. Yes, it is possible to mix it up with projectiles and the occasional special attack, but the meat of the combat comes from getting in close and wailing on opponents with melee attacks. Every single character plays exactly the same, except with minor stat differences, so this strategy holds true for literally every character that you can play as in the game.
Obviously, this is extremely boring. Games need to be more complicated than just hitting one button over and over again and succeeding. Battle of Z tries to mix things up with the ally dynamic, but the AI controlled partners are brain dead, and oftentimes more of a detriment to the experience than they are a help.
Characters can be unlocked and customized, but there are many characters that cannot be used for specific missions, meaning that there is, in reality, very little choice when it comes to character selection for any given mission. Visual customization is extremely limited, but cards can be unlocked and equipped to characters to improve their stats. This becomes a pain in the ass when reaching a mission where you have to change characters, essentially requiring you to just take all of the cards off them and apply them to a new character so that you stand a fighting chance.
Items are also there to make this game stand out a bit, but the items are essentially useless. Even the useful ones are not useful enough to really justify bothering with purchasing any new items from the store. One has to wonder what the point was wasting time with the items if it is very easy to just ignore them completely and do just fine in the game.
Battle of Z’s ideas are all well meaning, but the execution is just terrible. Besides the dull single player, there are multiplayer modes, including a co-op mode that is just a retread through the boring single player missions as well as a versus mode that is somewhat more entertaining and can sometimes even be strategic when compared to the single player.
A community dynamic was attempted by having players “share energy” by mashing on the B button after battles, which would in turn add up the world’s counter of energy that can be seen on the main menu. Unfortunately for the developers of the game, they didn’t account for the Internet being the Internet, with people having already hacked the game and making the number the highest it goes, making the gameplay mechanic and the community aspect completely irrelevant right out of the gate.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is a bore and a chore to play through. It is well-meaning, but there are far better fighters based on the series out there, and there’s also a ton of them to choose from, meaning that there is absolutely no reason to settle for Battle of Z. Hopefully the next Dragon Ball Z game comes in the form of an RPG or a platformer or hell a life simulation game for all I care; all I know is that I don’t think I can stomach yet another fighting game that just repeats the past ad nauseam.
Tested on Xbox 360. Final Score: 3/10