DragonBall Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi Review

DragonBall Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi is the latest in a long line of DragonBall Z games. Ultimate Tenkaichi features all of the standard modes including battle, online battle and world tournament, but also has the new Hero mode which seperates it from predecessors.

The story mode in Ultimate Tenkaichi takes you from the beginning of the DragonBall Z story all the way to epic final battle at the end of DragonBall GT. This looks great on paper, but the small roster in the game means that many fights in the story are omitted due to missing characters. Battles that spanned several episodes in the anime (such as Ultimate Gohan vs Gotenks Buu) are missing, which is disappointing for what is meant to be the “ultimate” Tenkaichi game.

Story mode sees you flying around the DBZ world map in search of items such as the dragonballs, and your next opponent. As well as the standard 1 vs 1 fighting, there are giant boss battles and chase minigames that add some variety to the action. Ultimate Tenkaichi does feature some beautiful remastered anime and CGI cutscenes, but the story is mostly told in the game via paragraphs of text which are often confusing to anyone but those already familiar with the plot. Fortunately I was able to follow the story thanks my knowledge of the series, but I often had to fill in the blanks myself.

Hero mode allows you to create your own Saiyan and embark on a different story on a parallel Earth. Here you will have to fight various opponents as you search for the dragonballs to return the world to normal after someone wished for it to become a living hell. The gameplay here is much the same as story mode, but it’s insanely refreshing to see an original story told in a DBZ game. You can build up your created character’s stats as well as unlocking super attacks and fighting styles by training under different masters and fighting opponents around the world map. Throughout the mode you will also find items such as hairstyles and outfits that can be used when deciding on your character’s appearance. It’s great to finally see character creation make its way into a DBZ game, and you’re not limited to one mode with it either as you can fight with your new warrior in the battle and world tournament modes too.

Speaking of fighting, the battles in Ultimate Tenkaichi look brilliant. The game has managed to capture the look of DragonBall Z perfectly and fans will delight in watching characters pummel each other at extremely high speeds. Battle damage has been vastly improved since previous titles, and it’s a joy to watch characters slowly lose parts of their attire and gain scratches and blood as the fight rages on. Super attacks have also been drastically improved, as the beams themselves look much better and the damage that they unleash is visually awesome as well. Large craters are left on the battlefield after your blasts connect and some can even be seen from space thanks to cutscenes showing the full scale of your devastation. This truly is what a DragonBall Z game should look like – any fan of the anime will agree to that. The gameplay itself is a different story however.

On the battlefield there are two distances that you can fight from; “melee range” and “blast range.” Both of these are essentially the same thing, but they look different. With melee range you will fight with punches and kicks. Light attacks and heavy attacks can be used to either start a combo on your opponent or to break their guard, and holding down the block button will see your character dodge any light attacks that come your way in an infuriating display of speed. The same is said for the blast range combat, but punches and kicks turn into small ki blasts, and dodging becomes deflecting. If you manage to land a sequence of light attacks on your opponent, you will be prompted to press either the light or heavy attack button to start a brutal pummelling sequence based on the one you chose. Your opponent can counter this however by choosing the same option that you did. This means that the fight essentially becomes a guessing game almost like rock-paper-scissors after someone lands about five hits, but as there are only two options I’ll call it fire-water (fire sometimes evaporates the water ok!).

Unlike the past DBZ games, charging you ki will not allow you to fire super attacks. Ki in Ultimate Tenkaichi is instead used for defensive options when someone fires a super at you. There are four different defensive options  that you can choose from depending on the amount of ki you have (the fourth being do nothing and get hit).

Super attacks are earned in this game by dealing damage to your opponent – the best way being to successfully beat them at fire-water with a heavy attack. The problem with this is that the fight system is easily abused. It’s very simple to win at fire-water and then spam your opponent to victory when they are literally unable to defend from your onslaught.

Many super attacks will send your opponent flying away from you after they’re hit, so all one needs to do to win is simply: win at fire-water, earn a super attack by completing the combo sequence, shoot the attack at your opponent whilst they have no energy to defend themselves, and then start another combo by firing light ki blasts at them as they are sent flying away unable to defend from those too. There’s a 50% chance that you will land another super attack in this way. Rinse and repeat and you’ll find that this is one of the most broken fight systems in gaming today – and that’s without me mentioning strike booster.

By charging your ki all the way to maximum and pressing up on the D-pad, you will enter a mode called strike booster; the secondary purpose of ki in Ultimate Tenkaichi. This mode not only eliminates the fire-water guessing game, but also stops you from getting stunned when being attacked. Even if your opponent begins hitting you first, you can interrupt them with your own combo just by pressing attack yourself. This means that you can do massive damage to your opponent with nothing at all to stop you. Combine that with the added cutscene at the end of each sequence for even more damage and Ultimate Tenkaichi simply becomes a game where whoever activates strike booster first wins.

As a DragonBall Z fan I’ve found the game extremely entertaining. Nothing beats pitting two of my favourite characters against each other and watching a display of brutal, high speed combat with shockwaves, massive energy beams and flame-like auras flying all over the place, but this is far from the “Ultimate” Tenkaichi that the title alludes to.

DragonBall Z fans will love Ultimate Tenkaichi for its appearance alone, but anyone else should probably steer well clear.

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