When Sony first announced the original PSP, I promised myself that I would own one. But as with every major purchase, you'd need a large driving factor to keep you motivated. After watching my friend play a full 3D Metal Gear Solid game without a power cable attached or a TV to view it on, I saw the beauty of the PSP.
However, that was not enough. I needed a game that could max out my hype meter and make me crave a PSP non-stop. I grew up watching Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z and am always a sucker for any new DBZ game to come out. So watching the opening movie of DBZ Shin Budokai and hearing that awesome song gave me a raging Super Saiyan boner. I wanted to play that game so bad. But that was 2007, and the sequel (DBZ: Shin Budokai – Another Road) had already been released so I ended up playing that game instead; I never got a chance to play the first game until recently, and decided to finally give it a spin.
Here are my impressions.
Those familiar with the Dragon Ball mythos can tell that the story takes place after the Buu saga, basically at the end of DBZ. If you have no knowledge of anything Dragon Ball then you'll still be able to get the gist of things but won't understand a lot of the references discussed as they talk about past events in the anime.
Here's the rundown, something has torn a hole between hell and the real world and this is causing the dead bad guys to come back to life. This distortion is also causing rifts in time and space, bringing other characters from different time periods together. It's up to the Z fighters to find the cause of this mess and put a stop to it.
For those uninitiated in the series, in the Budokai games, characters fight on a 3D plain similar to something like Tekken in that the 3D aspect of it comes from being able to sidestep and circle your opponent. However, there are no walls in this game. Instead you get a sky. Knocking opponents into the air or being knocked into the air lets you hover, and certain properties of attacks and movement differ while afloat.
If you've played the Budokai games on the PS2 then you might notice something different with the combat mechanics. Gone are the Punch and Kick buttons, instead you have the Rush and Smash attacks. Rush attacks let you perform quick and multiple hits. Smash attacks lets you do slower but heavier blows that knock your opponent back, these attacks are also chargeable and can break through an opponent's guard.
Now Dragon Ball wouldn't be Dragon Ball without colored blasts of light. The difference between doing a blast here as opposed to previous Budokai games is that they are performed in real-time and can be charged in order to increase damage. Super attacks and in-game transformations are still present, though also handled a bit differently.
Super moves are also done in real-time and bring forth a more arcade-style feel meaning you pick your character not just based on what fancy attack animation they have, but what their moves are and how you would use them in battle.
Another new addition is the Aura Burst. Pressing the R button (by default controls) lets you do an Aura Burst. This drains energy but in return gives you the ability to dash, change up your attacks and power-up your energy moves. This new sense of movement can change the pacing of a match depending on how you use it. This was absent in previous Budokai games and is something that I appreciate very much.
Now this may disappoint some people, but you can only choose to transform into one form per match. I can see why they did this, though, since each character and thus each form has a different set of special and super moves, so this becomes another factor that plays in when choosing who to use. That said, I do miss the campy powering up into each form one by one.
Watching your power / Ki meter is important, as you need this to do simple energy shots, specials, quick dodges, teleports, and super moves. You don't want to be caught in a barrage of attacks without enough energy.
In ‘Dragon Road’, the game’s story mode, you follow a series of matches with the occasional branching path. This is very short and can be beaten in around 2-3 hours (given that you read the dialogue on the way, otherwise it would be even shorter). Aside from Dragon Road you have the standard Arcade mode (which is always welcome in a fighter), Z Trial, Network Battle, and Training.
‘Z Trial’ contains your Survival and Time Attack modes. Nothing special. Network Battle is your standard multiplayer ad-hoc lobby. What's interesting is you can enable "Accept Battle" in the options, and what that does is if you are in a middle of, let's say, a story match and another person who has the same game wants to challenge you he/she can do so by going into the Network Battle mode and spotting you in the lobby.
At the end of every match you are awarded with Zenie. You use this currency to purchase stamps that you can use to customize your Profile Card to share with people through Network Battles. This only amused me for a good 10 minutes.
Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai is, in my opinion, a great evolution in the Budokai series. The new combat system is easier to jump into while still retaining enough depth to sink your teeth in and characters don't feel like bricks when you control them. The roster, though small compared to past entries in the series, is well rounded enough and feels solid considering that the game is running on a portable system. A lot of the favorites are present and there is a good sense of overall balance.
All in all this is a very good fighting game on the PSP whether you are a Dragon Ball fan or not. However with a better sequel (Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai - Another Road) already out there is no reason why you should pick this game over the other as Another Road has more characters, content, and improvements that make it a superior game. However, I'm glad I was able to play through this game as I can better appreciate the changes and additions in the game that followed.
- Great graphics and animation for a portable game
- More accessible fight system
- English and Japanese voice selection
- Really short story mode
- Not enough variety and content in game modes
DBZ: Shin Budokai is a great fighting game on the PSP, but if you have the option to play the sequel, DBZ: Shin Budokai 2 / DBZ: Shin Budokai – Another Road, get that game instead.
Screenshots from IGN.com