Game Review: Dragon Ball Z: Budokai

Dragon Ball Z - Budokai Artwork

It is hard to convey with mere words the sense of nostalgia flowing over me as I write up this review, because honestly this game was a big part of my childhood. I remember running home after school every day to play this game. But while we like to be positive here I’ll try to temper my nostalgia and be fair and honest about this game as well.

First things first, Dragon Ball is a massive franchise, which branches across a whole host of platforms including a manga, an anime, films (20 animated movies and one live action movie), action figures and other collectables and of course since this review exists in the first place, also video games. Now I honestly feel like you can enjoy the games without any knowledge or interest in anime or Dragon ball in particular, especially if you are a fan of fighting games. It’s similar to other anime properties Naruto and Bleach, which both also licensed themselves to video games, but also similar to more mainstream classics such as Tekken or Street Fighter. If I’m wrong and Saiyans and Zeni and World Martial Arts Tournaments are to involved for you and you’ve given the game a fair chance to grab you then feel free to send it to me and I’ll make sure it has a good home.

Okay so moving on from speaking about the game broadly and the franchise that spawned it, let’s talk about Budokai specifically. In my opinion the voice acting is spot on, it’s not something I would have noticed as a kid when I first played it but it’s certainly a strong selling point now, because it connects me more clearly to the show and being honest, to my childhood. While I’m talking about sound, I need to mention the sound effects, they were also ripped straight from the show and helped to make the game feel real, every screaming power up, every Kamehameha sounds just like it did in the show. Not that it needs to utilise shameless subliminal tactics like appealing to our nostalgia because the gameplay is tight and responsive and so intuitive that after over a decade of not playing the game, and not having touched the specific console for about five or six years, I was able to get acclimated and enjoy playing it almost immediately.

Something else I liked, that I might have mentioned in my Simpsons Hit & Run review, and if not then it applies to both games, are the 3D animated cut-scenes. In Budokai, they are adapted largely from the series itself and while the 3D graphics haven’t aged well, and didn’t look to hot at the time either come to think of it, they were nonetheless a large part of what made the game good. I think what I liked about the cut-scenes, is that when coupled with the appropriate sound effects and the story mode which borrows directly from the manga and/or anime story-line, it really feels like just another episode of the show, except I get to be involved…more so that I was at least when I was shouting at the TV as a kid, or lending him my energy for a spirit bomb.

I mentioned above that the game has a story mode, and it borrows from from established canon, except it puts you in the driver’s seat so to speak, it allows you to replay some of the biggest battles in Dragon ball Z history, from the very first fight in Dragon ball Z between Piccolo, Goku and Raditz right up to the epic battle between Gohan and Cell that closed out the Cell Saga. A lot of fans feel that DBZ should have ended after the Cell Saga, it felt like a nice stopping point where character arcs were concluded to a reasonable degree. And Budokai seems to also agree that this is a nice stopping point because it takes us through the highlights of the Saiyan, Android and Cell sagas, but stops before starting the Buu saga, which as I mentioned before some fans weren’t keen on.

Dragon Ball Z - Budokai Gameplay

Anyway all that is available in the story mode but if you just like just having your two favourite or perhaps your favourite and least favourite characters brawl it out over and over again against a random backdrop then maybe the versus mode is for you.

If you watched the show and instead really enjoyed the World Martial Arts Tournament, if you always wanted to compete and maybe even win then you can exactly that via the handy tournament mode. So just enter and fight your way up the bracket to become the World Martial Arts champion. I will say that the combos can be a little tricky and you might want to try them out in the practice mode first to get a grip on it, so that you don’t get pummelled by a the A.I in the tournament.

Speaking of making sure you have the advantage when you’re fighting, you can also upgrade your characters using items you purchase at the item shop, you can do this using money you gain throughout the game, including as a reward in tournament mode.

If the promise of hours of entertainment, as well as the chance to take part in a storyline loved by many isn’t appealing enough then it also offers you the chance to do something a little different as well, shake things up….so to speak. That would the the “What If” story missions which put a twist on the various iconic moments in Dragon Ball Z canon, and at least in my opinion was immensely fun.

Overall my biggest and only real complaints are that the graphics aren’t amazing, but it doesn’t really hinder my enjoyment of the game, and that in terms of actual gameplay, the fighting mechanic isn’t truly impressive. By which I mean that much like other fighting games, they have combos and special attacks but gameplay often boils down to the old Occam’s razor of gaming, where you just mash buttons because it is easier, and allows you to progress just as quickly as the more complicated of techniques.


First Published on:

Off the Record is and always will be a free platform, but if you like what we do here and want to contribute to the production of future content then you can do so by donating to our PayPal or Ko-Fi.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s