Super Dragonball Z is an arcade fighting game based on the crazy Japanese Anime cartoon of the same name. The game has had design input from Noritaka Funamizu, producer of the legendary Street Fighter Series but does it have enough appeal to dent the stranglehold on the genre of such big hitters as Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Street Fighter?
To be honest I have never seen the DBZ cartoon and as such it is largely incomprehensible - there are lots of colourful characters with wacky hairdo's and lurid pyjamas but I found it difficult to understand or even care about any story that had been woven into the game.
Anyone who has played the recent RPG smash DragonQuest: Journey of the Cursed King will notice more than a few similarities between that game and SDBZ. Akira Toriyama, creator of DBZ was also responsible for the artistic style and character designs in DragonQuest. The graphics are cell shaded and are perfectly colourful for a game based on a cartoon. Graphics are crisp and vibrant and add to the crazy manga feel. Characters are well drawn and each of the stages has it's own individual feel. The game features lots of huge, flashy projectiles and a nice touch is the comic book "whomp" text bubbles when you hit an opponent.
Overall graphics fit well with the theme and style of the subject matter.
Sound in the game consists of run of the mill manga music and decent voice acting and fighting grunts and groans.
The game is fairly easy to get into - most fighting aficionados will be familiar with the `hadoken' QCF + punch and dragon punch motions used to unleash special moves - within minutes you will be unleashing barrages of energy at your opponent. The thing is each character only has around 12 moves in total of which you will probably be re-using 3-4 of them over and over. For me there is a distinct lack of depth to the fighting engine. You can pull of some huge combos but they generally all follow the same launch, juggle, projectile format for each character. The stages are interactive and have different scenery to hide behind/destroy however this is more of a hindrance than a help in most cases.
Another thing I am not a fan of is that each character has the ability to fly, by holding jump you leap into and stay hovering in the air until you hit jump again. As this can be done by each and every character it doesn't really add to the strategy as when you are on the ground with an opponent flying fighting is really awkward and the only solution is for you to start flying or wait for them to land. When you are both flying fighting is exactly the same as on the ground so it really becomes redundant.
Controls are pretty tight, one button for punch one for kick, one for block and the other for jump/fly. Shoulder buttons are also allocated to super/charge moves.
As with most fighting games you have the usual arcade and versus modes and also a survival mode to take on for some variety. However to get the most out of the game you first need to create a player card whereby you select a character, select a name and outfit colours. This adds a RPG feel to the game as you are able to develop and build your character as points are gained for battles won. By playing through the various modes - skill trees can be accessed and Dragonballs gained allowing you to wish for a variety of new things ranging from new colour palettes to hidden characters.
This element really improves the game as without this character building mode the game is pretty sparse - whereas this gives you incentive to play a little longer.
If you are a Dragonball Z fan you will probably like this anyway, there are 18 characters to choose from and a well thought out character development mode. If you know nothing about DBZ and are simply looking for a decent beat-em-up then you would do better to look elsewhere. There is simply not enough depth to keep you coming back for more or enough explanation to get you involved with and actually care about any of the characters. With the recent release of Street Fighter Alpha Anthology and Tekken 5 going for a song there are much better fighting games out there. Overall I award Super Dragonball Z............
6 out of 10