Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 Hands-on Preview

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Dragonball Z Games have not had the best reputation in the past. Many reviewers usually give them lackluster reviews, which usually results in numerous angry letters from die-hard DBZ fanboys. This trend may soon change, as we were given a hands-on preview of the latest Dragonball Z game for the Nintendo Wii.

Yes, Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is yet another fighting game, but this time it’s on the Wii, and sports a whole new control mechanism. Although the Wii has limited horsepower compared to the other next-gen consoles, it is the most powerful system a DBZ game has ever run on. Because of the upgraded silicon, this new game looks as close to the classic anime series as you can get.

We were given a tour by Raymond Lau, Associate Product Manager at Atari Games. He relayed that the controls were revamped for the Wii, and are much more usable than other fighting games. Other fighting games require complicated hard-to-memorize combos with wild swinging movements, but he stated that he can play this game on the couch comfortably. I watched him play the game, and indeed he was controlling the characters with very small movements.

Special moves are as wasy as pressing the directional stick, and combos should be familiar to those who have played Street Fighter. You can easily teleport left, right, or back, which is one of the main tools to avoid attacks. He stated that every move can theoretically be countered, so there is a decent amount of skill required to play the game well. A “button-masher” (or in this case remote slinger) will get p0wned very quickly.

Each character can be customized, and each character has 4 separate costumes. Special powerups can be unlocked throughout the game, as well.

The single-player game goes through the entire storyline of the Dragonball Z saga, and the storyline is linear.


Raymond pointed out that many fighting games, even those with a 3d engine, largely use a 2d space. Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is completely 3d, as you can zoom around landscapes for strategic cover, throw your opponent in any direction, and teleport in any direction.

The game is balanced similarly to other fighting games, as each character has his own attack, even if the same combos are entered. Each character each has different pros and cons, as some are quicker but weaker, and others are stronger and slower.

When special moves are executed, the game seems to do a mini scripted cinematic event, where the background fades to black, and the camera zooms around the character as their energy fireworks go berserk, much like a scene from the animated series. Two-player mode is handled in split-screen, so if two players are each doing a separate special move, then they will both have their own special animation.

Gameplay was extremely smooth, and the characters are zipping around the place very quickly. Much of the scenery is also fully destructible. The Wii makes extensive use of motion blur effects when the camera moves too quickly. The camera also does a good job of keeping both characters in view, zooming in and out to keep both players visible.

This latest Dragonball Z game may be just what the franchise needs. The game’s advanced cell-shading technology makes the game look almost indistinguishable from the cult anime series, and the new control mechanism makes the game more fun, but doesn’t require extensive combos to make the game unusable.

Hopefully this kind of innovation can turn around the reputation of video games based on an anime series. Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 will be available in November, conveniently in time for the Christmas rush.

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.