Dragon Ball Z is a really special anime for me. It was the one that really got me, and others as well, into anime growing up in the 90’s. Yes, there was other anime showing too, but DBZ was like, for lack of a better term, a gateway drug. It was the first thing on when I got back from school and I watched every bit. TOEI, the animation studio that puts out DBZ, is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the series with a new game for the PSP, Dragon Ball Z Tenkaichi Tag Team. With this third entry onto Sony’s portable device, does Tenkaichi Tag Team give fans what they want, or does anyone even care anymore?
Unlike previous PSP games before it, Tenkaichi Tag Team follows the storyline of the anime, called Dragon Walker, starting with the Saiyan Saga and going through to the Buu Saga, minus the filler stories. This is basically a rehash of the story used in home consoles but in a portable package. Some might see this as cheap, just another way to cash in on a franchise. Others will see it as the fan service that they have been asking for. Diehard fans will love the care that developer Spike took to recreate the feel of the anime, consulting TOEI in the process. Plus those who have never seen, much less heard about DBZ, will be able to pick up on the story without becoming lost or confused.
The main selling point of Tenkaichi Tag Team is the creating different team up combinations to use in battle. Always wanted to see Gogeta and Vegito team up against Super Saiyan 3 Goku and Gotenks? Or how about adult Gohan and kid Gohan against future Trunks and kid Trunks? The number of possible tag team pairings and the matches that can be put together is nearly endless. The fighting mechanics remain the same, with a few new additions and changes. There’s now a dedicated dash/grab button mapped to X, and the Ki charge is on the L button. When fighting two or more enemies, the closest one will be locked on and players will be able to switch between enemies by pressing the R button. Attack, guard and Ki blasts all have their own dedicated buttons, making them very simple, due to the pace of the action. There will be times when both the player’s fighter and the partner AI will be in the same battle. He or she will fighting on their own, but can be giving simple commands during the fight using the D-pad. These commands are strategies and range from fighting their own enemy, switching enemies, defense and the ability to perform a tag team combination attack. Pulling off the over the top trademark moves is a bit easier now, with only a few button presses needed to pull off specials. Even with simple and easy controls, the fighters are a bit unbalanced and it calls for players to think carefully when going into a fight. For example Krillin, a human martial arts master, cannot possibly win a head on battle with, let’s say Vegita, who is a Saiyan warrior prince and one of the most powerful of his race. A head on battle with Vegita will be an instant loss, but come at him with quick in and out attacks will chip his health down and eventually beat him. The fighting system emulates the power levels of the characters in the anime, which makes things unbalanced, but that’s a part of what makes the anime good: seeing the Z warriors think of a strategy to make up for their disadvantage. That concept makes a great transition to the game.
With the DBZ series of games, the art style makes the game look like the anime so much that it feels like you’re playing the anime instead of a game. Tenkaichi Tag Team takes that feeling and pushes it even further by adding in all the over the top explosions and effects found in the anime. Character models look like they could have been used in an episode of DBZ. The cel-shaded art style really brings the characters to life. As for the voice acting, it’s really well done, considering that all of the actors are from the anime reboot of the series Dragon Ball Z Kai, with a majority of those actors being from the original 1999 English dub. While the new VOs do a good job, I would have preferred that it would have been the original voice cast. But that’s just my preference, as it didn’t distract me from the game. I don’t mention the lack of a Japanese track because, well, I grew up on the English dub.
For a fighting game, there is plenty to do when not playing the main story mode. Of course, playing through the story mode unlocks more characters to use (70 in total), and some maps have side fights to go through if you want to beef up the character before fighting the main boss. Speaking of beefing up the fighter, it’s possible to customize the characters just as in previous games. From choosing special moves to battle enhancers like Senzu beans, players can customize their fighters to use in the story mode and the other modes as well. Battle 100 mode has fighter recreate some of the most epic fights from the DBZ story arc and even new situations created just for the game. The last mode is Survival Mode and the name explains it all. Survive battles one right after the other. There’s even a mini game that serves as a loading screen. Guide kid Gohan to catch falling nuts and fruit to acquire points to spend customizing fighters.
This game was made for the hardcore fans of the anime as well as newcomers to the series. With its easy and simple fighting mechanics, it’s no Street Fighter. But that’s the whole point of these DBZ games, it’s not about the technical mechanics, it’s about being a powerful bad ass, blowing up the sides of mountains and looking good while doing it. It’s not the most balanced fighter, and it’s not supposed to be. But after playing for a while, you’ll start to learn what works, what doesn’t, and even pick up a few strategies for certain characters. There’s a demo out now on the PSN, so I would recommend trying it out first before buying it for those new to the series. As for the fans, this is a really good addition to their DBZ collection and I recommend buying it.
- Mike V.
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