Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 Review
Game: Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Available On: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (PlayStation 3 version reviewed)
Those familiar with the wonderful work in the Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT television series will know that, as a work of martial art inspired Japanese anime sci-fi, it is just crazy and brilliant enough to become the foundation literature of a major Hollywood cult-cum-religion.
To those unfamiliar with these hallowed works, well, to be honest, you might as well stop reading now. With Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, developer Spike and Namco Bandai have attempted to craft one of the all-time great pieces of fan service gaming, with hardcore Dragon Ball fans catered for (almost) completely. Does the game do enough, however, to entice those beat-em-up fans not addicted to the Dragon Ball mythology, and is it as good a game as it is an encyclopaedia of 80’s Japanese cartoon madness? Read on to find out.
STORY: The Dragon Ball saga, at around 400 episodes across three different shows (there is no doubting it’s definition as a saga), has more history than a girlfriend who used to be a £1000 per night escort. In game, all the major characters are present, but very little by way of story-telling is done to explain their relationships. It is shocking that, despite the attention paid to fan service Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, the game has no narrative or story mode to speak of. There are no cut-scenes explaining fights or rivalries. It is completely clear that the designers are aiming this game squarely at existing fans of Dragon Ball, with just the information in the games (extensive) encyclopedia to clue people up on the histories of the characters. The nearest the game comes to delivering a story is ‘Galaxy Mode’; essentially a series of challenges for each character that touch on some of the fights they had in the show. However, many challenges are nothing to do with the characters story and there are no cut-scenes to elucidate the plot. Despite the sheer size of this game mode (all of the forty or so characters in the game having upwards of seven or eight missions) it neither provides the incredible fan experience a devotee would desire, nor does it provide the context and backdrop to excite a newbie into the franchise.
There is no excuse here. Even if a full story hasn’t been included in every other of the innumerable Dragon Ball titles that have gone before it should still have been included in Raging Blast 2. The story and the characters are what make Dragon Ball interesting for the fans (don’t forget, this is a beat-em-up built from a story, not a story tacked onto a beat-em-up) and to stop short of telling some sort of story is to cut a huge portion of what is enjoyable right out of the game.
Despite this lapse, elsewhere Spike has compiled as complete a compendium for Dragon Ball as exists anywhere on the internet. Kazunori Yamauchi’s Gran Turismo 5 will hardly be a more loving ode to the minutiae of automobiles than Raging Blast 2 is to Dragon Ball. Pictures, artwork, character bios, unique voiceovers and even special episodes of the show; Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 provides as much bonus content and as many collectibles as any fan could possibly ask for. It is impressive to see a developer immerse themselves in a title and cram so much content onto the disc. The developers even included a moment where players, after collecting the eponymous Dragon Balls, can ask a wish of Shenron the Dragon, just as Goku does in the anime. I wanted to wish for a proper story mode. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the option to do that. I guess that must be like wishing for more wishes!
GRAPHICS: Always colourful and totally evocative of the TV show on which they are based, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 is the finest Goku and his chums have ever looked. Everything from the World Fighting Tournament stage to Kami’s Lookout looks exactly as you remember it, only now it has a loving HD polish. It’s like the original cartoons got run over by Zamboni ice resurfacer at an ice hockey game.
All the backgrounds are huge and destructible, with some adding unique challenges to fights. Kami’s Lookout, for example, takes place on a flying island with the battle able to go above or below the island itself, leading to some excellent hide-and-seek exchanges. However, most of the arenas are largely interchangeable and each one recalls a particular moment in Dragon Ball history, adding to the complete nature of the fan experience.
This commitment to make everything look “Dragon Ball-y” extends to the character animations. Faces contort and the camera flies around, especially for the outrageous Ultimate Attacks and moves that end matches. Everything about the graphics enhances the experience and, whilst they aren’t the most advanced on any system, they are perfect for the source material.
SOUND: Everything that you would want. Characters are fully voiced, sound sound effects are high octane and the music is best described by my new favourite adjective; “Dragon Ball-y” (defined as: over the top, cheesy, oh-so-silly craziness). By the way, here is a challenge for you – try not shouting ‘Kamehameha’ when you are finishing opponents off with Goku’s signature move. If you are a fun person, you’ll do it.
GAMEPLAY: There will be a point where you find Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 to be fun. No question. The game has a huge range of moves and techniques that, at first, can intimidate but after a time things do come together. Once the game opens up and you’re winning fights, upgrading characters and grabbing Dragon Balls burns like magnesium, brilliantly bright but over all to soon. Every character is laden with moves and techniques that superbly mirror the over the top action and incredible powers seen in the source material. Fights take to the air, characters transform and, in the team battle mode, fuse into more powerful fighters. It is all hugely dynamic and incredible to watch, but it is inevitable that players will start to tire of the combat as it becomes apparent that, whilst there are many combat moves, they are almost identical for every character. Worse, you can try the more advanced moves in training but you will rarely, if ever, go back to them as it becomes clear that just mashing the basic attack buttons is all you need to win most matches. The option to refine your technique is certainly available, but it is far from necessary. This is even more apparent in local multiplayer and does curtail the fun pretty quickly, even with friends.
Online players have plenty of options for friend matches, ranked matches, tournaments and more. The lobbies feel very reminiscent of Street Fighter IV and everything works as it should. However, this won’t stop Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 being somewhat of an acquired taste online. As with the TV show, different characters have different power levels, effectively handicapping some characters against others. This leads to some very lopsided battling online. Rest assured that, if you play for a long period of time, you are going to see plenty of Saiyan 3 Goku’s, Vegito’s and Hatchiyack’s. There are options to restrict this effect, but these only serve to do is restrict the amount of opponents available to face you.
LONGEVITY: There is no doubt that there is a lot to do in Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2. It’s just a shame that so much of it feels so very similar. Galaxy Mode, Battle Zone and Tournaments all have you doing almost the exact same thing. Coupled with no narrative payoff and every character feeling so similar, the only things that will keep you coming back are the online (as mentioned, an acquired taste) and the collectibles.
There is just so much to collect both for the characters and the in game museum that, if you are the sort of person wired to likes of Diablo and Borderlands, then you might just enjoy the constant play/reward feedback loop of Raging Blast 2.
VERDICT: The rules state that you can only give one score when reviewing a game. It’s a shame, because there is going to be a group of people who love Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2.
The problem is that the game does not do enough to bring in outsiders. It is not a sufficiently good enough fighting game to lure fans of Street Fighter or Tekken and the lack of a genuine story mode isn’t going to appeal to fans of anime who want to dip their toes into the Dragon Ball water.
As a pure fighting game there is no doubt that Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 falls short of the best games in the genre. However, as a piece of fan service, it is almost without peer. So if you like Dragon Ball you should clip on your Potara Earrings, tell Chi Chi you are not going to be around for a while, Instant Transmission yourself onto your sofa and have some good times. If not, well, maybe you should look elsewhere for your fighting game fun.