Dragonball Z games are just not what they use to be. From the fantastic PS2 era that made you finally feel the planet-destructive awesomeness of saiyans to the less likable PS3 reign that brought nothing new to the table.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is a better-late-then-never attempt to change the formula by transforming the usual brawler into an almost MMO-like action game where the roles of Tank, Healer, Magic and Support are introduced and renamed to Melee, Support, Ki-user and Interference.
Ignoring the complaints of those that subconsciously fear change, the idea seemed to have been an interesting one for variety’s sake, lamentably this leap of faith in style was let down by a sea of weaknesses completely unrelated to the new mechanics.
Story and presentation
Story mode is simply a series of missions so there is not much to explore at all, although with all the Dragon Ball games and episodes constantly flowing out of Japan; most DBZ players are expected to already know how the story goes. Rather then having to repeatedly go through it on every game release, this approach isn’t surprising, in fact by now most players know it better then they know their own hand so the lack of deep-plots are expected.
Although a little weird at first the manga-ry style of Battle of Z is very well-done and the environment fitted the epic clashes of super-beings that could destroy a planet on a whim, graphics are one of the portable game’s strong points.
Being able to customize and collect in a fighting game is often a fantastic feature to create special builds and feel like a unique fighter but Battle of Zs system is solely for show. Players will have several slots, some more then others, to increase stats such as strength, ki, defense or speed but these only slightly increase raw stats so it only means that the later in the game you are the more damage you do.
The illusion of choice fails to cover up the simple fact that the only customizing available are the two bottom card slots that are the equivalent of a passive while all other slots are only shallow number-boosters which there isn’t even a lot of. This is a shame as many players would have enjoyed saving up currency to buy a special card to fill in another piece of their unique super-brawler.
The majority of portable games that have been criticized have often done something wrong in their multi-player, usually having their strength lie in single-player. Battle of Z is the exact opposite and single player is, without a doubt, the biggest flaw of the game.
During the single player missions players are usually forced to team up with AI and this is even worse then being condemned to take on four foes alone. Bots will constantly get themselves killed – wasting valuable retry lives that are connected and shared with the player.
None of them play their role well. Support will often let you die and walk past you while AI-interference will act as a melee. The AI is, in fact, so bad that several players have desperately turned to online in an attempt to collect cards or complete the later part of missions that should have been possible offline.
Offline-mode players are forced to be a melee or ki-user as AI do not help enough to risk using a support or interference character. It is simply a button-mashing, speed-based fight to pass the finishing line before your own teammates’ suicide attempts.
Online is where the game gets interesting. During single player it is all about being melee and killing as quickly as possible before the AI consumes the retry pool but connect to online and the game change is as great as a Saibaman compared to Lord Bill.
When paired with other players the roles of melee, ki-user , support and interference have their own part to play in a fight thus making it a coordinated and tactical showdown. It was only playing through missions with other players that this game was even playable and the new mechanics were finally able to show off.
Sadly only co-op mode shines this brightly while player-vs-player appeared largely unbalanced and everyone seemed to only rely on a quick ki-share to spam a fighter’s special move.
When talking about single player and player-vs-player this game generously receives a 5.0 due to far too many annoyances and shallow flaws but in this odd case: co-op makes up for its siblings’ flaws enough to earn its own score of: 7.0.
Despite the amazing co-op, a single game-mode should not have to be the entire game. It was clearly a simple case of good idea but poor execution.
Hopefully this mistake will not deter DBZ games on the PS Vita to try and be different from its console counterpart that is always a straight-up brawler. The idea of character roles was welcomed but the lack of depth and stupid AI pulled the red carpet from under their own feet.