It is surprising to discover that 10 years have passed since Arc System Works was last let loose on Dragon Ball Z. Adored for their proficiency in the fighting genre, the lukewarm Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2 on Nintendo DS had marked the last time that they had tackled converting Akira Toriyama’s creation into pixelated form.
Fast forward a decade and the Japanese developer can now draw on their years of expertise to deliver Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden – in turn reviving the long-dormant Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden series that had last pummelled SNES owners into shape.
Experience in developing BlazBlue and Guilty Gear has clearly influenced Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden‘s direction, their now competent 2D fighting engine allowing the Nintendo 3DS to welcome another fluid brawler. Packing more than 100 characters summoned from Dragon Ball Z’s universe – including those that appeared in March’s Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F movie – there’s an undeniable level of fan service on display, in letting players see their favourite characters square off against one another.
As with any fighting game, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden looks to proves its worth in the combat system. Treading the easy to learn but hard to master trend, it’s easy to pick up as you chain multi-hit blows to your opponent – unleashing destructive Super Moves to keep the tide of battle in your favour. The rapid flurry of ground and air – swirled with a layer of accessibility – results in an experience that can regularly thrill, especially when you switch the difficulty up a notch to Hard.
There are several modes that will occupy your time, starting with Z-Story in which you battle your way through 10 scenarios. That starts with Dragon Team with the loose narrative presented in reams of text dialogue, before moving on to what the game describes as “what if?” scenarios starring Goku, Krillin, Piccolo, Vegeta and others.
Adventure Mode presents another alternate story, seeing players choose their own team of combatants to battle through missions across eight regions – rewarded with gear and new Z-Assist companions along the way. Each mission designates their own challenges for those looking to test their combat prowess, being showered with lucrative items for achieving an S rank. Newcomers will certainly find doing so troublesome, but they certainly aren’t impossible for those that take time to learn the combat system’s intricacies.
Your efforts in reaching Adventure Mode’s conclusion will unlock the Extreme World Tournament mode, in turn continuing to build on the challenge levelled at the player. Whereas Battle Mode and Versus Mode round everything out as expected, in allowing you to face a CPU opponent or another player by Local Play respectively.
As for approaching the 3DS hardware, the touchscreen is used for switching characters mid-battle – tapping inactive members of your team seeing them leap into the fray. Whereas StreetPass support comes in Quest Mode, where players can create Guild Cards that may be traded with others that you wander by. It isn’t the most imaginative implementation by all accounts, but some will enjoy tinkering around with it.
Arc System Works’ choice to have the characters as sprite work rather than full 3D models is a favourable one, but their responsive animations are let down by presentation woes in other areas. The 15 or so stages are unmemorable and particularly basic, while the stereoscopic 3D effect underwhelms enough to recommend never bothering to turn it on. Away from the game’s energetic soundtrack, efforts to include character voice recordings from the show (albeit remaining in Japanese) result in tinny sounds on occasion which came as a disappointment.
Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden displays plenty of flair, faithfully drawing on the source material to deliver a robustly fist-pounding experience that fans will rightly enjoy. Concerns around graphics and audio detract, but Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden can be stand tall in achieving larger successes.