Dragon Ball Z Budokai series

        This article will be a little different. Rather than talk about a boss or something similar, I’ll just be discussing one of my favorite video games, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, which vastly beats out one and two for the title of one of the best Dragon Ball Z games there is, and one of best fighting games I’ve ever played. However, to understand what made it so great, first I think we should look at the ones that came before it. 
        When compared to its predecessors, Budokai 3 is easily the best of the bunch. The first Budokai game was very experimental, and had, aside from the actual gameplay, cutscenes emulating the anime as best the game’s models could do. I personally loved that, because it told me a lot about the characters I was playing as, allowing me to actually know who the androids are, who Frieza is, and so on. I had seen Dragon Ball Z before picking up the game, but only sporadically, and I had no idea what was what, but now I knew!
        However, the gameplay itself was, while an obvious groundwork for what was to come, not that great. True, nothing was broken or really bad, but compared to future games it’s very lackluster and strange. For instance, Goku’s Kamehameha attack, while seen in future games and in the source material as a blue energy beam, here is presented as a yellowish large blast, basically identical to your generic ki blasts all of the characters can use, only bigger. Cell’s Kamehameha, on the other hand, is blue, but there are no properly beams or lasers, and all the special moves, or Death-moves, are presented like that.
        There are also generic special moves that can be done following a combo, such as a barrage of ki shots, a generic melee rush that knocks the enemy to the ground, and so on. Death-moves also require a combo, but they’re fairly simple: punch punch punch, energy blast. Ultimate moves, like Goku’s Spirit Bomb, also have a more complicated combo. Characters can transform, getting an attack bonus and for some lets them use new moves, but this also makes their energy start to drain a little, and the more transformations a character uses, the faster then drain is.
        Goku has the most transformations- three variations on the Kaioken, or as the game calls it, the King Kai Fist, each producing a redder glow around him. The energy drain I think actually is fairly cool in that it kind of simulates the strain the technique puts on Goku’s body, but I think the game at best glosses over that fact, and all transformations in the game do this in any case, including Goku‘s final transformation into a Super Saiyan, which made it a little weird that his version is so much more powerful than Vegeta or Gohan, who just have it as their first transformation. To transform, the character must charge up enough ki energy, which also lets them shoot generic blasts and perform their special moves of any sort. They can also gain it by attacking the enemy.
        However, if a character is below the amount of ki they used to transform, getting knocked down will revert them to the state they do have ki to maintain. So if Goku is a Super Saiyan, he has 5 ki bars. If he is reduced to 2 and knocked down, he will revert to the first level of Kaioken. Since you lose ki faster in higher forms, reaching a high enough level to transform is easy, but actually staying at that level is very difficult, especially since you will be using special moves that take away ki.
        The reverting back to a previous form thing is also notable in that it applies to every character, even ones that it really shouldn’t, such as Frieza or Cell. Frieza can transform, but the transformation itself does not seem to ever go away unless he makes the effort to change back himself. As for Cell, he did change back in the anime, but only when he was punched so hard in the gut that he puked up one of the people he needed to absorb to reach his current state.
        Budokai 2 fixed some of the previous games issues. The graphics got a massive improvement, and while they acted the same, ki blasts now looked like they should for each character, and beam attacks were actually beams. Those generic attacks I mentioned were also altered so that there is an added ‘finish’ to them to do extra damage. For instance, the ki barrage adds in one last big shot. However, to do this, you have to beat a mini-game of sorts. For the ki barrage or super moves, you have to spin the analog stick quickly to fill out a meter.
        There were, of course, other characters, and Frieza and Cell were altered to avoid the transformation issues from before. Rather than transforming like other characters, they are simply always in their final forms, with a small ki decrease and attack bonus permanently in effect, with no previous form to be reverted back to. Aside from that, new transformations of sorts were added- fusions.
        There were, in effect, three varieties- regular fusion through the fusion technique can, if the character has the right item ,but done in battle to transform them into a new character, much stronger than either of their parts, with very powerful moves and attacks. However, this only lasts for a short time, after which they will revert to your chosen character.
        Said character will not have any special moves, or at least only the basic moves, if I recall rightly, but when transformed they will basically have unlimited ki to blast their enemies, and, in the case of Gotenks, they can transform further to become even stronger, at the expense that the fusion will wear off more quickly.
        The second variation is Potara fusion, where the characters use magic earrings to permanently fuse together. While that has some eerie implications, it works very well in battle, because the new character generally has new moves drawn from both characters and is much stronger. They do not have a time limit nor unlimited ki.
        Third is Super Buu’s absorption. This is Super Buu super move, where he hit’s the enemy to knock them away, then looks around for someone to absorb into himself to get stronger. No matter who he picks, it grants him new appearance and moves related to the one taken. Who exactly he picks is randomly chosen, but not every character can be found on every stage of the game. For instance, I’m fairly sure Namek only has Frieza and Cell.
        Notably, absorbing Yamcha and Tien, the only time when he absorbs two people, actually reduces his power due to their much weaker strength. His attack power drops by 15%, and he gains a lot of bmoves from both characters. Frieza grants him his moves, but no attack increase or decrease. All of the others give him new moves and increases in power to varying degrees. Once he absorbs someone, his old moves are replaced by the new ones, so he can only do this once.
        All of these different fusion varieties reappear in Budokai 3, but that gave sticks strictly to fusions that actually appeared in the show, reducing how many people Buu may absorb as well, down to Piccolo, Gotenks, and Gohan, all of which are increases for him. Aside from that, it works much the same in that game.
        Budokai 1 was the only one to have actual cut scenes, and the second game replaced a direct story mode with a board game adventure that more loosely follows the story. It also made finding the dragon balls much less tedious- in the first game you could only obtain them either from the random reward from story mode battles or bought through the random option at the shop. In the second game they are found by searching spots on the board, and you can find those spots with the dragon radar item in each level.
        Moving on to Budokai 3 at last, this game once more altered the graphics, though I’m not sure if it’s better persay- it just seems more fitting to me. There are more characters than ever, and they have altered the moves once again, removing the more generic attacks and making the Death-moves more distinctive, adding in the ability for them to clash, where they each push on the other, and players spinning the analog stick determines who wins.
        Transformations and how ki works has also been altered. Characters now start with a ‘base’ level of ki, and if you go past that it starts to drop back to the base over time. Transforming, rather than making you lose ki faster, now increases your base amount, making them much more useful. However, the ultimate moves of the characters can only be used by going into Hyper Mode.
        Hyper Mode covers the character in a red glow, and makes them nearly immune to flinching. Regular attacks won’t do it- only combo finishers and special moves will knock them back. In this state their ki will drop down to zero over time, but knocking the enemy back will let them potentially use the Dragon Dash, which starts a mini-game sequence where they push one of four buttons.
        If the attacker guesses differently than the defender, then the Dash continues and they lay on more hits, and if they can pick defiantly three times, with previous guesses vanishing each time, in culminates in a powerful finisher. As for the defender, if they guess right on the third try, they are knocked to the ground. Second try, they stop the enemy and both land on the ground. If they guess right the first time, they send the enemy to the ground, doing some damage.
        Hyper Mode also lets the user unleash their ultimate attacks, not through a combo but a button press, generally a somewhat delayed attack. It uses up a certain amount of ki to attempt it, depending on the character, but as long as you have some ki left, you can continue to try. If you used Hyper Mode before you have that amount, then you can’t try it at all.
        When using the ultimate move, however, there is another mini-game, where both players see a meter, which fills up and repeats quickly. Press a button when it is close to being filled to fill a second meter more. Both players have three chances to get the second meter as high as possible. If the defender wins, they take reduced damage, or in the case of Gotenks, he takes damage instead. If the offense wins, the attack goes as intended, and in some cases this even alters the battlefield with a massive world-wreaking explosion.
        The story mode is also altered- you have several characters to pick from, and you play through their parts of the story of Dragon Ball Z, leveling up as you battle and unlocking more things. There’s even an extra mode where you can play as the villainous Broly. The mode has the character flying to objectives on a large world, literally flying to a city, mountains, so on. Random items, money, and dragon balls can also be found.
        Lastly I’ll mention another feature of combat- it’s become a little more complicated since the second game, adding dodging and teleporting. Dodging is basically just that- with good timing one can dodge the attacks of their enemies, leaving them open after the attack and preventing clip damage, in exchange for using up a little ki each time. Teleporting is similar, in that it activates when you are under attack. By dodging and pushing the direction behind the enemy, you can appear behind them, and your character will automatically counterattack. If the enemy has enough ki themselves, they can react to this by teleporting themselves, leading to both characters trying to strike the other from behind, which does happen a lot in the series.
        All in all, Budokai 3 massively improved the formula set by its predecessors, with more characters, far improved gameplay that actually makes it seem more like a battle from the series, and can be considered one of the best, if not the best Dragon Ball fighting game.


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