Tenkaichi series

        The Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi series, contrary to the name, does not actually follow in the footsteps of the Budokai series, but instead simply keeps Budokai in the name so western gamers will be more likely to pick it up. In Japan it was referred to as ‘Dragon Ball Z: Sparking!’ instead. However, despite this small lie to bring players in, the series itself should not be ignored.
        Rather than the more conventional 2D fighting like Budokai used, Tenkaichi has a 3D setting, where the characters can fly around, destroy objects, and of course battle each other. I talked about the mechanics of the third game of the series a long time ago in my Cell article, but to summarize, characters can generally use physical attacks or ki blasts to attack, both of which can be charged, though ki blasts can generally be deflected if the enemy knows they are coming. There is also a big emphasis on stunning the enemy to get in more hits, and sending them flying to pull off air combos, but for now lets look at the mechanics.
        Blast 1 moves do not use up ki, but instead the Blast Gauge, which fills up gradually over the course of the battle. Every character has two of these, acting as support in some form, such as improving their attack or defense, teleporting, stunning enemies, or so on. Blast 2 moves do use up a certain amount of ki, and generally fall into either a large energy blast, a beam, or a rushing attack, which they launch themselves at the enemy, and if they connect they will perform an unstoppable attack. Beams and blasts can be blocked or dodged the same way.
        Ultimate Attacks can only be used by going into the ‘MAX Power’ state by charging up all the way, using up a Blast point in the process. MAX Power grants every character some bonus, such as automatically deflecting ki blasts, letting them use far larger punch combos, etc. This also lets them use the Ultimate Attack, which brings them back out of MAX Power mode, though Blast 2s do that as well. The Ultimate Attack, naturally, is much stronger than anything else the character can do.
        However, if you counter a beam or blast with one of your own, you will enter a beam struggle where you have to spin the analog stick enough to push your blast at the opponent, making both attacks explode in their face. With rushing attacks, using one of your own or using the Dragon Dash will let you do a similar clash. Spin the stick to deal out more hits to the enemy than they can to you, and if you win they will be knocked away.
        It should also be mentioned that the characters come in many different varieties. Normal fighters automatically gain ki up to a point, but otherwise have to charge it manually. Robotic characters cannot charge ki, cannot be found by normal means, as detailed below, and will automatically gain ki until they have the maximum amount, at which point they can charge to MAX Power. Dr.Gero and 19 are the exceptions, who only gain ki up to a certain amount and have to use various methods to absorb ki from their enemy.
        Giant characters are much bigger, slower, and more powerful than other characters. They cannot be thrown, and, barring a couple of exceptions, cannot be harmed by rush attack Blast 2s at all, and attempting one will only knock the other player back. They also heavily resist physical attacks in general, and most characters would be better off staying far away from them in battle.
        Another feature is that, given the environment is rather large, characters have to be locked onto each other to attack each other specifically. Some characters are better at finding their enemy than others- characters with Scouters can find them fastest, but the game also incorporates visible damage which also damages the Scouter, forcing them to resort to using their eyes if they lose track of the enemy, dropping them down to being the worst at finding them. Characters who know how to sense others, however, while less quick than a scouter, will never lose their speed. If the enemy has alot of ki they will appear on the radar when not locked on as a white blip, letting you find them more easily.
        Robotic characters like the Androids do not get such a blip, as they cannot be sensed, so they must be found by spotting them. Dr. Gero and Scouter character can spot enemies through walls and the like as well, but as already said Scouters can be damaged. Speaking of that damage, this can be accomplished via an Ultimate Attack, winning a beam struggle against the enemy, or by hitting them with a Blast 2 after they have already lost some health. However, in the third game only the first two cases will do it, making visible damage a bit rarer.
        In the second game you can unlock on your own and certain attacks that blow you away will make you lose your lock. However, in the third game you cannot unlock on your own, and the only way this lock can be lost is if you are hit by an Ultimate Attack, or if certain Blast 1s are used on you, like Solar Flare.
        In any case, let’s move on to talk about the first game. It is, compared to the other two, what I would call an obvious test of how this sort of game could work, much like the first Budokai game. While it featured the elements I talked about above, the game is much stiffer, giant characters were pretty much unstoppable, and you couldn’t transform in battle- you instead had to pick what form of your character you wanted to use. They also ripped music straight from the Budokai series, which isn’t bad, but it does seem a little odd given it’s a completely different game.
        I do, however, have to applaud that it had a very impressive intro move. In fact, take a look. It also had short clips before battles, often with a character attacking another, or just talking. Though the second game included similar things, these were longer and more sparse, while these were shorter and flowed smoothly into the actual battle. It also introduced the concept of the Dragon Balls being hidden in the game arena, and found by destroying parts of it like buildings or hills, which the rest of the games would emulate.
        Another thing that would be emulated is Ultimate Battle mode, where a player starts at rank 100 and tries to move up to the top by battling everyone in their way. Depending on how well the battle went, they may be able to move up extra ranks, get challenged by secret characters, and so on.
        The second game added the ability for certain characters to transform if they have enough Blast points, and added more characters. Like the first game it had a very large story move covering much of the anime, even larger if anything, and included a world map, letting you visit other locations to get items, fight additional enemies, and even recruit other characters to help you in the story battles.
        The characters can also level up, though the only function of this is to increase the power of the items you attach to them- such as a Health+1 turning into a Health+2. The level is also tied to their items. In any case, this and various other items that give set bonuses allow the player to create various custom versions of characters with greater power and capability.
        While the story mode was a lot of fun, it did suffer from an annoying issue- namely, regardless of the battle, you always play as the protagonists, and you must always win. This means that even though Gohan, for instance, lost a battle in the story, you still have to win, and the story will show him battered and beaten before the enemy you just defeated. It’s aggravating beyond words, honestly! There are three fights where this is not the case, however- if you lose, the game continues as normal, but if you beat the enemy you were supposed to lose to, you unlock a brand new story mode level based on what would have happened if things went differently.
        In addition, aside from adding new characters, the second game also made the already existing ones more distinct. For instance, Vegeta(Scouter), the earliest version from Vegeta, acts the same as regular Vegeta in the first game, but the two are given different moves in the second game to help differentiate them.
        Ultimate Battle makes a return as Ultimate Battle Z, where instead of 100 ranks you instead face various ‘towers’ of foes to defeat, such as taking on all of Goku’s rivals, movie villains, and so on. It is also the only way for characters you can’t play as in story mode to level up, and the towers even have different levels of difficulty.
        A World Tournament mode has been added, like the Budokai games, with three different varieties- World Tournament, where you face off with enemies in the World Tournement stage. Here attacks won’t knock people away as far, spectators cheer, and landing outside the ring results in a ring out. Cell Games takes place on the titular stage, so no ring outs here. Any damage you take in battle will stick around afterward, so care is required. The last opponent here will always be Cell. Lastly there is the World Martial Arts Big Tournament, which takes place on various Earth stages.
        Lastly, I must applaud that Tenkaichi 2 not only unique music, but more and far better music than it’s successor. If I could just rip the music and replace the third game’s music with it, I absolutely would. It’s that good!
        But speaking of it, let’s move on to the third game. It takes all of the characters and stages from the second game, and adds even more to them, though I must wonder what purpose the evening stages serve. Night stages let particular characters transform, such as Raditz, as they otherwise cannot. Evening stages aren’t actually at night, so they don’t give any benefit, they just take place in late afternoon. Further, stages like the Cell Games have an evening stage, but no night stage. I’m simply baffled.
        Also baffling is that as mentioned, they replaced the previous music with new tunes. Some of them are okay, but most I simply do not like at all, two of which, while good for their purpose, a credits theme and a menu theme, absolutely do not fit in a battle.
        However, just about everything else has gotten an improvement. More characters, more moveset changes to make them all more unique and memorable, and new features to make the gameplay more engaging, such as letting you view replays, the aforementioned night stages, and new battle mechanics like the Sonic Sway, which lets you dodge a flurry of basic melee attacks, draining the enemy’s ki in the process. It’s done by pressing the ki and guard buttons at the same time.
        The story mode is much shorter, only going over particular parts of the anime, but it includes dialogue before, during, and after the battle, whereas the previous games kept it solely in cut scenes. It also fixes the issue in the previous game which annoyed me so; now you play as the winning side of the conflict, whether that is the hero or the villain, and there is also certain points where you are prompted to press a button to proceed to the next phase of the battle, such as Frieza transforming, but you do not have to, opening up lots of ‘What if?’ possibilities.
        It also removes the levels from the second game, instead making items a fixed attribute. Winning battles instead gets Z-Points, basically money, to buy more items and unlock slots on the characters, eventually allowing them to use the maximum amount of seven. Some items cost more than one slot to use, however.
        Ultimate Battle mode returns for the last time, with three different challenges. Mission 100 has, as you might expect, 100 missions; each one has certain restrictions and enemies for you to face. You may be allowed to pick out a team of fighters, or only use one.
        Sim Dragon has you pick out a character and train them for ten days, focusing on training attack, defense, or both, but you lose health from training, and you lose stats from resting to recover health. You can also opt to use the Travel option, seeing a random character, which can help you or hurt you in some way. Once the time is up, you face a powerful adversary, the first of which is Cell in his first form, and a powered up Cell greets you on the third, fifth, and seventh bout afterwards.
        Lastly there is Survival mode, unlocked by beating Mission 100 completely, which has you face off with 50 opponents in a row with one character, though it does have some mercy- you regain a health bar after each. The first is Bardock war, pitting you aginst Frieza’s empire, and a powered up Frieza at every tenth match. The second is Dragon Classic, against original Dragon Ball characters, and lastly is All Star, against random foes, but they get successively smarter and stronger, until you finally face the most powerful enemy in the game, Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta.
        World Tournament mode is also back, this time with many more for you to try, but an odd system of using them- only one tournament and difficulty can be chosen at a certain time if you want to earn money from winning. Free Mode lets you pick any tournament or difficulty, but nothing is gained for winning. However, you get plenty of money in other ways, so it’s not a big deal. Still annoying though.
        The original World Tournament, Big Tournament, and Cell Games return, along with the Otherworld Tournament, featuring just about the strongest characters in the game. The Yamcha Games is the only one that you can never get money from- it also is entirely random in that you get a random character, with random customization(which may or may not matter, it depends on if you‘ve customized them previously), and a random color.
        Ultimately, I have to award the third game with having the best gameplay of the bunch, refining the mistakes and successes of the second and adding even more characters on top of it, and simply being the most fun. Now if only it did the same with music…

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