Since the release of the first Dragon Ball Z Budokai game, Atari has found the franchise to be its saving grace, as the games continue to perform exceptionally well with every release. Through collaborative efforts with Bandai, Atari has continued to release one DBZ game after another. And now that we're in an all new generation, it's time to release one in high-def.
Admittedly, it's been quite a long time since I've played a DBZ game, so I'll refrain from making any comparisons to past games. The control scheme of Burst Limit is pretty simple, you have two attack buttons, a Rush Attack and Smash Attack which you'll use to perform combos with. The Ki Blast is what you'll use to let-off fireballs and perform other special attacks. And, of course, you'll be able to guard attacks that come your way. When you move to the shoulder buttons, there you'll have access to the Blow-Away Attack, Transform, Aura Spark, and Pursuit actions.
Playing Burst Limit is pretty straightforward, but even though it's simplistic, you're still able to dish out some pretty solid combos on your opponents. Like all fighters these days, you can pop open a command list by pausing the game and there you'll see what moves and combos can be executed. Like I said earlier on, you'll primarily use the two attack buttons to dish out combos, but you'll also be able to mix up the mayhem with special moves, teleports, grapples, and other actions to mimic the fury of the anime. Furthermore, a tutorial at the beginning of the game will show you the ropes, in case you need a step-by-step demonstration of the game's mechanics.
What I like about Burst Limit is how accurately it represents the fights; if you let the game run on its own and watch the A.I. fight, it demonstrates that the game can do a pretty convincing job of mimicking the cartoon. It also encourages you to try and learn a lot of the moves in order to get more creative with your technique. While I wouldn't brand Burst Limit as a pick-up-and-play kind of game, the learning curve is relatively easy to overcome. Your first round may feel clunky, until you get used to the controls, learn some of the more basic combos and moves, and only then will things begin to click. The game's Training Mode should certainly help, too, as it offers a variety of options and exercises to toy with.
The story presentation is well done, so trekking through the story mode should be pretty enjoyable if only to watch the tale of each saga unfold through the in-game cutscenes. Even during fights the game will trigger different cut-scenes, called Drama Pieces, again, to make the fights feel more like the anime. Drama Pieces also act as a power-up of sorts, as they can have positive affects on a character, which includes increase in health, temporary increase in attack power, or a special-move performed by a partner. One example of a partner's aid is Piccolo assisting you with a Special Beam Cannon attack.
Completing fights also yields a ranking that spans a number of letter grades from D to Z (Z being the best, S being the second best, followed by A, B, C, and D). The Z-Chronicles mode is the game's core campaign mode, and here is where you'll embark over 50 fights, spanning across a variety of DBZ sagas, including the Cell, Frieza, Saiyan saga, on top of the Bardock and Broly storylines.
The more you play the Z-Chronicles mode, the more you unlock in the game. You'll first start out with a mere three fighters, but as you progress, you'll unlock the rest of the pack. While many of the fighters come featured in their base form, other fighters, such as Goku, Gohan, Piccolo, Krillin, Trunks, Vegeta, Frieza, and Cell boast more than one form. So yes, you'll get to experience all the golden-haired fury of a Super Saiyan.
An online mode lets you take your fights to the PlayStation Network, but gameplay is strictly limited to two players, and versus bouts. So if you're looking for a promising online experience out of Burst Limit, don't get your hopes up. Additionally, because Burst Limit is a fighting game, latency issues may cause problems for some, as the lag can eventually become annoying, especially when timing is a crucial aspect of the game's mechanics.
Visually, there's no doubt about it that this is the best looking DBZ game we've seen to date. It's also the closest we've ever been to the cartoon from a purely aesthetic point. Even though the characters are three-dimensional, they still retain the anime's signature look down to a tee. Fighters are brimming with all the details that their anime counterparts boast, so DBZ fanatics can rest at ease. Environments are large and very expansive, allowing you to fight on an enormous terrain on either the ground, or in the skies.
The audio is a love-it or hate-it affair. On one hand, if the English voice overs don't bother you, then you'll have no problem with leaving the default audio settings on. On the other hand, if the English voices do bother you, feel free to switch to the Japanese selection, and read the subs. Me personally, I prefer to keep my eyes focused on the action at all times, so the English voice acting does just fine for me. The one complaint I do have is that the punches, and other effects, could stand to have been a bit punchier and boomier. Otherwise, the audio is rather solid.
At the end of it all, Burst Limit is perhaps the best Dragon Ball Z videogame to date. Even though the online mode may be thin, there isn't much else beyond the single-player experience, there's still a solid foundation here for future games to come. Fans of the anime, and fans of the past games, should enjoy this first next-gen DBZ game quite a bit. It's visually accurate, offers both English and Japanese voice overs, and is accessible to nearly all kinds of gamers.