Before getting into this review, I admit two things: 1. I’m not very good at fighting games. Never have been, never will be. 2. I despise anime. Well, most anime. Therefore, I’m no Dragon Ball fan, although I’ve certainly been exposed to a good number of video game incarnations in past years. Now, I suppose my dislike of Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 could be due to the aforementioned disclaimers, which I’m willing to accept. But at the same time, I just refuse to believe I’m that far off in the analysis. I can’t understand the purpose of implementing crazy intricate controls and mechanics when the novice need only mash on a few buttons. I can’t even fathom the most hardcore fans being interested in the story…because there is no story. I can’t understand how anyone could derive any fun from unlocking another useless collectible. But hey, maybe I’m wrong.
The visuals aren’t anywhere near as crisp or believable as they were in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 (which is a vastly superior game overall, by the way). The best part of Spike’s visual display is the character design, which remains faithful to the long-running franchise and should satisfy the fans. They really did put a lot of work into the depiction of those popular faces, which is why it’s a little confusing as to why the backdrops are stark and almost entirely barren. However, I do recall past Dragon Ball titles that suffered from this very same drawback; I guess this is a series that just doesn’t pay much attention to its surroundings. Well, okay. The animations are decent, too, and despite a few small technical glitches during intense encounters, the graphics come out being better than average. They’re just underwhelming.
Here’s a big plus for the sound category- the voice actors are straight from the TV show. That means the fans will quickly and easily recognize any given character, because each boasts the correct voice and the correct look. This is undoubtedly the most appealing aspect of the game; it’s a solid bit of fan service that should be appreciated. However, I’m not sure they used the music from the show…I accept that some of the voices will be terrible – I guess it’s DBZ’s MO – but at least they’re realistic; if that really is the TV soundtrack, it’s awful . Even if you’re a big-time follower, you can’t possibly think it’s any good, can you? That being said, if the developer’s goal was to present an authentic Dragon Ball atmosphere, and it both looks and sounds right, then maybe I shouldn’t complain. Maybe I’ll just issue a general complaint- please change the music in both the games and the show.
If you’re at all familiar with past installments in the series, you probably know what to expect. Raging Blast 2 does offer a few twists to the standard formula, but it’s easily recognizable as a DBZ production, even if those twists don’t do much to shake up the gameplay structure. Perhaps the biggest difference between this and other fighting experiences has remained: the inclusion of the sky as another fighting dimension. You can once again launch attacks from both ground and air, and as another nod to the fans, characters will basically do what they do in the show: they’ll freak out, shriek at nothing, and charge up world-ending special abilities. If you can unleash them, good for you. If you can’t, you can always focus on a few reliable attacks to get you through most encounters. As I said in the intro, it’s a weird setup: mashing buttons can work, but the learning curve for the super-ultra-powerful combos is crazy steep.
I think I pulled off one. Maybe two; hard to say. My biggest problem with the whole thing is the delay I suffered between each assault series; at the end of a combo – even a relatively simple one – my character would sort of just stand there. The problem with this is two-fold: firstly, it’s irritating, secondly, as super cool combos are the point of the game, it’s almost like you’re being punished for trying to play the game correctly. This leads me to the flip side of that coin, which is also this production’s biggest downfall. Because it seems as if an attempt at mastering the complex moves is discouraged, mashing buttons is encouraged. Well, if you wish to preserve your sanity, that is. While it’s true that you can’t win every time by slamming away at random buttons and being all inaccurate, it’s way too successful and leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
And as for those complicated maneuvers, which can include everything from aerial strikes to grabs, I don’t think they needed to be that difficult. I kept thinking it was a case of poor button-mapping because my fingers would get all twisted into a pretzel when attempting one of the over-the-top moves. But it might just be that the developers went overboard. When you pair this up with the button-mashing option and a huge number of characters that aren’t all that different from one another, you’ve got a fighting setup that flounders. The modes don’t add anything too spicy, either; and the online play is fine, but a little sparse. There’s the World Tournament mode that supports up to 16 players and it’s great for big-time fans, I guess, but I had difficulty finding anyone around. And when I did, I died pretty fast…but that’s just because I sort of suck at fighting games.
Yeah, I may not be very good at such games but I still know a good battling title when I see one, and this doesn’t qualify. I don’t care who you are; crazed DBZ follower or not, the combat mechanic is just silly unbalanced and seems to encourage the wrong way of playing. The backdrops are bland and uninspired, the top-tier combos are just way too hard to pull off, and that little delay between combos doesn’t fit and gets quite aggravating. On the plus side, you have the good character likenesses, the decent sound effects and voiceovers, okay control, a ton of characters, and the recognizable fanservice all the way ‘round. I understand making a game specifically for the fans but in this case, I have a feeling that even some of those people will be disappointed. Do they really want no story at all, even if it is a fighter…? The shows have stories, don’t they?
The Good: Good character design and animations. Flashy, fitting special effects. Huge roster of fighters. Twists on standard fighting mechanic still appreciated.
The Bad: Horrid music. Bland, barren landscapes. Overly difficult combo demands. Occasionally iffy control. Delay experienced after combo delivery. Not enough distinction between characters. Button mashing encouraged. No story.
The Ugly: The music. No, seriously. WTF.