Let me start by saying I am a HUGE Dragonball fan. I have watched the entire series beginning to end multiple times. I am also a fan of most of the games. The Budokai series, Tenkaichi, and the first Raging Blast did an excellent job of making you feel like you were in the show. I also enjoyed some of the Super Famicon, GBA, and PSP games as well. My all time favorite DBZ game though, was a PS1/Saturn import by the name of Dragonball Z Legends. Simple, yet enjoyable fast paced game play, the ability to form teams and fight multiple opponents, the game was just a thrill to play. When Dragonball Z: Battle of Z was announced and shown for the first time, it reminded me a lot of that game, almost as if it were a remake of sorts. I was excited to not only have a new DBZ game to play, but finally to have one for my PS Vita and I couldn't wait for it to come out. Then it did, and I must say, even though I find it difficult to, it just isn't what I expected. I looked at this game both as a fan, and as someone who merely spent money on a game, but no matter how I viewed it, I just didn't find much here to like.
Gameplay-4/10 One of the thrills of a DBZ game is feeling like one of the Z fighters. Charging up huge ki blasts, charging up your power(and having to keep an eye on it) and of course, when things are looking bleak, transforming into a more powerful form, such as a Super Saiyan. None of these things are possible in Battle of Z. Everything about this game seems like a step backwards. Including a large cast of 70 characters, it's actually quite smaller due to the fact that each transformation is a separate fighter. Battles are still fast and furious, with up to four fighters on each team, it's just that the combat is so simplified, any type of real strategy, besides mashing a button, is gone. You have one, yes I said one, button for melee attacks, another for a small ki blast, neither of these offer the option to charge up for more powerful moves. The other two face buttons are for ascending and descending, since the fights take place both in air and on ground. Lock-on and a block round out controls. Combining the block and face buttons allow you to use a unique move(different for each fighter) or send you opponent flying. By charging a meter, you can unleash a special or ultimate move in time. Also, by using the cross pad, you can give you teammates general strategies, though don't expect much since they tend to be pretty dumb. It's a simple game to learn, and doesn't offer much more besides different cards to mildly customize your Z fighter. You advance through stages following the story line all the way up to Buu, fighting up to four opponents at a time. You can support your teammates and even heal them when needed. I found the cpu controlled teammate's AI rather stupid, sometimes standing right next to me doing nothing as I needed to be healed up. They also seem to get knocked out too easily, and way too frequently. You can also play online or in adhoc which, most of the time offers smarter teammates, but these are separate modes. One of the better features of the game is being able to fight large opponents like the giant ape. Also, being able to lend and receive power for the spirit bomb was a nice touch. The special moves feel lackluster, with even the Kamehameha wave just not having a real sense of power. It's also strange to see Goku and friends running around on the ground. Without the ability to charge your ki, you will occasionally run out of energy if not careful. I found it embarrassing for a Super Saiyan to be frozen from weakness, whining how he's out of power. It just seems like, because the game is online, it was simplified to allow anyone to play. The lack of a deeper fighting system is quite disappointing, especially with how many other fighting games are available for the Vita. Though, to be fair, Dragonball games are rarely like other fighters. As you go about defeating opponents each level, you unlock either more of the story or side and alternative missions. The missions are hugely unbalanced, ranging from "why even bother" to "this is stupid, I give up". The fights are sloppy, and sometimes incredibly cheap. You have to pay attention and resurrect the idiot cpu teammates, because they will use up your limited continues. You will be attacked by multiple opponents sometimes, leaving you to wonder what your teammates are actually doing. I found myself playing just to push through stages and unlock characters rather than having any real fun, and for a Dragonball game, that's a shame to me.
Story-6/10 If you've seen Dragonball or played any of the games, the story is not going to be new. It vaguely follows the events starting with the Saiyan saga and the arrival of Goku's brother Raditz. It moves on to the arrival and eventual defeat of Vegeta, transitioning into the Namek saga. After toppling the tyrant Frieza, it's the start of the androids leading to Cell. Finally ending with the tale of Majin Buu. It covers the basics, but barely, leaving out scenes, the story loosely just fits together. There are some in between fights such as Cooler and Hirudegarn, which are pieces from side stories in the films. The game does an okay job of recreating the story line just basic enough, though earlier games have done it much better. The story is not new, but it's impossible to really complain or judge the game on that, it has pretty much been the exact retelling of events in every game, give or take a few details. It does include characters from the new Battle of Gods movie, which is a nice touch, buts that's about it for new material.
Multiplayer-5/10 The multiplayer aspect of the game is where it both shines and what ultimately holds it back. Being able to play online is pretty fun, there is very little that can compare to an all out 4 vs 4 battle with all real people. It's fast, chaotic, and you can tell right away that multiplayer is what the game was meant for. Even with the limitations of the combat system, there is still some fun to be found, just don't expect to be blown away. As quick as the game moves, I only experienced some hiccuping a few times, nothing game breaking, but still annoying. Exclusive to the Vita version is the ability to play adhoc mode with friends that are close by. It really is a nice feature to have when available, just to be able to mess around with a sibling or buddy. Unfortunately, I feel it being online is why it's so shallow. You can buy a 10 year old this game and with a little play time, they'll be able to hold their own just as well as anybody. I can understand a steep learning curve like in Tenkaichi can be a turn off, but Raging Blast offered a flexible fighting system that could be played and enjoyed by almost anybody, while rewarding those who practiced with the feeling of more skill. I feel that's what a DBZ game should feel like, experience and training making a notable difference, almost as if your power level was higher. In the end, multiplayer can be a fun experience, but not enough to save the day for this game.
Replay-4/10 If you are into unlocking side stories, characters, and cards to customize them, there is some replay value here. Online and co-op play means you can jump on and continue to have a battle or two long after the game is completed. Anyone looking for a deeper fighting experience though will either move on or go back to the better Dragonball games. All in all, there just isn't much here, even for the hardcore DBZ fans like myself. It's fun playing as your favorites, but once you realize how limiting it is, even the best imaginations couldn't make this a good game.
Graphics/Sound-8/10 Graphically, there is very little difference, if any, on the PS Vita compared to consoles. The HD cell shaded characters look amazing on the Vita's screen, as does the world you fight in. The action is fast, and the animations are smooth. Battlegrounds have many breakable objects that look awesome when smashing your opponents through or you, yourself getting knocked into. Having played the PS3 version, I was surprised how great the Vita Battle of Z looked. The cell shading art has fit the DBZ games perfectly since being introduced, and honestly, there isn't much you can do to make it look better. Raging Blast 2 tried, and everything ended up looking just strange and sparkly. That also means nothing much has changed, I could easily just say, it looks like a Dragonball game. The sound effects and voices are all nicely done and implemented well into gameplay. Hearing Goku plead for you to lend him some power put a smile on my face(you can even download a free Japanese voice add-on if you prefer that). All the characters sounded like themselves, though Frieza seemed a little off. Hearing sounds like your fighter disappearing to chase your opponent were also really cool and satisfying. The soundtrack consists of a few new tunes as well as some reused tracks from Raging Blast, fitting the game appropriately. I would love a game that featured some tracks from DBZ composer Bruce Faulconer, but perhaps that's a wish for the Dragonballs.
As a serious fan, it was difficult to admit that this game just isn't very good. It's only mildly fun and some what cheap to play in single player mode, and at the current price, isn't worth it just to sit down and have a game or two. The enjoyment I did find could easily be found in other, better DBZ games. I haven't felt this disappointed in a Dragonball game since Supersonic Warriors. I don't believe people just go out and randomly buy a game like this, Dragonball games are bought by Dragonball fans. By simplifying combat to a single button combo and stripping away key features such as transformations and charging ki, things that should just be a given in any Dragonball game, it just takes away too much of the experience we crave. Online can be fun, and perhaps is the best part, I would go as far as to say this game should have just been a F2P(free to play) multiplayer arena game, where you could just purchase the characters you want. I can't count story and graphics much in this review because it's Dragonball and it's all been done before. The story isn't new and probably never will be, also the graphics don't change too much. So the overall score comes down to the core gameplay, and this is where this game lacks the most. Even for a non-fan, this is really nothing more than a very shallow button masher filled with some known faces. If you are looking for a team based fighter(it's definitely meant to be a multiplayer experience) or just need to own anything Dragonball related, you may enjoy it. Anybody looking for more won't find much here, even if you love the franchise and try. There are definitely better fighting games out there for the Vita, but being the only DBZ game on the system, I can only see recommending it if you really need your Dragonball fix.