We've been doing this videogame reviewer racket for quite some time now, so we figure that makes us pretty qualified… as psychologists. And Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2, well, it's having an identity crisis if we've ever seen one. (We haven't). On one hand, it's undeniably Dragon Ball. You've got big men, bigger hair, and high-flying fisticuffs that make wire-fu films look downright plausible. However – probably in response to the super saiyan beating the first Raging Blast took from critics – Raging Blast 2 has opted to tone down its cutscene-heavy fan service, resulting in a game that's neither a perfume-scented love letter to fans nor a balanced, responsive option for fighting game nuts.
Above: A tale of souls and hair that's sharper than swords, eternally retold
This time around, the game's single-player story – known as Galaxy Mode – cuts out cutscenes altogether, essentially reducing the plot down to “Man/robot/alien 1 is angry. So is man/robot/alien 2. Punching ensues.” And no, we're not asking for a tear-jerking, thought-provoking masterwork from friggin' Dragon Ball, but the series has always thrived as much on build up as it has face-smashing, and without that, fights lose the epic, climactic feel that inspired so much rabid fandom in the first place. Instead of an actual plot, all Raging Blast 2 gives us is pre and post-fight trash talk, much of which doesn't even make any sense (Super Saiyan Trunks: “Hah! I didn't even need to go super saiyan to beat you!”).
In the end, Galaxy Mode boils down to a series of challenges – for instance, smash this guy until his body is composed of over 9000 bone fragments in under 60 seconds – with rewards that range from new attacks and stat boosts to images and things of the like for perusal in the game's museum. In theory, it sounds like a perfect blend of fan-pandering and addictive character-tweaking, but sadly, the museum's stock of still images is about as exciting as a convenience store postcard rack, and customizing your character doesn't alter the underlying combat enough to prevent it from quickly devolving into rote repetition.
Above: We're just gonna go with “ouch”
The only other single-player mode – aside from tutorial and training – is a long-form take on an arcade mode. You know, mop the floor with one character, then put your fistic janitorial prowess to the test against a slightly tougher fighter, and so on and so on. Again, it's nothing that will hold your attention beyond the point where you realize pretty much every single one of the game's 90 or so characters plays more or less the same way – with even flashy special attacks essentially putting on different nametags and then saying, “No, no. I'm totally not that guy who was just here a second ago.”
Now, that's not to say the fighting's all bad. It definitely captures the madcap pace and bone-shattering feel of a Dragon Ball Z battle, and it's even pretty fun – at first, anyway. Problem is, the combat's nowhere near deep or varied enough to support a fighting game all by its lonesome. Granted, with Raging Blast 2, it's taken baby steps in the right direction, with pursuit attacks keeping the action lightning-quick and relentless while Raging Soul and High Tension (both results of powering up) provide new avenues to ultra-powerful super attacks. Even then, however, those features are undone by a camera that frequently loses track of your opponent and some odd timing quirks that often result in your character bull-rushing an opponent, only to come to an abrupt halt right in his/her face and politely demand a nice kick in the teeth.
Above: An accurate depiction of what many historians believe David versus Goliath looked nothing like
Multiplayer, too, is a no-frills affair, running the usual fighting game gamut of one-on-one, team battle, and tournaments. Taking your customized characters online is definitely the high point here, but again, there's not all that much to do once you're there. There's also a small twist on team battle that forces you to choose characters within a certain power level range, but why play a Dragon Ball game if you're only gonna swim in the shallow end of the power level pool? Isn't that sort of missing the point?
But then, we suppose that describes Raging Blast 2 in a nutshell. It tries to cater to both fight fans and Dragon Ball's frighteningly devoted legion, yet fails to really hit the mark on either side. Instead, the game seems to be caught in an awkward in-between phase, and we can only hope it'll find its way out in time for the inevitable follow-up.
Nov 2, 2010