Each new Dragon Ball Z game is usually met with a wave of intense fandom – simply put, people loooove Dragon Ball. But we have to believe even the most ardent and hardcore fans will see past the ruse that is Dragonball: Evolution, a drab fighter further decimated by frankly embarrassing production values.
Dragon Ball Z fighters usually find success via an established mixture of flash and extensive content that delivers a reasonable sensation of what it might feel like to fight against other super-beings. Evolution, based on the live-action American film of the same name, instead significantly tones down the action and ends up with a 2D fighter that feels like a really simplistic version of Tekken.
Transformations are MIA, special moves are limited, and there's no world map to fly around – nay, Dragonball: Evolution is a straight-up button-masher. Frantically tapping the square and triangle buttons on all but the highest difficulty level will get you through most battles, and the game makes little effort to instruct you otherwise. And unlike the dozens of characters seen in earlier DBZ games, Evolution contains just 11 characters and environments, each as nondescript as the last. Without compelling character actions and enemy intelligence, it's hard to believe this bland, straightforward fighter will keep anyone interested for long.
Evolution would have been just another mediocre PSP fighter, but bargain basement presentation manages to make things significantly worse. The Story mode is the centerpiece of Evolution's offerings, but over the course of nearly two nonsensical hours, you may spend only 20 minutes fighting. Instead of filling the gaps with UMD-friendly film clips or fully voiced in-game cinemas, you'll instead be greeted by text-only interactions between static images of the film actors.
Fights between Son Goku and school bullies are not played or actually shown; rather, Goku's image scrolls across the screen and nudges the other character's mug shot. When a female character blushes, you don't see it – you read "*blushes*." As if the injection of high school drama into a franchise about badass martial artists wasn't lame enough, it's nearly impossible to follow the story when a game capable of showing you the frantic action instead opts to tell it to you via short conversational bursts.
But that feeling of cheap, lazy design resonates throughout Dragonball: Evolution, a game that ultimately seems more concerned with how often it displays the faces of the film's cast rather than creating legitimate use for them.
Apr 10, 2009