Sure, Super DBZ may look like just another entry in Atari's never-ending string of 3D Dragon Ball punch-ups, but don’t let the similar presentation fool you. This is meant to be a more serious fighting game; an attempt to bring the series to an older, more savvy crowd by using traditional fighting game mechanics and combo-heavy gameplay. And there's no greater evidence of that than the game's developer: Craft & Meister, headed up by Noritaka Funamizu. It's okay if you don't know the name, but we're betting you know his work. He's the man behind the genre-defining arcade slugfest Street Fighter II.
That’s not to say players will need endless practice with strings of increasingly difficult - and nonsensical - moves in order to enjoy any sort of success in Super DBZ. The idea is to make the game user-friendly, and thus the controls are still pretty basic. The buttons a player has at his or her command are light attack, heavy attack, jump back and dodge, throw, and of course, a button to fly. And along with the basic moves performed with these buttons, each character has two special moves at their disposal. The key is learning how to string all of these moves together in order to create devastating combos.
There’s a twist too. Characters you use often will actually be able to adopt special moves from other fighters in the game, and these tweaks can be saved to the memory card. This means that if your buddy brings his card over and you start to play the game, he might choose Android 18, but then unleash Goku’s powerful Kamehameha beam. It puts an interesting spin on the slightly crusty world of Dragon Ball Z, because you can't necessarily guess by looking what a character's powers will be.
The other bit that’s sure to interest fans of the series is the inclusion of an original character design: Mecha Frieza. Dragon Ball Z artist Akira Toriyama (also known in the videogame world for his work on the Dragon Quest series) actually did up a look for this character specifically for Super DBZ. So you know the hardcore collectors out there will have to pick this game up no matter what. Other combatants in the 18-deep roster include Krillin, Chi-Chi (who's never been in a DBZ fighter before), both good and evil Piccolo, Cell and Majin-Buu.
It’s nice to see a Dragon Ball game going for something a bit different with this new product, rather than simply milking the cash cow that is the Budokai series. With Craft & Meister at the helm, we may find ourselves fighting for this one.
May 8, 2006