The “Dragon Ball Z” Fighter And How It Has Evolved (Part 2)

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For those of you who’ve fallen off the grid, the world has more or less exploded with hype in the last week with the reveal and subsequent overflow of Dragon Ball FighterZ. News, dev interviews, and most importantly gameplay has been absolutely impossible to avoid. Some are even making breakdown videos of their time at E3 playing the demo build. It’s exciting. But, while we wait for our own taste, I wanted to take a look at how far we have come.

Last week, we talked a lot about some of the 2D games as they then transitioned to 3D, but this week we are talking about the era where DBZ games got…well…they were made. Let’s get started with the game that started what would become the new standard for DBZ fighting games.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai: Tenkaichi was a game that…it was an interesting game with a pretty good concept. Take the Budokai formula and make it more like the shows where instead of fighting on a small space, you widen the area horizontally and vertically. It sounded awesome! And for a time, it was. Sure, the cast was bloated…really bloated…(64 characters/90 forms bloated) but at the time, it was the closest we had to actually emulating the anime. Flying around and shooting Ki blasts at will from afar felt pretty good. The controls were a little…let’s say “nuanced”, but they weren’t intrusive. All around, good framework for upcoming games.
Then came Tenkaichi 2. More of the same, really. Except they trimmed down the story a bit while adding more characters. 100 characters in 136 forms? That sounded awesome, in theory. Why that wasn’t so great began to show in the next game, Tenkaichi 3. 98 characters with 161 forms sounds even better, until you see how many animations are reused. Sure, new animations came up in the form of a new dash mechanic, team attacks, and the like, but it wasn’t enough to hide how thin the game was stretching itself. Not to mention, the new tweaks didn’t make the game feel THAT much fresher. It was creating a situation where talking about games that would proceed it inevitably would be simply dubbed a “Tenkaichi” game. And…they weren’t completely wrong.
They also put this on the PSP as a tag game. No.
A strange entry in the catalog was Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit. I say “strange” because it was a major backpedal from the way they were doing games, which was arena style fighting. It looked nice and played similar to the original Budokai series, but it felt so…shallow. One, the roster was small for a DBZ game with some glaring omissions and only covered to the Cell Saga. As a personal fan of the Buu Saga, I was pretty disappointed. Still, it was a nice showing for those missing out on that style of game. 
But then they went back to arena style fighters! Why even make Burst Limit?? Why do that?? Not only that, but why make a fighting game like Raging Blast? That game was terrible! In motion, the game looked incredibly dated. I don’t know how they went from Burst Limit to…THAT. The UI was trash, the environments were way too flat and character models looked bag when not in a cutscene. All it had going for it were “cool” QTEs. That’s really it. AND IT GOT A SEQUEL!! 
Raging Blast 2 was…better? Only marginally. It looked better, but still looked like garbage. It moved the gameplay forward but only a little since it was still JUST Tenkaichi. Actually, as  I think of it, Raging Blast 2 wasn’t great. But it wasn’t as awful as what came before it. So, that was cool. Just another arena fighter, but not nearly as offensive. I could live with that description.
I’m going to make these next 2 really quick. Ultimate Tenkaichi looked pretty good, but was still just another arena fighter. Now with more QTEs. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great. This was a trend. The original Tenkaichi series was captivating because it was fresh and new. But they kept doing it with some tweaks here and there but nothing substantial. Battle of Z was, again, more of the same. You can customize people with stats and all these extra bells and whistles…but it was more of the same. Now featuring Beerus!
Okay. Now comes the games that hoped to combine Tenkaichi with MMORPGs. Dragonball Xenoverse was the first attempt and it guess what I’m gonna say. Go on. Guess. If you guessed “it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great” then you win. Another arena style fighter, another control scheme that was needlessly complicated or “nuanced” for those who liked it, and another bloated cast of characters. However, the REAL draw of this game was making your own character! That part was pretty awesome. I was pretty happy to have my own Majin (because they fascinated me more than Saiyans and humans sucked and the other classes might as well not be there). Plus, a new story? Well…mostly new, but new enough to to be called new. It didn’t exactly breathe fresh air into the Arena fighter, but it was a nice experiment. IF ONLY THE ONLINE WORKED.
But not everyone was a fan. Some didn’t like the customization options. Some didn’t like the tutoring system where you learn character moves but are loyal to a particular character. Some DIDN’T LIKE THE ONLINE. Well, Namco heard you and made a sequel that would attempt to fix those problems with varying results. Xenoverse 2 fixed some of the issues the first one had, especially with combat. At first, it feels the same. But as you get into it, the combat felt better here than any arena fighter before it. They were tight, streamlines, and overall good…for the games of this type anyway. It was flashier. It was bigger. It had Black Goku; yes that is a goddamn plus because Black Goku is awesome. I’d even say this was their greatest success when it came to making the Arena fighter. Still…it wasn’t perfect.
Missions were kinda lame, again with the bloated roster, the online was still kinda garbage, and it still suffered the problems of the genre; mostly an awful camera. Still, this was the best attempt thus far at the Arena fighter and at a great multiplayer experience. 
So now, here we are. I couldn’t talk about every game because then this series would take forever. But! In the next article, we’re gonna talk about 2 games; one released and the one that we’re all excited for. It’ll make sense next time. But, of the list here, did you see your favorite? Any of them you hate? Love? Let us know in the comments.

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