games / Reviews

Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection (Xbox 360) Review

November 14, 2012 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Title: Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Genre: Fighting Game
Players: 1-2 Multiplayer
Rated: T for Teen


I’ll get it out of the way now, I originally wanted the final score of the game to be, “It’s over 9000!….out of 10”, however the site tools don’t allow for such tomfoolery, so I’ve been denied.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is the collection that no one really asked for. While Budokai 3 is fondly remembered, Budokai 1 is less thought of, and Budokai 2 is nowhere to be found in this collection at all. That says a lot about the relative quality of each Budokai game really, but that’s an argument for a different time. Budokai 3 has aged fairly gracefully, all things considered, while Budokai 1 has some more issues that hinder it. However both games are collected in a shoddy game, with no substantive extra’s or upgrades at all.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai 1 is arguably the first “decent” DBZ game that came to US shores. While there were prior games at the time that came to America, notably DBZ: Ultimate Battle 22 or Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, none of them were really any good. Budokai 1 was the first game in the DBZ license to really attempt to get a melding of a good combat engine, precise controls, a storyline approximating the DBZ fiction, and graphics that were on par with the cartoon. Back in 2002, the game largely succeeded by hitting all of those check boxes, especially when DBZ was approaching its high point in terms of popularity. Now though, 10 years later, the game hasn’t aged too gracefully. It still is kind of playable, but a few things really detract from the overall experience.

Budokai 1 is a 2/3D fighting game where you use various DBZ characters to pound on other DBZ characters. With a roster of only 23, it is missing some of the newer characters that came through later on. Notably, the game stops at the Cell Games storyline and that’s it. The later Majin Buu/Fusion storylines are absent, as are the characters associated with them. While that’s distressing to some fans, the game came out in 2002, so the Majin Buu stuff was barely even out in America at all. It’s not a huge omission, because that storyline is where DBZ kind of went off the rails some.


You can punch, kick, shoot energy blasts, guard, and charge Ki, like you would imagine in a fighting game. Punching and kicking flows very naturally in the game, with a fairly easy combo system, pressing the punch button 4 times in a row will net you a 4 hit combo. You can mix and match punches and kicks into various combo’s, but there is a limit of about 5 hits in a combo. This helps prevent stun-locking, both against the enemy, and against you. When you press the Energy attack button in-line with a combo, you can pull off a special attack. Pressing the Punch button 4 times, then the Energy button nets you the Kamehameha special attack (or equivalent with your specific character). This is the only way you can do special attacks in the game is from these dial-a-combos button sequences. The sequence for the Spirit Bomb is, Forward and Punch (at the same time), Punch, Punch, Kick, Energy button. I tried it for about 10 minutes on a training dummy and could not hit it once. The Forward + Punch command is the one that screws it up. The last big offensive thing is the “Burst Attack”, which you can sometimes trigger. If you press the Punch and Kick buttons at the same time, you’ll do a charged up move. If the enemy is also doing this move, the game cuts away to a little minigame where you and the enemy are trading loads of attacks with each other. You have to rotate both analog sticks as quick as possible for you to win the duel against the enemy. It’s not particularly deep, but it does replicate some of the show’s fighting style.


The defensive end is a little more basic. You can block attacks, but it always is a bit laggy. You can also dodge in and out of the dimensional plane by pressing the guard button and up or down (like in Tekken or Soul Calibur). You can also deflect/reflect the basic Ki blasts, but the timing never feels quite natural. If you hold the guard button, and tap the away (from the direction you’re facing), this lets you build up you Ki energy for your energy attacks.

The fighting engine just feels sluggish though, whether you’re attacking or defending. I found I was entering in special move combos too quickly for the game to actually recognize. The defensive stuff feels slow, and occasionally cheap, with you holding down the guard button and your character not guarding for a good 3 or 4 seconds. The game is fairly easy (generally speaking), but this lag seems to pervade the entire game.

Budokai 1 has the standard modes you’d want in this type of game; story, duel, “World Tournament” (tournament fighting), Practice, and Edit Skills. Most of these are self-identifable, except for the Edit Skills one. You can get skills as you play the game, or buy them from a skill shop. Skills allow you to customize your character with various attributes, ability, physical, and support. Ability is what energy/flashy attacks you can do, Physical is about what melee attacks you can do, and Support is about altering battle conditions, or helping you out during the fight. This whole skill system gives you a reason to play more than you’d want, in order to collect all the various skills you want for your characters. None of it feels “important”, it’s more of a time-waster, but it is there.


The story mode is what you’d expect, really. You play as Goku (largely) and go through the various sagas, fighting the enemies that present themselves. Not to blow your minds or anything but your first fight is against Raditz. The second fight is against Nappa. Three guesses who you fight as the 3rd enemy. You can play as a few different characters at the start, but can’t switch out mid-saga to a different one.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 is largely everything from Budokai 1, but squared up. The fighting system is improved, there are double the selectable characters, there is a much better story system, as well as a ton of new secrets for you to discover and accomplish.

The fighting system is about 85% the same as in Budokai 1, but with a few notable additions. The biggest one is you can now just do special moves at any time. Instead of having to mash out a combo to throw a Galick Gun or Kamehameha, you just press down, forward and Energy attack. It doesn’t make every special attack work like a Hadouken, but the simple stuff can be used (and abused) very often. They took out the “Burst Attack”, and have 3 mini-games to replace it. If you and your enemy use a special attack, they can do a “Beam Struggle”. This is a tug-of-war with the energy in the attacks, and you just have to rotate the sticks in order to win (so functionally, it’s the exact same as the Burst Attack).


There are two mini-game additions to the battle system. The first is a guessing-game for Dragon Rush attacks. A dial appears on the bottom of the screen, and you press a face button. The enemy also presses a face button, and the buttons are compared to each other. If you press Y and the enemy presses X, then the attack is successful. You do this up to three times (with each button being taken away), and can keep the game going. If the enemy guesses the same button as you then they break the attack off and don’t take as much damage for that turn. This can happen against you also, with the enemy having three times to attack you, so it helps even the game out some. The other mini-game is about ultimate attacks. When you do an ultimate attack, four bars appear on the bottom of the screen (two for you, two for the enemy). You press X, and your bar starts going up, up to three full cycles. The goal is to fill up the 2nd bar, with as much of the first bar (by pressing X), just before it cycles to empty. Your enemy is also trying to fill their bar up with the other bar as well. Whoever has the most in the 2nd bar (at the end of the cycles) “wins” the duel, and either your attack is successful, or else they defend against it. Like the Dragon Rush, the enemy can also use an ultimate attack on you, which causes you to try and defend against it.


The biggest improvement that Budokai 3 brings to the table is the “Dragon Universe” mode. This is their version of a story mode, but it has a lot of things going for it. Unlike in the first Budokai, you can freely select which character’s story you want to play, at any time. There are 11 different stories to go through, so it’ll take you a fairly long time to get through them all. The character’s themselves also have stats/levels associated with them. After a battle, you’re given experience and can level up from the fight. You can then put a point into Health, Ki, Attack, or a different attribute that helps improve your fighter. There is an over-world you can fly around and explore also. It’s fairly devoid of stuff to do, aside from an occasional secret item to find, money to collect, or side-fight to partake in, but at least it’s something. This game also extends the DBZ storyline, so all the Buu stuff is included. The individual stories are fairly short though, with about 15or so fights constituting an entire storyline. There are a good chunk of secrets and branching-path stuff you can unlock, so you may want to use a guide in order to maximize your time in this mode.


Aside from that, everything is just about the same as from Budokai 1. There is a duel mode, World Tournament mode, Practice mode, and the skill shop. The skills are a bit changed, foregoing the classes from before, and letting you have 7 slots for any skill you might want. A lot of them are character-specific, but you still can customize your characters as you see fit. The menus in this game are a bit of a mess, with them not explaining stuff that well. There is a help function, but it doesn’t go far enough.


The HD-ificiation process was not especially kind to this game. While the gameplay looks “ok” enough, you begin to notice ugly little details. The environments are flat and oddly textured. There is a bit of softness in the details that is a bit noticeable. The end credit movie looks like it was in about 336/252 resolution. It’s really bad when you can notice artifacting on an anime movie sequence. The characters do look good though, and some of the special attack effects look nice, but a lot of animation is repeated in both games, making them not distinct at all, visually.


The back of the box proclaims that a new soundtrack is included in the games. I won’t venture a guess why, but it sounds decent enough. All anyone ever really cares about is the “Rock the Dragon” theme, and that is included in Budokai 1. Sound effects are lifted straight from the series, so they fit in well. Some of the voice acting sounds pretty odd in the game though, especially where Budokai 1 is concerned. I know most of the characters have gone through various voice actors, so some of what you might listen to, won’t jive with what you remember from the show. There is an option to turn on Japanese voice acting in Budokai 3.

Lasting Appeal

I would say the concept of how long you could spend with this game is directly proportional to, A. How many fond memories you have of playing them before, or B. How big of a DBZ nut you are. If you answered “A ton” to either question, then this game will keep you entertained for days. I don’t think the battle system really holds up well in either game. In Budokai 1 it’s laborious and imprecise. In Budokai 3, it’s easier, but very button-mashy and random. There is a lot of content packed into Budokai 3, but less so than in 1.

As far as the HD Collection part goes, there is absolutely nothing. No special features, Easter eggs, concept art, videos, or anything. There is just a flat menu that asks which game you want to load. You can’t even get back to this menu, once you’re in a game, requiring you to restart your console, or go back to the dashboard. Budokai 1 doesn’t even have vibration support, which I thought was a Microsoft rule for a disk-based game. The achievements/trophies are also fairly insane, and require a lot of busy-work for you to unlock most of them. I’m also really not sure which version of Budokai 3 is included in this collection. There were two different versions of the USA game, with one having more content than the other. Also, no online multiplayer….so you won’t have any fun with that.


The 411

Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is likely to only appeal to the few of you who are still Dragon Ball Z fans. For most of us, we grew up and abandoned childish shows and childish games. The collection is a nice trip down memory lane, but that’s really all it is. The nostalgia factor goes away after a while in either game, because of antiquated game design makes it a more frustrating experience, rather than the fun experience you remember from a decade ago. That’s not to say either game is truly “terrible”, that’s what the really old, and the really new DBZ games are for, but it is wooden in spots. The HD upgrade is a white lie when it comes to this game, they simply crammed both games onto one dvd, added in modern controller/save standards and sent it out the door. I’d recommend this game to the die-hard fans only.

Graphics6.5Budokai HD approximates the style of the anime, but it isn't really enough. The HD upgrade is barely noticeable, and some backgrounds are hideous. 
Gameplay7.5Budokai 3 holds up decently well, but Budokai 1 less so. The combat is basically the same for both games and is enjoyable superficially. 
Sound7.0Some of the voice acting sounds a bit off, especially with the minor characters. There is new music in the game which seems passable enough. 
Lasting Appeal6.5Budokai 3 has a ton of secrets for you to explore, but Budokai 1 has far less than that. The collection adds nothing in terms of extra content. 
Fun Factor 6.0Combat in both games feels off and outdated. It's great for the few remaining DBZ fans out there, but the world, and games have moved on from this type of game style. 
Overall6.7   [ Average ]  legend

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Marc Morrison
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