Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z review: sleepy fighting

Namco Bandai has been cranking out Dragon Ball Z games for years, and for the most part, they've largely remained the same. Players go into an arena and battle, charging up special attacks that knock opponents into the next stratosphere. Battle of Z is the latest take on the anime series. But is it able to break the mold?

Battle of Z is largely reminiscent of the Tenkaichi series, where players battle in 3D arenas, locking on, teleporting, and firing projectiles--based on one's energy level, of course.


Unfortunately, the combat in Battle of Z isn't just repetitive, it's downright dull. The gameplay doesn't afford tactical strategy, with players restricted to essentially attacking from a distance or at close range. There's no attempt to offer more depth beyond the same old dial-up attacks. There are various game modes, but because the core fighting engine doesn't ever change, players end up doing the same old thing no matter what's chosen.

A new card-collecting game seems promising at first, but it simply takes too long to unlock better cards. Ultimately, this serves as an excuse to grind through battles--and that's simply not worth it.

Online team fights could have added some much-needed complexity to the game, but iffy servers and unreliable lock-ons devolve multiplayer battles into free-for-alls with no semblance of player agency.

At least for anime fans, Battle of Z offers some of the best representations of their beloved characters. Thanks to polished lighting and animations, the characters and backgrounds have never looked better. However, the behind-the-shoulder camera still leaves a lot to be desired, as it obstructs the view of the battlefield. Voice actors from the series reprise their roles as well, even if repetition sets in rather quickly.

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Ultimately, Battle of Z offers Dragon Ball Z fans more of the same: another chance at seeing their favorite characters pummel each other. However, without a real fighting engine to support the game, hardcore fans haven't just played this before, they've probably already played something better. [3]

This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy provided by the publisher. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z is available for PS3, PS Vita, and Xbox 360. The game is rated T.