Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 16th, 2015
Price: $59.95 AU – Available Here / $29.95 US– Available Here
Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is the first Dragon Ball title to be released for the 3DS outside of the currently Japan-only Dragon Ball Heroes. Although the first for the handheld, it is far from being the first 2D fighting game revolving around the popular anime series. Hopes are high this time around with Arc System Works developing the game, who people might know from their work on the popular Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series and also for creating Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors and the sequel for the original Nintendo DS. Does Extreme Butoden live up to it’s name or is it just a bluff? Continue reading our full review to find out.
Extreme Butoden features 2 main story modes in Z-Story and Adventure mode. Don’t be fooled by the trickily named Quest Mode which also features in the main menu, which is sadly a simple Streetpass profile trading feature and although I didn’t get a chance to test this feature out with another person, based on that description I really can’t see it being anything worth anyone’s time.
Z-Story follows the story of Dragon Ball Z as it has been told and retold over the past 20 or so years now with some very small, unimportant changes. Your first run through story mode will see you take on the biggest 10 fights that the game allows with it’s playable roster. After that you unlock character specific stories that focus on battles involving that particular character, which means a lot of the stories overlap with each other leading to the same fights.
The story is told in the blandest way possible, using text, still portraits and a few sound effects to try and convey some of the shows more epic moments. Long time fans will most likely be bored while people not entirely familiar with the story of DBZ will be left lost as characters come out of nowhere and events spanning several episodes are summed up in a single sentence. Z-Story mode is essentially the most bare bones story mode you could ask for in a Dragon Ball Z game. It’s serviceable but ultimately mediocre at best.
Where both new and old fans alike can have a bit of fun is in the decently lengthy Adventure mode where there is an original story that, from what I can gather, takes place sometime after the end of Dragon Ball GT but with anomalies all over the place such as Kami being alive and Supreme Kai and Kibito not being fused. The plot centers around a slowly-becoming-stale plot device about how time has become distorted thanks to the Black Star Dragon Balls. It’s basically an excuse to get every character in the one place, however there is actually some well written dialogue spoken between some characters that should please the hardcore followers, even if there are some strange inconsistencies that will no doubt irritate them. Being a fairly hardcore Dragon Ball fan this is honestly one of the best original storylines I have played in a Dragon Ball title, rivaling Shin Budokai 2 on the PSP and Dragon Ball Xenoverse in terms of script and scale although not as well presented.
In Adventure mode players visit 8 worlds with a number of stages on each in a very similar style to a Super Mario Bros. map. Most of these stages are simple battles but will often have a reward on offer (mostly an unlockable support character) if you can get an s rank by playing well and satisfying a certain condition like end a battle with a super attack or land 3 of a certain combo. Not all missions are battles though, with some simply being talk missions that extend the story and offer a reward as a freebie.
Outside of those two modes there is a free battle mode, vs mode (offline, local only) and extras mode. These modes are perfect for what they are, allowing you to make your own dream teams and pit them against whoever you like. There really is no excuse to omit online multiplayer these days but unfortunately that is the road taken here and it does limit the games replayability if you don’t have another person to play against. Extras mode is also pretty lacking, only featuring profiles for the playable characters and a sound test.
Extreme Butoden is a strictly 2D sprite fighter. Each character has the same inputs and move similarly, but each has different abilities, special attacks and ultimates. A good example is the basic ki blast, where Goku will simply fire a single ki blast forward, while Vegeta will jump into the air and can perform a rapid barrage of ki blast if you keep mashing the A button. This makes being able to use any fighter a lot easier while still providing a sense of variety among the fighters.
Honestly, I don’t feel 2D games are well suited to the Dragon Ball license as they limit too much of what the characters can do but Arc System Works has done a good job with the combat system here. Fans of the old 2D sprite based Dragon Ball games from times past will love the action on offer here as it’s basically a much more refined version of those older titles. Players have basic attacks, heavy attacks, ki attacks, specials and ultimates available at their disposal as well as a basic guard and evade button which can set you up for a combo if timed correctly. While the combat can appear simple on the surface there are some techniques advanced players can master such as the Z-Cancel and evade. The game fits the moniker of easy to pick up hard to master perfectly, with simple combos being easy to perform and even super attacks having basic inputs.
Back to the roster, thanks to the time and effort required to create sprites, Extreme Butoden features a rather small 25 playable characters (5 of which that are unlockable) and that is a little disappointing, with some major omissions including Tien, Yamcha and Android 17. In a cast of characters this diverse exclusions are always disappointing, especially after being spoiled for choice with countless other titles. The other 75 or so support characters help ease the pain, but only go so far to expanding the combat system, either providing a small attack such as Yamcha’s Wolf Fang Fist or a buff or de-buff such as Oolong that summons a de-buffing pair of panties that humorously stick to your opponent.
Fans of sprite work will love the visuals here and considering the 3DS isn’t a graphical powerhouse the sprites are very well detailed for the most part. Animations are fluid and physical attacks look great and impactful. You can get some pretty epic back and forth fight sequences together if you and your opponent are both capable players, vanishing behind each other and unleashing powerful combos. The dynamic camera that shakes, zooms and follows the characters around the screen makes the battles even more of spectacle. The game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second which is a big plus for the visuals and gameplay.
The 3D background environments look pretty good and I will give the artists credit for accurately translating iconic locations from the show into the game, even if I feel 2D backgrounds would have been a better choice for a sprite styled game. Menu’s and UI are all easy to understand and navigate as well except for the blue bar next to the green guard meter which I’m still not sure about what it represents. Sadly the biggest negative is the ultimate attacks, which look accurate but are way too drawn out and uninspired on the presentation side, turning what should be an epic looking attack into a boring experience which really takes the pace out of the fight.
Any Dragon Ball game with an animated opening sequence scores a few bonus points in the visuals category for me and it was nice to see a really fun, well animated opening here that mixed in some characters you wouldn’t normally see in these sequences. Where the game loses a few points is the over world in Adventure mode which looks very rushed, but this can be overlooked as the it serves no real purpose outside of being a glorified level select feature.
The game features an excellent, high energy soundtrack that fits perfectly with the pace of the fights. Outside of the music the sound quality for the sound effects and voices is a little on the low side even with a pair of headphones plugged in, however this might be a deliberate effect to try and replicate the older days where sprite based games were in their prime.
Unfortunately anyone hoping for the English dub will be dissapointed as the game only has Japanese audio and there aren’t really any subtitles to translate what the characters are saying. I can’t comment too much on these voices as I normally listen to the English dub, but from what I’ve heard in game and heard from source material the voices all match up well to the original actors and their actual acting is on par with what you would expect from those characters.
Extreme may be a little too substantial of a word on this occasion. Maybe Dragon Ball Z: Good Butoden would have been a more accurate title despite not sounding quite as impressive. While the bland presentation of the main story mode makes it a bit of a chore to play through, the well written Adventure Mode makes up for this with it’s all new scenario and fun mission based story levels. The core gameplay here is fun, fast paced (outside of the way too drawn out Ultimate Attacks) and looks impressive thanks to the great sprite work, but a small roster means your favourite fighter may be sidelined to the support character selection screen. The graphics are solid as is the soundtrack in what is a well polished game, but the lack of an online mode will leave some players wanting more. Extreme Butoden is a solid Dragon Ball title that is arguably the best in it’s genre, however is lacking compared to some of it’s other franchise entries.
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