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Dragon Ball: Raging Blast
Score: 68%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Spike
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Dragon Ball Z was the guiltiest of pleasures for me during high school. Every day after school, I'd come home, turn on the television, and lose myself in the exploits of Goku, Piccolo, and the rest of the crew. After a while, though, I became irrevocably jaded with the television series. I realized that it followed a very rigid template. It was 10% action, 30% exposition and 60% still shots and/or incoherent leather-lunged screaming. I began to wonder if they could at least try to trim the fat. Then, the games were localized and released in North America. From the Budokai titles to the more recent Burst Limit, the game series attempted to condense the most exciting elements of the classic action manga/anime into a product all Dragon Ball fans could enjoy. Dragon Ball: Raging Blast is the latest of these efforts, and it's not a very good one. This disc is loaded with content, but the inconsistencies of the fighting system manage to bring the whole package down.

There's not too much to complain about when it comes to Raging Blast's graphics. The visuals are a clear and proud representation of Akira Toriyama's work; the characters look great, the destructible environments are easy on the eyes, and the comic book vibe brings it all together. However, the camera is a greater threat than the likes of Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu combined. Behind the back may be the perspective that allows you to get the best possible grip on your environment, but there's a problem: you're moving through three fully-realized dimensions, and when your opponent is right above you, you will often lose track of him (or her in the rare occasion).

Raging Blast scores par for the course when it comes to sound. That's not a good thing. Some of the voicework sounds reasonably authentic, but the lines and delivery are atrocious. This is made worse by the fact that many of your character's in-combat lines are repeated ad nauseum. The music is exactly what you'd expect for a game based on an action cartoon... which is also most definitely not good. It won't kill you to listen to any of it, but you'll at least wince at most of it.

I won't explain the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z mythos in too much detail, because those who have absolutely no experience with the franchise are likely not going to be interested in Dragon Ball: Raging Blast. However, here's a quick rundown: the adventures revolve around the heroics of Goku, a member of the ridiculously powerful Saiyan race. He is sent to Earth as a young child on a pretty awful mission, but through a mishap and the forging of a number of friendships, he forgets about the whole thing and becomes the de facto savior of Earth. The universe is populated with several alien races, few of which tolerate humanity's existence. A warning: if you don't know anything about the series, don't expect Raging Blast to fill you in.

Raging Blast is, first and foremost, a fighting game. There aren't many problems in the Dragon Ball universe that can't be solved with fists and energy blasts, and Raging Blast most certainly reflects that. The core gameplay is that of a fighting game, but this game utilizes a different perspective and a much different set of gameplay mechanics.

Dragon Ball Z is split up into sagas, and you can take part in each saga's most action-packed moments. From the Saiyan saga to the Majin Buu saga, this game follows all of it. Still, this progression is simply a themed version of just about every fighting game's single player mode.

Raging Blast's one major saving grace is in its multiplayer component. It's fun to take on your friends, and if enough people get involved with the online play, the Tournament system could prove to be quite a success.

Dragon Ball: Raging Blast has multiple difficulty levels to choose from, but regardless of which one you choose, your fights will rarely be easy. You've got to be quick with your reactions, or else you could find yourself at the end of a devastatingly powerful Ultimate Attack.

Reflexes aside, I can't honestly say that every loss is your own fault. The aforementioned camera will constantly work against you, and worse yet, the controls are selectively responsive. This is unacceptable for a fighting game as fast as Raging Blast. When things work the way they should, it's lightning fast and exciting. However, things rarely pan out that way.

Unless you are a hardcore Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z fan, you're not going to want to slog through each saga. That includes the prospect of unlockables, of which there are many. The fighting is that problematic.

Game Mechanics:
While it is somewhat fitting that Dragon Ball: Raging Blast's epic battles take place in full 3D, the behind-the-back perspective is obtrusive and occasionally nauseating. It also doesn't give you a good view of the standard action, which is already heavily flawed in and of itself.

Raging Blast gives you the ability to move in any possible direction: up, down, left, right, back, and forward. This is appropriate for the series, as the high-speed aerial pursuits are often a big part of the action. However, when they are combined with Raging Blast's stripped-down combat system, it doesn't feel very organic.

Standard attacks can be spammed or charged for different effects; it's a risk/reward mechanic that isn't always satisfying. You've got the (Square) button for close-quarters melee; successful melee attacks fill your Ki meter. The (Triangle) button is used for Ki attacks, and the Right Analog Stick for all of the insane super moves the Dragon Ball Z series is known for. Flicking the stick allows you to pull off a Super Attack, which causes heavy damage at the cost of a chunk of your Ki meter. Holding (Down) on the D-pad will charge your Ki more quickly, but at the expense of your mobility. A doubly charged Ki meter will send your character into High Tension mode. Pressing in the Right Analog Stick while in High Tension mode will unleash an Ultimate Attack, which does much more damage than a Super Attack. There's not a whole lot more to it than that. Since standard attacks rarely do much damage, the game becomes a race to build up your Ki meter and unleash as many Supers and Ultimates as you can.

I think I can speak for many gamers when I say that this series reached its high point with Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3. I don't understand why they couldn't have simply kept what worked while fixing the problems that remained, but that's a question for another day. Whether you're a hardcore fan of fighting games or all the products of the Dragon Ball universe, you should skip Raging Blast. In the developers' efforts to reinvent the wheel, they have ended up with a jagged pentagon.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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