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Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2
Score: 50%
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 fans are, for lack of better words, insatiable. Each and every year, a new DBZ themed fighting game is released. Sometimes, we get more than one. This isn't necessarily a good thing, though. Most of them are tired rehashes of the same stripped-down fighting game. Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 is a tired rehash of the same stripped-down fighting game that released last year. Sure, it's a pretty game. However, that's about as far as I can go with regards to praise. Unfortunately, Raging Blast 2 is a hollow, soulless fighting game that is 90% pure fanservice and 10% fun.

Raging Blast 2's art style nails the look of Akira Toriyama's now-ancient action anime franchise. Several other Dragon Ball games fumbled the transition into 3D, but Raging Blast 2 gets it right -- much like its predecessor did. The action is fast-paced and usually well-animated, though iffy hit detection prevents each brawl from looking as awesome as it does in the television show. The low point of the visuals is the interface, which looks like it was cheaply thrown together.

This game looks great, but the sound quality is sub-par. The voice acting of the entire series has been a subject of ridicule for a good while. (Don't believe me? Do a quick Google or YouTube search for "Over 9000") It's here in all its campy glory, so if you like it, you won't have anything to complain about. Each title in this series sports its own bland J-Rock anthem, and Raging Blast 2 features "Battle of Omega." It's the kind of aural dreck you'd get if you strangled the lead singer of Coheed and Cambria while forcing him to sing in Japanese.

Did you play Dragon Ball: Raging Blast? If you did, you've pretty much already played Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2. Would you blanch at the prospect of paying another sixty dollars to play it some more? That's the question Raging Blast 2 asks of you.

If you're familiar at all with the Dragon Ball universe, you can slip into Raging Blast 2 with no problem. If you remember a character who was capable of throwing down in a fight, chances are, he/she is in the game. This game boasts the biggest roster of Dragon Ball characters of any game in the franchise yet, though this variety is of almost no consequence to the barebones fighting system.

Galaxy Mode is the obligatory story mode that has been present in just about every Dragon Ball game leading up to this one. You take a character and revisit pivotal moments in his/her life. A word of warning, though: if you have no experience with the series, you're not going to be filled in adequately. As a whole, it doesn't amount to anything more than mere fanservice.

Of course, the experience doesn't begin and end with Galaxy Mode. You can earn Challenge Stamps by grinding through the arcade-style Battle Zone, and of course, you can take your game online. There's some variety to Raging Blast 2, but the most important part of a game isn't how many modes you can play around with, nor is it the fact that you can drown in a deluge of unlockables. The most important facet of a game is its fun factor. Raging Blast 2 fails in that crucial category, which renders everything else kind of meaningless.

Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 shares the original game's considerable difficulty curve. The controls are complex and very clumsy. You'll often find yourself doing something you didn't intend to do. Whether the results of your misinterpreted actions are good or bad, games shouldn't work like that. On the television screen (and in the manga), these characters make superhuman feats look as elementary as standing up and sitting down. The controls should reflect that. Instead, it forces you to contort your hands if you want to perform an action as ostensibly simple as flying up into the sky like a bottle rocket.

Fights (still) last way too long for their own good. Perhaps this is the developer's way of making up for the television show's ridiculous sense of pacing. As I noted in my review of the original Raging Blast, the show can usually be broken down into 10% action, 30% exposition and 60% still shots, slow panoramas, and random screaming. This game makes up for that, but not with the results you probably hoped for. Each fight in Raging Blast 2 feels like it takes forever to finish. In gaming, fights are supposed to be short, sweet, and intense. Drawing the battle out to lengths of over five minutes takes all the oomph out of each blow you land.

Game Mechanics:
From a fundamental standpoint, my biggest problems with Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 are the same fundamental problems I had with the game's predecessor. The original Raging Blast was host to a huge number of gameplay flaws that kept it from being a half-decent fighter. Sadly, none of the most grievous issues have been addressed in Raging Blast 2.

Raging Blast was rightfully knocked for its lack of depth. Each fight amounted to several applications of the same strategy: punch, punch, punch, punch, powerful kick, fly, fly, punch, punch punch, punch, powerful kick, BIG FLASHY KI ATTACK! Raging Blast 2 mixes up the formula ever so slightly by including a system that gives more power to your otherwise wimpy melee attacks, but it's not enough to make the fighting system feel deep or fun.

Now we get to the big one: the awful camera. Again, it's positioned at an angle behind your character's back. This is a lightning-fast three-dimensional fighter; you have to worry about several planes of movement and react to your opponent's actions quickly. However, the camera always feels unhinged, which leads to a lot of frustration. It loses track of your opponent, leaving you staring blankly at something you're not supposed to be looking at. When you finally catch up to your opponent, the camera often swings around wildly as the two fighters awkwardly get into position for some more attack spamming. It's nauseating and uncharacteristic of the franchise.

This franchise will probably always have a market. Lots of fans wish to recreate the dazzling martial arts spectacles they've seen or read about, and this medium is the undeniably the best venue for that purpose. However, Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 is much too clumsy and much too shallow to appeal to most gamers. On top of that, it's a staggeringly poor value for its price of entry. In the end, even the most hardcore of fans should give this one a pass. Better Dragon Ball games have come long before this one.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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