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Shin Budokai’ brings Dragonball to PSP

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Welcome to the world of Dragonball. The diverse world of Japanese anime has been shrunk down to portable size in the PSP game “Shin Budokai.” Despite some shortcomings when compared to its big console brethren, the latest foray into the Dragonball universe packs a punch for fans and newcomers alike.

Based off the recent “Fusion Reborn” film, “Shin Budokai” takes 18 fan favorites and places them within an on-the-go experience. The plot isn’t too complex. The barriers between heaven and hell have disappeared, creating an excuse for major defeated villains to return. In addition to these familiar foes is a new menace, the mysterious and powerful entity titled Janemba.

All of the 18 characters are unique with their own benefits and pitfalls. Most of them have multiple forms, such as a powered-up version that comes with a new three-dimensional image. Fans will be pleased to know that characters can level up in the middle of the match, adding more power to their digital avatar.

Fans of the show will recognize all of the characters, adding a proper level of depth to the cut-scenes. However, people new to Dragonball may find themselves ignorant and confused as to the events that unfold. For example, there is little explanation in regards to Fusions and Potara earrings, and they have a significant impact later in the game.

The cut-scenes are simple, consisting of a basic exchange between two characters. The voice actors for the characters do provide some of the voices, but they don’t contribute nearly as much as they did for the larger releases.

The actual game itself should be instantly familiar with most gamers. Featuring the traditional side view seen in most fighting video games, it is reminiscent of “Tekken” and “Soul Calibur.” However, the control scheme has been simplified from the aforementioned games. The player is able to fight in mid-air, suspended above the Earth with no loss of control.

Simply pressing a button, instead of a convoluted ritual, gives the player the ability to perform the most powerful special moves. Reserving a button for kicks, punches, blocks and special moves levels the playing field, eliminating the need to memorize complex attack patterns. However, it is easier to either block or completely avoid these attacks than in previous games. Using the ultimate attack and missing will leave the player open for a swift retaliation, making strategy key for success in this game.

There are a diverse number of game modes, but they manage to feel light compared to bigger predecessors. There is the Dragon Road, which is this game’s equivalent to a story mode. It is also in this mode that the rest of the locked characters are made playable. Following that is the Arcade mode, which is exactly what one expects from modern fighting games. There is a mode titled Z Trial as well, which is used to unlock cards and pictures within the game. Another friend with a PSP can play “Shin Budokai” competitively wirelessly, adding to the replay value of the game.

Once again, if you don’t know the difference between a Frieza and a Cooler, this game may not be for you. Based upon your love for either anime or fighting games, “Shin Budokai” may have some appeal. But for fans, this is the best portable Dragonball experience on the market.