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Tenkaichi’ a treat for Dragonball die-hards

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes.

For the past three years, the game developer Dimps has handled the creation of each new iteration from the Dragonball Z series. While their efforts have certainly been solid, there was relatively little improvement from one to the next. Gameplay mechanics was changed, as well as the character roster, but the basic fighting engine remained relatively untouched.

The last version featured an impressive roster, but some broken gameplay mechanics. It was a solid effort, but showed plenty of potential for improvement. Being Dimps third effort, it was time for another developer to taker a stab at the franchise.

Enter Spike and their take on the Dragonball Z fighting games. While they kept the artistic design of the Budokai series intact, they changed the fighting mechanics drastically from the previous versions. The first change evident from the gameplay is the new camera position. Instead of the standard third-person camera typical of three-dimensional fighters, “Tenkaichi” has an over-the-shoulder camera more typical of adventure games. This allows for more fluid movement across the battlefield, a trait that has been sadly lacking from the previous versions.

Another gameplay difference is that all the special moves are executed using one button. This does away with the more typical fighting game complex-button combinations. This both adds to and detracts from the game experience. While pulling off a characters signature flashy move is always fun, it’s not quite as rewarding if the maneuver is too simple to execute.

The ease of use also allows the gamer to pull off some of their favorite moments from the anime. Immediately upon starting a round, a character can fly high into the air over the opponent’s head and unleash a massive ki blast. With the press of a button, you can change altitude while flying. Flying has been improved from the previous version as well, as the player can fly on command now.

Spike has increased the difficulty of the game, however. While the ease of controlling the character has been improved, the rounds themselves have become harder. The artificial intelligence has become much more aggressive from the previous versions and the differences among characters more pronounced.

The variance in the fighters is a welcome change from the standard fighting game as well. A character like Broly literally dwarfs characters like Kid Gohan, or Kid Trunks. They react realistically as well, with the more diminutive characters doing very little damage against their larger opponents.

“Tenkaichi” is a mixed blessing in that the player can choose the version of the character they want before the match. Instead of having to acquire the correct amount of energy and having the prerequisites met, the player can instantly choose to become the powered up version of a combatant. They are treated as a new fighter and are chosen before the round.

Character-wise, the game has plenty to offer the gamer. Featuring close to 50 playable characters, with almost 90 alternate versions of characters, the game has plenty of choices for the player. For the die-hard fan of the series, this is a dream come true. Fights between Broly and Super 17 are now possible due to the developers at Spike.

Of course, this game may not appeal to everyone. For those who don’t know the difference between a Frieza and a Cooler, there are better fighters out there to be purchased. The game is still a decent fighter and offers the gamer an experience not often found in other games on the market. But the nature of the characters and the appearance of giant monkeys may be enough to turn some people off from the experience.