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PS2 Review: Super Dragon Ball Z

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Expect less humor and more potent action in this cell colored animated actioner – the seventh in this popular game series. You don’t have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this increasingly involving one to two player game.

The fast paced fighting and vivid colors create a lot of visual appeal, but the fighting mechanics could’ve used more flexibility. The diagonal direction, instead of free movement, does not improve the overall two-dimensional feel of the game. Some players might be limited, though the environments have some depth and don’t have that annoying “ring out” format.

Each character (13 total and five unlockable), chosen from a fair cache, has special abilities and about a dozen moves. Characters include Goku, Gohan (love those rapid fire hits), Mecha Frieza, Piccolo and Vegeta.

Players can also customize their own character — have fun filling in your own name — on a custom card. The customization is based on existing characters, but there’s enough variety and options to make it your own.

It’s pretty easy to get through the original mode. I played as Piccolo, and get seven Dragon Balls for a special powers (go to Dragon summoning in the upper right corner), which include the power to drain energy, more ultimate power, more stamina, full potential, burning rage and two mystery ones that have special requirements.

It’s not too easy though, the game does make you work for those bonuses. When a second player breaks in to play you on original mode, you don’t get as many points. Once you “K.O.” your enemy you can even get a few more combo licks in for good measure (or poor sportsmanship, however you see it).

Players get more rapid attacks, quicker response attacks and finishing moves that produce some nice cut scenes – great for fans of the television show. Be sure to use blocks when you advance to the more challenging fighters. Use the survivor and training modes to improve your moves. The environments contain lots of breakable objects (walls, trees) for fair action variety.

The fighting includes terrain levels for strategic advantage (use the circle button to raise/lower yourself). Adapt strategies quicker in the training mode against a second player to understand each character’s abilities and movements/special combos (even incorporate some decent air assaults). Again, there’s no falling over the edges, but sometimes you will transport to another area.

Players also get “wheel of fortune” type bonuses after matches (including Dragon Balls) and can utilize the autosave feature. The graphics need better font readability, which can strain your eyes a bit leaving you a bit numb after this fast paced experience (note the beginning recommendation to take frequent breaks – give your eyes a nice rest, they deserve it).

Overall, this game is a great two-player fighter game and mostly geared towards younger audiences. The load times are quick, the learning curve is minimal, plus you can even steal moves from other players boosting the nice customizable options.

Super Dragon Ball Z was developed by former Street Fighter II producer Noritaka Funamizu’s new studio, Crafts & Meister. This game received a runner-up award for IGN.com’s E3 2006 “Best PS2 Fighting Game.”

Super Dragon Ball Z is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence.

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