Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection Review

By Spencer Pressly on December 7, 2012

Licensed games don't exactly have the best of reputations - they're often a complete waste of time and money. However, they aren't always like this and the Dragon Ball Z Budokai series is one such instance where this was true. Since then, years have passed and we've had countless Dragon Ball games that have been disappointing fans who just wanted things to go back to the good old days with Budokai. Now Namco Bandai has listened and has decided to re-release Budokai 1 and 3 in an HD collection, but do these classics still hold up even without the second game?

If you have ever even heard of Dragon Ball before, then you know that the story is absolutely massive. The games cover the story the best they can by showing the highlight moments through each saga ranging from the Saiyan saga all the way to the Buu saga. Still neither game is meant to be a substitute for watching or reading Dragon Ball, but fans who know the series will definitely get the most out of the story.

Both games included offer a completely different approach to telling the same story and with each approach comes pros and cons. The original Budokai tries its best to replicate the anime and this leads to many cutscenes in between fights. There is no off switch on this nimbus ride though. Once you get started the game doesn't put the brakes on until you finish each saga. This actually isn't a bad thing since the story can be played through in a day and leads to an enjoyable, nostalgia filled afternoon.

Budokai 3 on the other hand decides to give much more content in its story, but the trade off comes in presentation. The cutscenes are now replaced with character portraits that turn into talking heads. This actually streamlines things a lot and just gives you enough story to fight and most of these never seem to last more than a minute as long as you don't need to reflect on.

Each game's approach to telling the overly crazy and dramatic story of Dragon Ball fulfils you with nostalgia overload, to the point that you may just want to pop in some old VHS tapes and watch some classic DBZ with friends. All the characters you know and love return once again (or for the millionth time) to tell a story that defines many 90's kids childhood such as my own and holds up just as well today.

Most of the fun that comes through going each saga is hands down reliving every classic fight that ramp up as you continue on. While putting the characters and moves from the show into a fighting game sounds simple enough, many games have failed and some still do to this day finding the right way to do it. Even in the original Budokai, this remains true with the somewhat clunky mechanics. Both games feature a very simplistic approach to the fighting, but still allowing depth if players are looking for more than an average button masher. With a simple punch, kick, guard, and energy system, everything is here that you need to re-enact your favorite moments. This keeps things user friendly enough to get a group of people over and play these games. This is where these games shine as you spend countless hours fighting friends and having fun.

The simplistic fighting mechanics return from the first game, but this time they are finely tuned and introduce some new systems. Budokai 3 really shines unlike any other Dragon Ball game with the fast paced natures of each match. Matches can be as balanced as you make them, by picking to fight like normal or use a custom set of skills that you set before the match.

Still playing these games are not flawless in the least and can easily lead to many moments that are so cheap you would think that you changed games. The main complaints come from the story and tournament modes in Budokai 1. When you aren't facing an over powered computer or forced to beat way too many characters in a row on one life bar, they introduce mini games. Yes, these feel so out of place and do nothing to add to the experience. The only thing they really accomplish is to waste your time and make you mad that you're not fighting.

Both games oddly take different approaches with the graphical presentation. Budokai 1 uses models that seem like they are trying way too hard to match the look of the show and just fall short of it. Thankfully by the time Budokai 3 released the game really came into its own with the great use of cel-shading. Both of these games really improve with the HD treatment and colors are a lot more brighter than ever before.

On a side note the version of Budokai 1 used in the HD collection is the PS2 version, so the cel-shaded look is not present. Now this collection has one very large change that most fans might not be pleased with and that is that all of the music is changed. To keep a long story short, the original composer was accused of plagiarism. Now both games sample tracks from past games and there's also some entirely new music. These changes are fine and fit surprisingly well, but its hard not to miss the classics. Thankfully the original opening song from the show remains.

These games can allow you as much gameplay as you want. While both game's story modes can be finished in one afternoon, there are plenty of secrets to unlock. Budokai 3 is the best example with new additions to the story after each playthrough offering special battles from movies and specials. Add versus mode in there along with local multiplayer, both games are very feature heavy fighters with a lot to offer.

Final Thoughts

While this HD collection adds nothing more than the ability to support widescreen, trophies/achievements, and crisper graphics that is all that fans really wanted. Each game retains what keeps them fun, without taking anything majorly important away. Dragon Ball fans along with those who remember playing these classics need to pick this up immediately and show Namco Bandai that these are the kind of games the beloved series deserves.

Countless hours of fun
Large roster of characters
Piles on the nostalgia
Missing old music
Mini games
Not including Budokai 2
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