The Dragonball series has been around forever. Spanning three different cartoon series and hundreds of episodes, it is only natural for a show like this to be made into a video game. Gamers love fighting games; Dragonball Z is mainly about fighting. Seems like a match made in heaven, but with over 25 games having been made for this license there isn’t much good to talk about. Fortunately that changed with the first Tenkaichi title, and Atari finally got the show to game conversion just right for the western audience.
Tenkaichi 2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor while offering even more content, combatants, and things to unlock. Based on the complete Dragonball line of shows, Tenkaichi 2 covers all the main story arcs from the original Dragonball through the GT series. As well, all of the characters, even some really minor ones, make an appearance in the game. You can’t fault a game for being thorough, and Atari has definitely given us the most fully featured Dragonball title in years.
With any licensed game it is paramount that the developers stay fairly true to the source material. Atari has done a bang up job making sure that when you play Tenkaichi 2 you feel like you’re in the Dragonball world. Using a cel-shaded aesthetic, Atari was able to make the game look true the show, and each character, and their alternative forms, are picture perfect to Akira Toriyama’s drawings.
So let me get this off my chest right off the bat, whoever thought it would be a good idea to have voice acting for every menu selection needs to be slapped upside the head. The first time the characters say the name of the mode or selection you are on its pretty nifty, after about the third or fourth time you are ready to turn all audio off. Otherwise, Tenkaichi gives you what you’d expect and not much more. All of the music is pulled from the show, and the original voices are used to great effect. What this means is that you get a true and faithful Dragonball experience and not much more. It works, but I would’ve liked something more to add to the game. Maybe some original tunes, or a remixed theme, or an original storyline with fresh voice acting would have made the sound portion a little better.
On top of the great character designs, Tenkaichi’s world is not only true to the show, but it’s massive. In story mode you will fly from plot point to plot point, as well as some extra spots. The world looks great and it includes every area that you can remember from the show. There are 16 stages for battle, and while that may not seem like a lot, these stages are massive in design as well. What really brings this together is that the game runs at incredibly fast speeds. Sometimes it goes too fast, but the speed really nails the feel of the show as well. Of course all of this means nothing if you’re not a fan of the anime style or the show, and that will have a major impact on whether or not the graphics do anything for you.
Usually, simple controls in a fighting game spell the game’s doom. Oddly enough, Tenkaichi’s low number of buttons to use is a boon. Essentially, you use a short and long attack with a charge up. All three of these can be combined for some truly devastating attacks. Since the game is so fast I felt relieved that I didn’t have to memorize 40 button combos to pull off attacks. Obviously this game isn’t meant for the hardcore fighting gamer, like Virtua Fighter fans, but if you’re a fan of the show you’ll be more forgiving of the simple control scheme. Through the many hours of fighting I never had one problem with unresponsive buttons or the game not recognizing my inputs. All the attacks and moves are fairly easy to do and I think that the simple scheme actually helps more than it hurts in this case.
Tenkaichi brings a lot to the table. There are a myriad of modes to jump into, a lengthy story option, over 100 characters to use, and more Dragonball stuff crammed on the disk than you could ever know what to do with. The 9 game play modes span the usual Arcade style play, a RPG-light story mode, and finally customizable tournaments. All of this can be fairly intimidating at first, but even non Dragonball fans will be happy to see it all squeezed in here.
The basic game play is pretty fast, and the easy controls really play well with this fast battle system. All new in this version are the in battle transformation. These allow you to power your character up in mid-battle to get that extra oomph you may need to overcome a battle. Also new to the series is the vanishing attack and destructible environments. With the vanishing attack you will be able to keep your opponent guessing as you can disappear only to pop up behind them to deliver a punishing blow. As you pummel your opponents the environments show the damage as well. Errant ki-blasts with scar the game world, and when you slam an enemy into the earth it leaves a crater. Lastly, you can customize your own Dragonball character with items that you buy in the story mode, and you can then get a code that you can share with friends so that they can use your customized fighter. All of these new additions really take a solid engine and give them that extra level of polish.
There is almost too much stuff to do in the game. The value will be a little skewed depending on whether you are a fan of the show. Even for non fans there are enough engaging and enjoyable things to keep you playing for hours. Online multiplayer would be appreciated going further, but as far as non-online fighters go, there aren’t too many out there that offer the wealth of game play options that Tenkaichi does.
Not everything is milk and honey in Tenkaichi. While there is a lot to do, and it works, sometimes things in the game are a little off. Especially in the story mode where your objectives are not always clear, and sometimes, when you’re supposed to lose and you actually win, the game still shows you as getting your butt kicked. Other than that the only other knock is that this isn’t a very strategic fighter. Players will find the two or three attacks and combos they like and will run with them. This hurts the game especially for those looking for a deeper experience. It detracts because a lot of the fights boil down to the same actions over and over. Its fun, but an extra layer of depth would’ve been greatly appreciated.