Dragon Ball Z needs almost no introduction. The anime and manga are legendary and have influenced other franchises such as Naruto. More recently, the franchise has gained new interest thanks to two new movies and revival of the anime. Naturally, Dragon Ball Z has spawned its fair share of fighters in the games industry. Some of these have been great and set the bar, while others have been nothing more than cash-ins. Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden sits somewhere in the middle as it’s a competent fighter but lacks refinement and depth.
To unlock most of Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden’s content, players will have to complete the game’s Story mode. This mode presents a shortened version of the main Dragon Ball Z timeline, detailing all the main fights that occurred between Raditz’s arrival on Earth and Goku’s showdown with Kid Buu. The story is poorly presented with character cut-outs and bland text to describe the scene. Several key plot points are either mentioned in passing or missed entirely. Events such as Piccolo becoming a Super Namek and Buu’s eventual transformation into Kid Buu are almost none existent. If you’re not familiar with the anime/manga then you’ll likely get confused and not know what’s going on. Thankfully, the Story mode can be completed in about 10-20mins.
Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden’s combat mechanics are very solid. All characters have standard quick, strong and long range attacks which can be performed together to create combos. There’s also a power-up meter which lets you unleash special attacks using the L-button. Some battles will have multiple characters team-up and you can switch between them completely on the fly. There are also assist-only characters that can support you by briefly attacking your opponent. All playable characters have mostly identical move sets and attributes, which means balancing isn’t an issue and the game is accessible to casual players. It’s all standard flare, but this does backfire as overtime gameplay can become repetitive. This isn’t helped by lacklustre AI which at times feels like the equivalent of a punching bag.
Battles are presented with 2D sprite characters against 2D backdrops. It feels very old school and the animations are fluid, having clearly been thoughtfully crafted. The 3D effects won’t cause too much excitement, but the effects of special attacks are quite dazzling and make good use of the technology. During battle you can sometimes knock your opponent into the air and the background will rise to make it appear you are flying in the air. However, after the initial swooping effect, the characters continue to act as if they’re battling on foot. It’s very weird and spoils the moment.
After completing Story mode you unlock several “what if” scenarios that look at the perspective of different characters. This offers some interesting insights for fans, but the main meat of the game is arguably the Adventure mode. This mode has an original story that revolves around Goku going on a quest to collect the Ultimate Dragon Balls to restore peace after all the villains from the franchise come back to life. The plot is more in-depth than how the main timeline is presented, but much like the entirety of Dragon Ball GT it’s mostly fluff and can largely be skipped. What makes Adventure mode different are the special challenges it sets players. Challenges often require you to complete a specific number of combos before winning a battle and if you manage to get an S-Rank you will be rewarded with a new assist fighter. While simple and admittedly a little redundant, it adds appeal for fans who want to mix and match their teams and makes fights a little more interesting.
The game supports a basic local multiplayer option. Sadly, there is a lack of any online mode which is disappointing in this day and age. Download Play is also not supported so each player will need their own copy to play.
The audio sounds like it has been highly compressed. The speech, moans and groans of all fighters sound muffled and indistinguishable. Fans of the series will be pleased to know that the game is dubbed in Japanese, though there is no English option. It would have been nice at least if subtitles were added to translate the taunts between characters, as this will largely go over most people’s heads in the West.
While Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden has competent gameplay mechanics and fluid 2D sprite animations, the final product doesn’t quite live up to other fighting games on the market. The story telling is lacklustre, the game can get repetitive since fighters have the same movesets and attributes, the audio is highly compressed and there is no online multiplayer. It’s difficult to recommend this for anyone other than die-hard Dragon Ball Z fans.
Competent fighting mechanics | Fluid 2D Sprite Animation | Some dazzling 3D effects
Compressed audio | Poor story presentation | No online multiplayer