Also On: PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z really isn't meant for people like me. And by "people like me", I mean people who have little to no experience with anime in general, or Dragon Ball Z in particular. I loved Asura's Wrath, I enjoyed One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, and I have vague memories of watching Astro Boy at some point in the mid- to late-'80s, but if my life depended on telling you a single thing about Goku, Vegeta and Co., I'd be a goner.
Ordinarily, this probably wouldn't be an issue. I mean, even if I didn't totally get all the nuances of that aforementioned One Piece game, it still had some nods towards a plot structure that meant I could more or less get a handle on what was going on. In Battle of Z, by contrast, there's none of that. Every single level plops you and a few other characters down, then some more characters show up, and you fight. Occasionally they say a few things to each other, but if they're saying stuff that's advancing some kind of story, it's totally lost on me. At the risk of stereotyping, I get that fan service is big for anime-centred games, but Battle of Z seems to take that to an extreme, in that, as far as I can tell, it's nothing but fan service. (Or, alternatively, it really is just a bunch of random characters thrown together, and none of it makes any sense even if you are a fan of the series…but seeing as I'm the novice here, it seems wise to give the game's developers the benefit of the doubt.)
This lack of story is kind of a shame, because the game itself is kind of enjoyable. I'm a bit of a sucker for superhero games, and it's hard to think of something more superheroic than flying around, punching people through rocks and firing laser beams out of your hands. Sure, it gets a little repetitive after awhile, seeing as a) the environments don't change all that much and b) there's no apparent rhyme or reason for why, exactly, you're flying around punching bad (or, possibly, good?) guys, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun in small doses — and, thankfully, for the most part small doses is what Battle of Z offers, with even the longest levels being over and done with in about fifteen minutes.
Of course, even in bite-sized chunks, the game's combat limitations are noticeable. There's one button for melee attacks and one button for long-range attacks, and even if the names of those attacks may vary from character to character, they don't change all that much. You can modify them slightly to make them a little more powerful or more accurate — but even then, they only change the attacks into slightly more supercharged punches, kicks and laserbeams.
In other words, this is where some semblance of a story would've come in handy. Again, this may all make perfect sense of you're a DBZ devotee (and if it does, I fully expect to be schooled on the finer points of Dragon Ball Z lore down in the comments). But that all goes back to my first point: unless you really know that stuff, all Battle of Z has to offer you is a bunch of guys with insane hair flying around and whaling on each other (which, come to think of it, actually sounds totally awesome). Fun though that may be, it won't take long until you're craving more, and unless you're a hardcore fan, Battle of Z doesn't have that to offer.