Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Arc System Works
Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden, developed by Guilty Gear / BlazBlue developer Arc System Works, is one of the best looking 2D fighters I’ve ever seen on a handheld. That comes as no surprise, considering the excellent work that Arc System Works has done in the past, but the impressive animation and sprite work on display here makes me wish that the Dragon Ball Z series of fighters would remain in the 2D realm for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, those awesome graphics don’t quite make up for an otherwise lackluster package. Featuring a relatively light roster, especially when compared to other Dragon Ball Z games on the market, and no online multiplayer, there’s not enough here to keep you going for long. There are a series of single-player story based modes, featuring your standard retread of the main Dragon Ball Z saga’s, along with alternate takes on the main story and a brand new tale told through a more robust Adventure mode, but player vs. player combat is the bread and butter of the fighting game genre, and unfortunately that feature is relegated to local multiplayer only.
One a positive note, the roster might be small, but it encompasses most of the more powerful characters from the Dragon Ball Z lore. This includes newcomer Beerus, a god-like being introduced in the Battle of the Gods film, and more recently in the currently airing Dragon Ball Super. You also have your standard set of Saiyan variants, with kid and teen versions of Gohan, and various Super Saiyan versions of Goku and Vegeta. Other notable entries include Frieza’s final form, Perfect Cell, Ginyu and others.
There’s also a whole host of characters relegated to the support role, including Hercule, Dr. Gero, Bulma, and pretty much every named character from the Dragon Ball Z series on up. Assist characters are of limited use, called on by tapping the bottom touch screen during a fight to deploy a super attack of some sort, but they’re certainly fun to use and look as good in action as the main roster does. Still, I’d love to see some of these characters on the playable roster, but I’ll take what I can get here.
As I mentioned earlier, the single player content features various modes. The first mode you’ll have access to is a quick retelling of the events of Dragon Ball Z, zooming through Goku’s encounter with his brother Raditz up to the conclusion of the Buu arc. Not a lot of time is wasted here, with limited cutscenes and dialogue devoted to a story that I imagine most are already familiar with. It’s a smart choice to keep this mode light, but it is annoying that the rest of the content for single-player is locked behind the completion of this story.
Once beaten, you’ll open up alternate takes on the main story mode, told through the perspective of characters like Krillin and Gohan. These are also relatively short, and don’t add much in the way of interesting content or unique fights. But Adventure mode, the other unlock, is a bit more interesting. Adventure mode is a new tale, featuring Omega Shenron, an evil version of Shenron that brings back to life all of Goku’s most powerful opponents. In between these major battles, Goku and friends will duke it out in a series of fights that serve as a way of unlocking the majority of the unique assist characters in the game. While the story mode fights aren’t particularly challenging, Adventure does become pretty tough late game, with unique requirements that need to be met in order to finish with a high enough rank to unlock everything.
It’s also worth mentioning that the actual fighting mechanics in Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden make for a pretty fun time. Most attacks are performed using simple combo strings, with the Y button on the 3DS used to perform basic strikes, and the X button used for stronger, slower hits. You can block, counter, and even teleport, giving some defense options that are very dependent on timing, which means you’ll need to develop some skill to become adequate at defense, especially against real players.
Strikes can be combined in various patterns to perform super attacks, like Goku’s powerful Kamehameha and Gohan’s Masenko. These impressive abilities are difficult to pull off, simply because they require you to build up a separate energy bar through successful strikes, which takes a while to do. But the moves are suitably powerful, and provide some much needed spectacle to the fights, especially if your foe is capable of countering with their own special abilities.
I definitely feel like Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is worth a look, but only if you’re willing to put up with the lack of online multiplayer. It’s sort of a buzzkill for me personally, since my options for local play are pretty much null against actual, real opponents. There’s enough to the single player Adventure Mode to keep you busy for a bit, but once you finish that up there’s really not a lot of reasons to revisit the game. I’d certainly be interested in seeing a follow-up to this game down the line, but keep your expectations in check if you plan on picking up Extreme Butoden.