Arc System Works knows its way around 2D fighting games, and they have a long history of delivering on multiple platforms. The 3DS seems like a curious choice for a game like this at first glance, but I quickly came to adapt to it on the smaller screen. Fights do not last terribly long, lending themselves to the portable nature of the 3DS system. The story mode is really a lightweight version of the tried and true Dragon Ball Z story. There is nothing wrong with it, but the alternate unlockable storylines were of more interest to me. Still, the focus of this game is on the combat and not the story itself.
To that end, Extreme Butoden is a technically solid experience. There is not a great deal of depth to the combat. How one character controls in dealing combination or ranged attacks is pretty much how all of them do it. This helps with roster balance, but it makes the gameplay itself a somewhat dry experience. It feels good early on, and the combat is easy to pick up, but by the end of the game you realise that the difference between characters really boils down to some speed and strength differences and the different animations associated with the same button presses you would have made if you were using a different character.
Now, as someone who did not find the arena style combat of Dragon Ball Xenoverse all that much fun (despite doing a good job of recreating the one against many scenes that occur in the Dragon Ball Z universe), I can appreciate the 2D approach here better. There is an element of team play, as you construct teams of characters that can swap out for one another or lend a hand through 'assists'. The action is fast and it feels appropriate to the Dragon Ball universe, it just never really adds much in the way of depth as you spend more time with the game. The roster of characters is also somewhat annoyingly limited. There is a much bigger cast of characters the game could have drawn from, and if so much of the combat was going to have a cookie cutter feel to it, I find myself wondering why they did not at least add to the roster for more visual variety.
Visually, Extreme Butoden is actually pretty stunning. It is pixel art, but it is bright, colourful pixel art that does justice to the anime. Characters move very well, their animations (especially on super attacks) are entertaining almost every time. I would go out of my way to build up for a super attack, simply because of how much fun they were to watch play out. Add to it detailed backgrounds that looked ripped straight from the universe, and you have a pretty good visual show. The music and sound effects fit the bill, making the experience feel a bit more authentic, even when the story mode itself is little more than still artwork with text rolling on by. There is no voice acting to speak of, so for those who like the American voice actors for characters, you will come away disappointed as you hear 'slightly off' (at least to my ears due to my familiarity with the US cartoon) versions of the characters grunting and shouting.
Another miss for a game like this is the lack of online multiplayer. You can play locally with a friend, but I am really surprised that they did not include any sort of online component. With what feels like a lot of time and effort going into the balancing of the roster, it seems as though multiplayer would have been a major consideration. In this day and age, there just are not many fighting games that release without an online multiplayer element, and given the pedigree of Arc System Works, I was quite surprised by this omission.
In the grand scheme of things, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden looks the part, and the combat plays out well on a technical level. Unfortunately it is hard to get excited about the overall product. While the gameplay and graphics are good, and the alternate storyline unlockables were actually really cool, the biggest problem is the relatively shallow depth of the experience. The controls for combat are almost simple to a fault, and it lacks the extracurricular activities and character progression found in Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3. The end result is a fun enough game to play, but it will not prove to be a memorable one.
|Developer(s)||Arc System Works|
|Publisher(s)||Bandai Namco Games|
Article by Nick