I’m sure I’ll take a lot of grief for saying this, but Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is surprisingly reminiscent of Tecmo’s Dead or Alive games. Both are accessible fighting games to the point that they almost delve into button mashing, which in and of itself distinguishes them from the Soulcalibers and Virtua Fighters of the world. DBZ: Burst Limit also gives Xbox 360 and PS3 owners very little exposition about the characters’ stories, much like DOA focuses more on “bounce physics” and pretty cut scenes than it does deep narratives. But perhaps most important, DBZ Burst Limit, like DOA, is clearly created with fans in mind, as it includes plenty of nods to DBZ lore and character dynamics. Unfortunately, that’s also the game’s downfall when it comes to mainstream appeal.
In terms of cinematic presentation and DBZ “flair,” Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit has both in spades. Dragon Ball Z is best known as a cartoon, not a fighting game, and the made-for-TV style and cinematics here are port perfect in that sense. Franchise fans will love seeing their favorite characters — there are 21 total, including unlockables — do battle anime style, and the cut scenes that pretend to be meaningful stories are well produced even if they are unintelligible to casual passers by.
What’s nice for those casual passers by, though, is that they can easily pick up the game and play. Like the DOA series, Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit has a deceptively simple control setup, with basic fast, strong and distance attacks mapped to the face buttons. These can basically be your bread and butter through the initial stages of the game, but the farther you get into each character’s story, the more challenging the opposition becomes, placing increased importance on learning the combat system’s intricacies.
The biggest things to get a handle on are the Ki Gauge and Aura Spark. The Ki Gauge is essentially DBZ: Burst Limit’s power-up meter. If it’s sufficiently full, players can unleash impenetrable blocks or devastating attacks. Keep in mind, though, that normal blocking can fatigue your character, a nice but ultimately pointless feature, considering you fatigue so seldom. Meanwhile, the Aura Spark becomes available when the Ki Gauge is completely maxed out. Activating it gives players a temporary power boost to their attacks and offers some additional boosts including the ability to “juggle” characters in the air for more damage.
DBZ: Burst Limit also includes a surprisingly intricate counter-attack system by which players can make contact with their attack even if they technically pressed the attack button after the first player. Successfully pulling these counters is all based on timing, so in some respects, it’s reminiscent of DOA fans raving about the precise timing required to do counters and special moves in that franchise. However, the practice required to perfect this timing, also like DOA, is probably never going to happen, considering the excellence of other fighting games out there that have a little more junk in their narrative trunk.
Another feature that turned off at least this reviewer is the use of Drama Pieces. These pieces, chosen before each match and different from character to character, are activated as “cut scenes” when certain events happen during a match, much like a “light” version of scripted events in any other game. Although the scenes themselves add to the cartoon/cinematic flair, the very nature of the pieces sometimes feels cheap, much like it feels when a last-place character jumps into the lead in Mario Kart. To be fair, the Drama Pieces never have that drastic of an effect on the gameplay, but the concept is still a bit irritating.
Also irritating is the lack of level variety. Where DOA (just to continue that comparison) had a good number of environments, DBZ: Burst Limit is surprisingly sparse. This is really quite odd, considering the number of cartoons in the DBZ library and thus the number of potential levels, but it’s probably because the developer spent so much time getting the character models just right.
But getting the characters just right means very little unless you’re a big fan of DBZ and would notice discrepancies. Ditto with the storylines, which are geared toward people who have at least a cursory knowledge of DBZ lore. This is the first next-gen DBZ game, so newbies’ curiosity about what all the DBZ fuss is about may entice them to give this high-definition DBZ game a go. But while Burst Limit has some interesting gameplay ideas, it never really feels as “welcoming” as it should, particularly for such a high-profile (for Atari) game. If you’re a fan of the series, you probably already own this, and if you’re not, you’re honestly better off waiting for Soulcaliber IV.
- Score: 7.6
- The DBZ series’ next-gen debut looks and sounds good, but its gameplay has some minor annoyances that are poorly timed, considering Soulcaliber IV isn’t all that far off. You’re better off waiting for that one instead.
— Jonas Allen