Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is a game made only for fans of the series and its repetitiveness and clunky controls prevent it from being much, much better.
Atari released the first Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series creating engaging fighting games that honored the series with its solid gameplay and rapid pacing. Though recently, they decided to change the formula completely by one that is not necessarily any deeper. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 tries to improve certain aspects of its predecessor and it includes an overwhelming number of characters, providing a sequel that relies heavily on fan service.
A new unconventional third person perspective was added to make the fights feel more authentic and true to the anime version making sure that fans of the series love this game as there are dozens of character to choose from. As in previous entries in franchise, all the characters and environments are cel-shaded in a pretty accurate way. Their transformations are shown in animations, that even after seeing them hundreds of times, look appropriate for a Dragon Ball game. The camera sometimes can be an enemy by itself and you may end up watching the action from an angle that it is inconvenient. To be fair though, it does a great job of capturing the different blows and explosions proper of the anime series, but it alienates everybody who isn’t a fan.
Like the original Tenkaichi, this sequel lets you play in an illusionary free-world from a behind-the-back perspective. Most of the environments make good use of 3D as there are destructible elements (like mountains, rocks and buildings) and a great sense of exploration. The problem is when you try to dodge an incoming attack and find yourself struggling with a force field that doesn’t allow you to move any further, breaking the illusion of being in an open world environment. Performing actions and moves is really simple, but this control scheme may challenge newcomers. You can use regular melee attacks, charge for more energy and Ki (or Chi), use energy based attacks, transform, dodge, and block. Which if you do it when the timing is right you can teleport just behind your opponent giving you an opportunity to retaliate. Pressing the square button in a sequence can produce a nice combo that launches your opponent flying into a wall or mountain creating a nice effect that no Dragon Ball game has captured ever before. Most characters can fly so you can move up or down in space easily, with those characters that can’t fly, you can stay up in the air for just a few seconds. The DualShock 2 controller is well-suited for the game as it is intuitive and responds quite well, even considering the fast-paced nature of the combats.
The lock-on system is back and is still as frustrating as in the first Budokai Tenkaichi. Basically, when an opponent is out of sight, you can spot his position with the touch of a button that usually results in an unintuitive way to locate him. When you are close enough the system automatically uses the lock-on changing the camera and the perspective in seconds. Special attacks were also included in Tenkaichi 2, there is only a handful for each character but the best ones were included. The main problem with these attacks is that they are not difficult to use so you can punch you opponent, charge energy while he is immobilized and use a massive attack over and over until you defeat him. The combination of repetitiveness, the lack of strategy and the monotonous combats don’t add anything new from the gameplay perspective. For some reason, difficulty can be really inconsistent at times, maybe you have to fight against an opponent that barely responds to your attacks and on the next fight he uses the same strategies over and over that you can’t defend from. This can be frustrating especially because it happens randomly and not necessarily when you are fighting at the end of a saga or against a powerful boss. Multiplayer modes bring back the problems of the first Tekaichi, as the behind-the-back perspective needs split screen for two players. Considering the use of the camera, the lock-on system and the big levels, there are even more technical problems to be taken into account in this mode.
More than 120 characters were included, taken from Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT which is great news for fans of the series. It’s easily understandable the addition of Nappa, Raditz, Cooler and Android 13 but it was unnecessary to include characters like Yajirobe or Grampa Gohan especially as those characters are really weak and unbalanced against the Saiyans. You start with a handful of them and eventually unlock them in a story mode that includes events from DBZ and DBGT that is surprisingly long and repetitive. The stories are horribly told and chances are that if you are not a Dragon Ball fan you won’t understand anything. As you move on in the story you’ll see some minor inconsistencies like battles that are supposed to take place in planet Vegeta take place on Earth, this was probably made to avoid recreating every single scene from the movies or series and it’s not a flaw but just a detail, and the game is full of them. For example, instead of seeing a character summon an incredible attack that destroys a planet you only read about it in a paragraph. Another technical issue is the use of constant load times that even though they can be “interactive” (you move the analog stick to destroy bricks) they break down the pace of the game.
In the sound department, you can either choose English and Japanese voices and sound effects. Both include over-the-top sounds though the Japanese version is easily better as American voice actors seemed bored of repeating the same lines over and over. For the soundtrack, Spike chose versions of hard rock that don’t perfectly blend in with the rest of the sounds and ends up being inconsistent overall and can be repeating also, the final result isn’t unpleasant but it doesn’t balance well with the rest of the game.
Tenkaichi 2 was originally released in 2006, some years ago, and even after that time it holds up quite well, maybe the choices in the use of the camera in the multiplayer mode can be surprising as it’s not the best, but the flashy, quick nature of the game can entertain you for a few weeks. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is the perfect example of a game made by fans for fans, the inclusion of major and minor characters that make their appearance in a game for the first time it’ll appeal die-hard followers of the series. If you’re looking for fan-service this game is for you, if not try something else.