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Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit Review

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Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is by far and away the best looking Dragon Ball Z game available today. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't match the visuals in terms of recreating the action and appeal of the source material.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the Dragon Ball Z series. I've always thought if any property could be turned into a great fighting game it had to be DBZ. It has engaging characters with over-the-top powers and an epic sense of action. So, you're probably saying to yourself “Oh boy, fanboy Vinny is going to give Burst Limit 18 stars!” Well, as much as I'd like to tell you that this is the DBZ game to challenge the non-believers, it's just not quite there yet. If you're a fan of the Dragon Ball Z series you'll be happy to know that Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit provides enough winks and nods to satisfy despite its relatively limited campaign and roster. Judged strictly as a fighting game, Burst Limit comes up short in terms of depth and diversity.

Welcome to Vegeta's Sisyphean Hell.
Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit includes your standard set of game types like online, survival, arcade, and a story mode called Z Chronicles. You'll begin with only a few of the 21 playable characters, but you can unlock the rest during your playthrough of the story mode.

For me, the bread and butter of a Dragon Ball Z game is how well the story and the actual fighting are integrated into the game. If you think you've seen every conceivable rendition of Goku vs. Frieza, rest assured, Burst Limit forges some new paths in this well-trodden area.

The Z Chronicles will take you through the Saiyan Saga, the Frieza Saga and the Cell Saga, which is fine, because everyone knows all that GT crap that came later is bonkers. Still, it does seem a little abridged considering previous Dragon Ball Z games included every saga, season, movie, fan fiction, “what-if scenario” and even some stuff that was just plain made up. Each saga has approximately 15-20 battles that progress in a linear fashion, with the occasional optional battle thrown in. Burst Limit does a great job of letting you play as the appropriate character in each battle, avoiding the awkward and frustrating occasions of demolishing an opponent only to discover that in the following story elements you actually lost the fight. This was a serious disconnect in previous iterations of the franchise, and it's a welcome improvement in the implemenation of the storytelling. The game also tries to capture some of the ever-escalating intensity of each battle by peppering in story elements throughout a battle. If you meet certain conditions within a fight you'll unlock little scenes called Drama Pieces. These Drama Pieces not only share more of the decidedly thin narrative with you, but they will also imbue temporary buffs and debuffs in you and your opponent. These can range from a temporary increase in Ki regeneration to actually inflicting some minor  damage on your opponent. These scenes are charming for fans and they are a clever way to reference particular moments during your favorite battles.
Finally, a game that does Raditz's mane justice.

Now, when it comes to translating the...robust...Dragon Ball Z story into video game form, the series has had mixed results. Burst Limit takes the approach of "what you don't know won't hurt you." It strips down the story elements into the most significant fights throughout each saga and gives you only a few lines of exposition before and after each battle. If you're a fan of the series you can usually fill in the narrative gaps, but if you are new to the series you will be completely lost. You'll jump from Earth to Namek with no explanation; watch characters die and mysteriously resurface a few battles later; and, sadly, be left wondering if you're missing something or if this what Dragon Ball Z has to offer. For the folks in the know, scenes from the anime are authentically reconstructed in-engine, sometimes shot for shot, but for the uninitiated, the non sequiturs in the story will leave many scratching their heads.

Now here's my biggest gripe with the Z Chronicles, and possibly the entire game. After you complete a saga you can watch a movie that includes great narrative moments that would have tied together many of the battles in which you just participated. It's really a shame these scenes couldn't be used in conjunction with the conspicuously missing narrator to flesh out more of the story and add a bit of investment and meaning to the battles. It's almost as if all the elements were there for this great narrative in the story mode and someone was like “Eh, this is taking too long, throw it all in at the end.” Big mistake, and a real disappointment.

The fighting in Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is fairly pedestrian and you won't have a problem jumping into the shoes of other characters. There are two main physical attack buttons, one for strong and one for regular attacks, and a ki blast button. In addition you have buttons for blocking, throwing and a button which acts both as a more powerful ki-enhanced block and a sort of ki-toggle to enhance your other attacks. If you're new to the series, you can think of ki as magic or mana; it's what allows your character to perform his most powerful moves.

You'll rarely find yourself short on ki.
You have a constantly refilling ki meter at the bottom of the screen, but unlike previous games in the series, the meter won't deplete just from launching a fireball or two. You'll need a full ki meter to use your Ultimate Attack, but for other signature moves you'll only dent the meter if you fire it at full power while holding down the ki-enhance toggle. Letting your ki meter fill will also allow you to trigger your Aura Spark, which puts you into a sort of ki infused combat state. While Aura Spark is activated your ki meter will constantly drain but you'll gain unique combat abilities such as being able to easily warp behind your target and initiate a punishing pursuit attack. The other benefit of filling your ki meter is that it will allow you to change forms, which, depending on your character, will make you more powerful at the expense of your defense.

There isn't much in the way of variety from each character, aside from different special moves. With the exception of Piccolo, who has a considerably longer reach than other characters, you'll be using the same basic attacks and techniques throughout the game. The AI won't let you spam special moves over and over, so you'll have to get in close for some fisticuffs, but once you get familiar with the controls you'll find yourself pulling off the same sequence of moves again and again. That being said, the battles are generally fun and move at a pretty good pace. The Drama Pieces add enough of a tweak during a battle that if you don't move your butt to finish off an ailing opponent he can quickly turn the tables and win. The ability to select up to three unique Drama Pieces and customize your character with different Ultimate attacks at the outset of a multiplayer fight adds some depth to the fighting mechanic, but the immediate impact of your choices won't be apparent until you have become deeply invested in the subtleties of the game.

Speaking of multiplayer, I found that it was pretty standard fare for the local mode and hit or miss when it came to the online variety. I encountered some pretty serious lag depending on connection speeds, but when the pings were low the game seemed to handle itself well. There's a surprising amount of timing required to block and dodge moves, so lag will definitely cause more than a few frustrations during a match.
Yamcha was always popular with the ladies.

Considering the original Dragon Ball Z anime first aired almost 20 years ago, watching high-definition Kamehamehas is a treat. The game looks great, and while it would have been nice to see some of the cosmetic damage present in other Dragon Ball Z games, the overall presentation is well-executed. As a fan of the English-dubbed anime, I found the voice acting solid, but not exceptional, with some characters sounding better than others. There is an option to play using the Japanese voices, but for me, the English voices are what I associate with the series and found no reason to switch, unless I was really aching to have Goku sound like a 12-year-old boy.

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit is definitely more a game for those familiar with the series than players looking for a deep, competitive fighting game. While it's visually engaging, those without an interest in the actual Dragon Ball Z franchise will find the fighting too simplistic to be rewarding. I loved seeing the characters realized in their most detailed and expressive incarnation to date, but unfortunately Burst Limit fails to integrate the over-the-top nature that the anime, and even the developer's previous DBZ game, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, captured so well.


Vinny Caravella on Google+
104 Comments
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Posted by Kush

Nice review. I didn't care for the game that much, but that's probably because I don't like DBZ and don't know much about it. The game does look great, but I think the upcoming Naruto fighter looks way better. Nice to see a Vinny review...Yay for VInny!

Posted by MOLE

I played the Demo, it was alright

Posted by Legend

Yess! Vinny's first review.

Posted by Kane

im renting it atm, its pretty good i like it

Posted by Kevin

Love the review, man. Not the biggest fan of DBZ, so maybe I'll pass on this one.

Posted by AZ123

Nice Vinny, I am glad to see this. Screw everyone who player hates on DBZ because we all liked it at some point.

Posted by InfiniteGeass

I think I'll just wait till burst limit 2,since there will be more improvements,more story,and more characters.I just wish this one went to the Buu saga.

Posted by get2sammyb

Good review Vinny. Not a fan of the DBZ games though.

QUICK ASIDE: Vinnys picture looks really small?

Posted by rockstar428

nice review Vinny, I hope it's not your last

Posted by TheGTAvaccine

Dragon Ball Z...-shudder- Good review!

Posted by Dudacles

Nice review. You seem to have a very different review style from other proffesional reviewers, and it's great.

Posted by mrfluke

nice to see a vinny review dont worry burst limit did well so by burst limit 3 it could iron out

Posted by piecat

Great job Vinny. I hope to see more of your work.

Posted by Mattzz10

Finally!! jk great review Vinny.

Posted by Splenda14

i rented and it was good but not enough for a buy

Posted by RedNinja

Yeah, Kameha-meha to da face! I think that the best DBZ fighting game is Super Dragon Ball Z because it's an arcade game in Japan. What I don't like in my fighting games is a story that interferes with my game-on. I like watching the cartoon and I don't mind the 10 episode fights, but with a game, give me an intro and an ending and I'm happy.

Posted by CitizenKane

Vinny's first review!!!

Posted by TEAMHOLT

Vinny, my man. Can I drop a Spirit Bomb? That's all I need to know about this game.

Posted by Raven_Sword

When the Bombcast talks about DBZ, they always sound like they hate it. Like theres a very Sarcastic "this show sucks" tone to it.

Posted by Callumz

Great first review Vinny.

Posted by MetalGearSunny

Nice first review, Vinny!

Posted by BlackWaterCO

Eh, im not into these games so I guess I just read all this for the writing

first vinny review I've ever read...your really good

Posted by Bettenfutter

How fitting that your first review should be DBZ Vinny!  Can't say i care much for DBZ but i thought your review was interesting and had a nice personal touch!  More please!!!!

Posted by Gearhead

5 out 5 that game deserves.:P

Posted by Derios

Great job on your first review Vinny!

Posted by MasterSplinter

i <3 vinny

Posted by unclejohn0525

Still want...

Posted by BenderUnit22

Nice job, Vinny. I bet something inside you still wanted to award 5 stars :P

Posted by OGCartman

Awesome Review!
Im a huge fan of DBZ and the Games =P

Posted by synt4x

Great review. Keep it up! :)

Posted by Nik_NYG

yay vinny.

Posted by Drebin_893

I seriously would have thought that you were a veteran at this reviewing business! That was an exceptional review Vinny, congratulations.

Posted by SM2099

Under 5 stars!! Huh?! Uh?!

I guess your right from reading the review, alhtough I wish they just released Budokai 3 with these graphics and good online. That is still the best DBZ game IMO. I'll probably try it out at somepoint but not  priority at this moment if it doesn't live up to the hype.

Great review. Hope to see more with the Vinny ISO qualitiy seal of approval.

Posted by UrbanGuerilla

Great review, and also your first!!!!

Posted by Shadz

Now all we need is a bombcast solely dedicated to burst limit, like the snakecast. :P

Posted by Smallville123

Our lil Vinny's growing up ;)

Posted by Alberto777

Great Review Vinny!

Posted by Goku

I agree, this game is hands down the most beautifull Dragon Ball Z game to date, but it was missing too much. I enojed it, but DBZ: Tenkaichi 2 for the wii is still my favorite DBZ game to date. I just love the gameplay style of that game. And even if tenkaichi 3 has more characters, the gameplay style of 2 is much more enjoyable (for me at least). And its not like it doesnt have a lot of characters also.

Posted by SkaOreo

awesome!!  I really do need to pick this game up.

Posted by roofy

good review vinnie.

you found the same pros and cons that i had

Posted by MisterWaingro

Well it sure took you long enough to post!  Been talkin' about that review, what, three weeks ago now?

Heh, nah, I know you guys have been busy.  Good stuff, man.  Keep it up.

Posted by AllThatBacon

Whoa whoa whoa.....you didn't give it a 5 out of 5?! This can't be....

Posted by Zaapp1

It's sad how Budokai 3 handled better than this.  Couldn't they have just remade Budokai 3 with these highly-rendered graphics?

Posted by KnightsofRound

When they originally announced that the game only went up to the Cell saga, I honestly wasn't expecting much.  Budokai 3 gave us a ton of really neat things and Burst Limit just strips it all away as an excuse to start a new trilogy while slowly re-adding the same content we've already had.

How about actually adding in the other Ginyu force characters like Burter and Jeice?  Or maybe actually add a few GT characters like Super 17 or Baby Vegeta (Yes I know a large portion of GT's story is rubbish, but there are still quite a few decent characters that would be neat to have in the game).

Anyways, great review, and even though I haven't played it myself I am not surprised.  As a huge fan of DBZ I think I will continue to play Budokai 3 as well as Tenkaichi 2/3, and hope for the day that they make the true successor to Budokai 3.

Posted by AttackedCamo

Awesome review Vinny!

Posted by FLStyle

Scrap the Burst Limit/Budokai series, Budokai Tenkaichi 4 please.

Great review, you can tell it's from a fan who knows what they talking about but unbiased at the same time.

Posted by xthemusic

At last! The review appears!

Brilliant read, well worth the wait...please do more :)

Posted by IOUOneGalaxy127

Nice job, Vinny! Excellent review!!

Posted by pandorasbox

Good review, but i was really hoping you guys would get in the habit of making video reviews. =[

Online
Posted by Meltbrain

Yeah, I've gotta agree with the other guys that is a fantastic review, Vinny.

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