In the massively popular genre of fighting games, it is not unheard of for companies to licence popular characters for inclusion in their latest title. Sometimes, they even licence an entire series for a game focused on these already popular characters. One of the more recent of these is the Dragon Ball Z television anime series, all licenced for the game Supersonic Warriors. However, lets keep in mind that the popularity of the characters in a game does not determine the quality or popularity of the game itself.
So, lets take a look at how Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors stacks up against the competition. Published by Atari and developed by Banpresto, Supersonic Warriors takes the cast of Dragon Ball Z and its already developed world, and lets players play through the high-action battles from the series allowing them to decide the outcomes. This formula may initially seem limited in scope because realistically there are few possible outcomes to achieve in an already written and televised storyline, however due to the depth of the Dragon Ball Z story, and due to its focus on fighting, this genre of game fits the series well. Lets just say it was only a matter of time for this game to come out.
In Supersonic Warriors, players have the option to play as one of up to 15 different characters while upgrading fighting skills as they advance through the game. As previously mentioned, they also have the opportunity to create alternate endings to popular Dragon Ball Z storylines. Fighting is done in a free-flight manner, meaning that not only are players able to combat on the ground as in traditional fighting games, but also take to the skies and destroy opponents like never before. This may seem very intuitive for those who know the anime series, but proves to be a limiting factor in practice. Quite frankly, I felt that the air to air combat felt kind of sluggish in comparison to the quick action we are used to in purely ground-based fighting games. Not that it was harder to direct attacks in the air, just that the game felt "floaty" in this sense as your character seemed to move almost as if it were a cloud. This is not exactly the best feel for a fighting game, although it will set button-mashers back a few steps to say the least.
Another (although minute) complaint about the single-player portion of the game is that there are many campaigns to play through as each different character (not a bad thing in itself) but game saves only occur after the eight matches complete, thus completing a mission. This makes it quite hard (and time consuming) for those of us who fly through the first seven matches with ease, but then struggle with the final match only to have to replay the first ones all over again. In my experience, I found that this was almost always the case; the first seven matches would be ridiculously easy with very little increase in difficulty until the eighth one.
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to try the multiplayer action in this game, although I think it would have been interesting to see how my skills compared to those of some of my friends. Supersonic Warriors offers a two-player tag-team mode for those with the GameLink cable and a friend with lots of spare time on his or her hands.
The graphics and sound aspects of Supersonic Warriors are pretty much on par with other GBA games. More importantly though, they represent the Dragon Ball Z characters well. Environments on the other hand, are fairly simple and could have probably been done better. The sound effects are simple and seem somewhat uninspired even given the limitations of the GBA on this matter. The music track on the other hand, seems to have been done better.
In the end, Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors is merely an average game. It does not stack up against other fighting games out there, nor does it do an exceptional job of representing the Dragon Ball universe. Its main drawbacks are the sluggish feeling of the combat and its poor difficulty curve through the campaigns. With these minor improvements, this game might have faired better. If you are a hardcore Dragon Ball fan, you may pick this up, but only if it is because you need to get your fix or complete a collection. Otherwise, I would give it a pass and consider either another one of the Dragon Ball Z games, or, if you like the fighting genre, another fighting game set outside of the Dragon Ball Z universe.