Of Dragon Ball Z, I've seen a couple episodes, read a couple of the comics, and played some of the SNES games. Anything I know of the plot beyond that I've learned from friends. Often games like DBZ:BT2 are catered specifically towards fans of the series, completely alienating anyone else who just wants to play an enjoyable fighting game. While DBZ:BT2 strays dangerously close to this point, it winds up being a really enjoyable fighting game to play for any Wii owner.
First, before anything else attempted, the training mode has to be done in its entirety. Few fighting games have a control setup quite as complex as this game, since everything from dashing, flying, dodging, blocking, ki blasts, rush combos, and blast moves have to be used to make any advancement in this game. The problem here is that the training mode itself is poorly set up. The game presents you with a few pages of text on how to accomplish a specific move or two, and then throws you into a training match with no other prompt except a small 'success!' when you accomplish a move. Initially, the list of moves, dodges, and attacks don't seem terribly complicated, but when you're in the middle of a high-speed battle, with your opponent dashing towards you, that's when you realize how truly complicated the controls are. This goes double for the Wii, where a decent blast attack might involve holding Z and B while waving the nunchuk twice and then bringing forward the Wiimote before releasing the two buttons. If the Wiimote is not to your style, however, the game allows you to plug in a classic controller or a Gamecube controller to play as well.
The game is a 3D fighter that centers the view behind your character. The battlefields are no small arenas, but instead are large, open landscapes that present an abundance of space for you and your opponent to fly around in. On the surface, the game seems like a pretty standard fighting game, but it's easy to see that the combat system is what makes this game so unique. It's one thing to hammer your opponent and send them flying across the screen, it's another thing to send them flying across the landscape, chase after them at high speeds, smash them towards the sky, disappear and reappear behind them, and then knock them to the ground in a spectacular explosion. And that's just a standard combo. The fighting system is robust and versatile, and any player can quickly find their particular style of combat.
The game is divided into a variety of modes, which are essentially different ways to get you into battles. The first is the Dragon Adventure, in which you follow the story of the Dragon Ball series, starting when Raditz comes to Earth to find Goku. Each scenario of the Dragon Ball Z story (for example, the Tree of Life or the Frieza Saga) is divided into episodes that typically have one story-centered fight to defeat before you can move on to the next episode. In each episode, you can fly around the particular planet you're on to visiting events around the globe, most of which just involve someone giving you tips, or some enemies wanting to battle. But to further the plot, you must visit the single story event in each episode. This is the mode most suited for fans of the series, as they'll be able to see and control the battles they've seen before. The problem arises in the fact that the storyline has to follow the series' plot, which means that even if you're a really good fighter, Yamcha will still perish against the Saibamen, even if you win the battle, or even if he doesn't fight at all. It's really just a series of battles with predetermined opponents, strung loosely together by a plot.
Another mode is the Dragon Tournament, which essentially allows you to get into a tournament-style hierarchy of battles, with multiple players if you want. Essentially, the point of this mode is simple: make cash to buy more Z-items (more on these later). Also available for you to fight in is the Ultimate Battle Z, in which you'll fight a series of opponents in a variety of ladder series. Along the way you'll be receiving points, all of which culminate when you finish the final enemy. It's little more than a high score, but it's based on a lot of factors, and worth trying to beat your own score (or a friend's). And, of course, if you just want to battle with your friends or the computer, there's the simple Dueling mode to get you battling in arenas with characters of your choice.
Z-items are crucial to this game, and will really determine whether you get pummelled quickly or not. You'll get them either by winning them from battles or as prizes, or by purchasing them at a shop run by the witch Bibidi. Before every battle, you'll have the ability for "Z-item Evolution", which will allow you to equip your characters with these. They'll give you a variety of effects from raising your attack or defense, to draining your opponent's energy. In the end, they all assist you in one way or another and gain even more use once you level them up.
After every battle, the characters that participated in the battle will be awarded experience, or, more accurately, the Z-items equipped will be awarded experience. Get enough experience, and the more direct-effect ones will level up, raising an 'Attack +1' Z-item, for example, to an 'Attack +2' Z-item. This is an interesting element to play with, because, for example, if a battle in the tournament or the story proves too difficult to beat, all you need to do is go through some battles with the character to get his or her Z-items powered up so that you can do some real damage (and/or take it too). There's also a Z-item Fusion mode of the game which will allow you to combine certain Z-items to do things such as creating new items or unlocking different characters to fight with.
The Z-items, however, have some problems. For one, when you equip them to characters, the items are on the characters throughout all the modes, until you unequip them manually. This can become a chore, but often, like in the story mode, when your available characters cahnge after nearly every battle, it can become necessary.
Especially impressive is the amount of characters to battle with. Essentially, if they've ever fought in the Dragon Ball series, they'll be in the game, in many forms too. There's everything from the essentials, like Goku and sons, to villains ranging from Vegeta (in both scouter and non-scouter form) to Frieza and Cel (in their multiple forms) to even the more obscure like Mr. Satan, Bardock, and Grandpa Gohan. They're pretty much all here, and they even have their signature moves, like Krillin's Destructo Disk and Goku's Spirit Bomb. Blowing up the entire arena has never been so much fun!
Speaking of the arenas, they also add to the feeling of this being a real DBZ game. For one, they're destructible, so sending your opponent through a mountain or obliterating a tournament platform is possible. They also provide the ability to hide from certain attacks that you can't avoid or block. Additionally, with attacks like Goku's Spirit Bomb, the entire arena can be blown away, replacing it with a ravaged landscape that's completely different.
The artwork is well done and follows the style of the show perfectly. The effects are suitably larger-than-life, whether it's the massive explosion from a powerful ki-blast to the motion-blur around you as your race towards your foe. The characters even begin to look more and more beaten up and haggard as the fights wear on. My only complaint in this regard is the presentation of the menus, which look a little plain. The sound, on the other hand, varies. The English voices, for example, are present and voiced by the people that did the television shows and movies, but for those that prefer the original Japanese, that's available too. The music is often a little irritating to listen to after too long, and some of the tracks feel out of place for the series. Still, some of them are actually good to listen to, with fast beats to match the fighting, but more often than not, the tunes are too repetitive and over-used. Many get old quickly.
Though it might seem that the game is meant only for people who are fans of the series, in both digital and literary form, it's apparent that the fighting itself really appeals to anyone who likes a good, fast-paced battle filled with spectacular moves and speed. Though the characters and storyline might seem a little obscure to some, the Dragon Encyclopaedia, a readable summary of the plot and characters of the show, can catch some people up to speed and refresh the memories of others. It's really game that everyone should at least try, and even though the learning curve may be as steep as a mountain, it's worth it.