In some parts of the world, Dragon Ball Z has a fanatic if not cult like following. One could argue that Goku and company are almost as much a staple to video games as a certain pair of Italian plumbers. While the latter mentioned have diversified their gaming portfolio to appear in a wide variety of different genres, the cast of Dragon Ball Z fame prefer to settle their disputes with their fists. They have been going along this route for many decades, spanning many sequels on numerous consoles along the way engaging in the rare RPG or adventure. However it is through the tried and true formula of 1 on 1 combat that has led to the most popular of DBZ titles. This brings us to the latest entry into the series, Dragon Ball Z: Burst limit. If it was a fighting game that did not feature such a distinguished and recognizable group of characters, it could easily be classified as a forgetful, unspectacular brawler. Since this a DBZ game though, it caters to fans of the series more so than the casual gamer and because of this; keeps this title from being much worse than it could have been.
Right out of the box, DBZ:BL gives you a couple different game modes to play with. All of them are nothing new to the fighting world and what you do get is considerably bare bones insofar as playability is concerned. For one, the standard versus and training modes give you only a few characters to select and a couple of stages to fight on. To get more characters and more stages you need to play through the game's main single player mode; Z-Chronicles which I will touch base on a little bit later in this review. When you have more characters and stages at your disposal these modes don't do more than you'd expect them to do. Versus is a standard one on one duel which can also be taken online through Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. Outside of leader boards there isn't too much to online play but for what it's worth; if you have a good connection, you'll be brawling with your opponent as if they were in your own living room. The game hardly shows any lag and remains evenly paced. The training mode is self explanatory; you have the choice of wailing away on a virtual punching bag or tweak your opponent to the point where you'd be lucky to connect with consecutive hits. Regardless of which mode you play through, the fighting is largely the same throughout and is plagued with the occasional nasty clipping and hit detection issues. This is most resonant when you have a smaller character such as kid Gohan tangle with a larger character such as Saibaman.
One other mode of play that will actually serve newbie fighters nicely is the tutorial mode. It takes you through the basics as well as the advanced techniques of the game's characters. Once again you are limited to who you can play as/against but considering you get the DBZ heavyweights in Goku, Piccolo and my personal favourite Krillin, the game not so subtly (and perhaps intentionally) gets you comfortable with arguably the game's best characters. This does not mean the rest of the cast aren't worth checking out, but in the previously mentioned Z-Chronicles mode, you might not be surprised when you realize that you might have an easier time winning fights with the staple DBZ guys over the rest of the bunch. If you feel you've got more than enough game, then the trial option provides you with some special challenges, while not original or even all that compelling are worth a play. The survival mode pits you against 100 computer controlled opponents and if you are good enough to play through that you can unlock the Time Attack mode (fighting against the clock) and then the Battle Point Mode (fighting for points). Again these modes are held back if you have not played the Z-Chronicles Mode at all.
So what makes this so called Z-Chronicles mode so special? In all honesty, it's rather generic and linear. While the setup is promising enough, allowing you to wage some intense battles that have been carried out in the DBZ world, the battles will quickly become repetitive and it doesn't help any when you are stuck facing a certain opponent with only one available character. Usually after you win the battle, you not only unlock the character you defeated, but you also most likely get to play as them in the next fight. The story for what it's worth is both interesting yet irrelevant as well. Fans or fanatics of DBZ should be able to follow along and relate to why Goku wants a piece Raditz, who wants to throw down with Krillin who wants to confront Vegeta who seems to have an issue with Recoome and so on. The battles themselves don't take too long to complete, but with 5 different difficulty settings, and a checklist which rewards you with a certain grade (Z being the highest) for successfully completing a series of attacks/functions gives you a reason to play through fights again if you wish. The other reason to do battles over repeatedly is to unlock the novelty of DBZ:BL; the drama pieces.
These drama pieces are quite the oddity, yet do serve a purpose in the game. Unlocking them provides your character (or your opponent) with a number of different support (or not so supportive mechanisms) The process of obtaining these mystery pieces however is most often left to chance, depending on your or your opponent's ability to reach certain conditions throughout the battle. Every unlocked drama piece is accompanied with a short animated cut-scene mid-fight. Most of the time they last a mere few seconds and afterwards you are told what these drama pieces will do (such as improve your attack, defense, etc.) However one thing about the drama pieces that can really slow down fights is that you cannot skip the scene once you unlock one, even if you've unlocked it in previous battles you'll have to sit through it again and again. Most of the scenes are short, and some are humorous and full of charm while others are just meaningless. Watching a character pant for up to 10 seconds just doesn't seem necessary. It also is a bit of a downer when these cut scenes intersect you pulling off a particular move which would otherwise have annihilated your adversary.
DBZ:BL succeeds and fails with its control scheme. The moves you have available to you are fairly easy to pull off and will take almost no time at all for the average fighting-game prodigy to get the hang of even the more advanced attacks. Pulling off combos is done with a few taps of the X button for rush attacks, although advanced gamers can mix things up a bit with a smash attack through ways of the Y button. A is used to guard or deflect attacks, while the B button proves to be the specialty button in DBZ:BL, pressing it allows you to unleash a moderately powerful long range attack called a Ki blast. By holding down the B button or adding a direction (left or right) you can launch an even more susceptible blast. The basic attacks leave quite a bit to be desired. Many fights could be concluded simply by mashing buttons. Most fights will be over in less than 90 seconds regardless of who the victor may be. The fights just don't pack a whole lot of excitement due to the limited move sets of the characters. Thankfully there are a few techniques worth mentioning that can help turn some fights from complete snoozers to somewhat redeemable.
If there's one thing that the DBZ series is famous for its, eye catching special attacks and Burst Limit is no exception to this. As you prolong your fight, your Ki gauge (located at the bottom of the screen) will gradually fill up, when full you can unleash the always satisfying super attack which is good for massive damage if it connects. Some characters have the ability to transform such as Goku's Super Saiyan form which looks appealing but also makes the dynamics of the fight change because certain abilities will be enhanced while others disappear. The most impressive attack each character has is without question the ultimate attack move, which can be triggered only after you execute an Aura Spark attack (once again the Ki gauge has to be full). What follows next is absolute pandemonium as you and your opponent wage a hellish war in midair through means of another cut scene. To make the most of this, you have to mash those main buttons while your opponent does the same in an attempt to deflect the blows. As the scene ends, your opponent is sent sky high, and ends up crashing to the ground below. You've seen it in countless cartoons and virtually any Kung-Fu movie. Not only does it look awesome to see your character go double time, but the resounding thud as your opponent kisses the earth is as rewarding an experience you'll get playing this game. Successfully pulling off such a move could result in 4-digit damage (as in 1,000+) to your opponent. Keep in mind though, if you are on the receiving end of the assault, you won't have as much fun seeing your own fighter beaten mercilessly. Indeed turnaround is fair play in DBZ:BL and on the higher difficulty level, the computer makes the ultimate attack a regular occurrence.
While the special attacks can look fantastic, the graphics as a whole is acceptable. Having all the character drawn in 2d is not only good for the game but also good for the legion of DBZ gamers who have grown accustom to seeing Goku and the gang as they looked in the countless cartoons, comic books and the like. The characters blend in nicely with their environments which are a mixed bag of scenic and not so scenic venues. Once you get to unlocking everything there is a healthy dose of both characters and stages to cycle through. The hundreds of drama pieces which are also waiting to be unlocked does encourage you to keep playing but if there's one reason to go through fights repeatedly it is because of the verbal exchanges between the characters. The pre and post fight banter not only identify you with the characters but also provide a little bit of zing that is otherwise missing in the actual fights themselves. You won't get a lot of back story from these exchanges, but the vocal work from the characters keeps things entertaining and moderately refreshing.
As mentioned on the onset of this review, the DBZ series has churned out a large variety of fighting games over the years. Such a pedigree helps separate DBZ from other fighters by giving the games an identity. Burst Limit is a nice little fighter overall, but if it wasn't for its characters and its background could easily be discarded amongst the more diverse next-generation fighters that are available. DBZ:BL doesn't necessarily fail in any areas, but due to a generic single player experience, and limited move sets, also doesn't do anything that other fighters out there have done and done better. The multiplayer experience is the main reason to play through this game as a human opponent will often be more engaging than the CPU on most given days. Fans of DBZ won't be disappointed with Burst Limit but for the rest of us out there, this game can be recommended as a fine rental but nothing more.