Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden

There were two Dragon Ball games to come out last year, Xenoverse, and Extreme Butoden. As of this moment, I've only played the latter, and so far it's a bit of a disappointment, both as a tag-team fighting game and as a Dragon Ball game. Fair warning, if you're not a fan of Dragon Ball, you won't understand a word I'm saying here, so if you're interested, you should familiarize yourself with the comics, most likely available at your local library, book-store, or preferred internet retailer. They're really freaking good, so you should read them.
To start off, the roster is incredibly limited, both in comparison to that of the comics and of previous Dragon Ball games. Extreme Butoden boasts of having over one-hundred characters, but as of writing only twenty-six are playable, and all the others are assists, and none of them have any alternate costumes, meaning they're stuck in one set of attire throughout the entire game even during story-mode. None of the Saiyans have Super Saiyan 2, 3, or 4 forms playable, except for Gohan, who doesn't have Super Saiyan 1 playable. Gohan is stuck as Teen Gohan in his Frieza/Cell Saga gear during the Saiyan Saga, which makes him about five years too old. Vegeta only has Super Saiyan playable, despite Goku have Super Saiyan God and Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan forms in the game, and is stuck in the gear he wore in the latter part of the Frieza Saga and all of the Cell Saga, but for some reason, during cutscenes when he transforms into Ozaru, he's wearing the right armor, and during cutscenes set in the Buu Saga he's wearing his correct gear. Despite this, Majin Vegeta is unplayable. Speaking of Ozaru, there aren't Great Ape or Golden Ape transformations for any of the Saiyans, nor are they included as assist characters, despite Great Ape Vegeta showing up in a cutscene towards the end of the Saiyan Saga in-game. Future Trunks is stuck as a Super Saiyan, and there's no playable Kid Trunks period. Adult Gohan has Ultimate and Super Saiyan forms, but no base form or Great Saiyaman costume. Goku has his Dragon Ball Z gear, and his SSGSS form has his Resurrection F gear, but there's no King Kai gi, no Kame House gi, no Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball GT  gi, and he can't wear his Resurrection F gear in his base form. Speaking of which, Frieza is only playable in his final form. No first form, second, third, mecha, or golden form. His brother Cooler isn't playable, and their father, King Cold isn't even in the game. Their ancestor, Chilled isn't playable either. This brings us to Bardock, who doesn't have a Super Saiyan transformation period. Goku and Vegeta both god Super Saiyan transformations as part of their Ultimate Combos, but Bardock doesn't get one at all. Nappa and Raditz don't get any Super Saiyan transformation, and Bardock's other son, Turles isn't playable at all. Vegeta's brother, Tarbles isn't in the game at all. Nor is King Vegeta, or any of Bardock's squad. Dodoria and Zarbon are unplayable, and Zarbon's lizard form isn't in the game at all. The only member of The Ginyu Force that's playable is Ginyu himself, and all the others are assists, as are all of Frieza's other men that are even included in the game. Only Android 18, Lazuli is playable. Her brother, 17, AKA Lapis is an assist, as are Dr. Gero, Android 19, Fusion Android 13, Android 8, and Super 17. Imperfect Cell, Semi-Perfect Cell, and Cell Jr. are all assists, and Android 14, 15, and Hellfighter 17 aren't even in the game. The only Z-Fighters who are in the game are the ones I previously mentioned, so all the others are assists. The only playable fusion there is is Kid Gotenks, while Gogeta is stuck as an assist at SSJ4, while Vegito isn't in the game at all.
As you could tell, the rather anemic roster affects how the story plays out. Since Tien, Chiaotzu, Yajirobe and Yamcha aren't playable, you can't fight Nappa or Vegeta as them, despite their fights being rather pivotal, especially since Yajirobe's "fight" with Great Ape Vegeta saved Goku's life, and by extension, the whole planet.
Not only does the roster affect the plot, in that rather important events are told instead of shown, or in this case, fought, it also affects the amount of gameplay you get out of Story Mode, for self-evident reasons. Fans of Dragon Ball Z will be irritated by the way they butchered the story in the mandatory Dragon Team Saga.
Story-mode is split into a series of six simultaneous stories, with an additional seventh story that takes place after all of them unlocked once you're done, akin to Sonic Adventure. The difference is, Sonic Adventure wasn't trying to adapt any existing source-material, and each characters story more or less made sense both on its own and as a part of the whole. Yes, each of them would wind up contradicting the other, but in the long run it didn't matter, since you got the full picture of the story by the end of the game. You also had alternate levels to go through, alternate boss-fights, alternate approaches to existing ones, etc, while this game has, at most, two extra fights for every character in the game, so until you get to the "Bad Guys" saga, Story Mode is going to be incredibly repetitive. For one thing, Dragon Saga has all of the same major fights in it that the other subsequent Sagas do, except without some of the incredibly plot-sensitive or important fights, most of the establishing elements of the story, most of the defining moments in the series, and most of the Buu Saga. In other words, if you don't already know the plot of Dragon Ball Z, you won't know what the hell is going on. Even if you play through all six Sagas, so much of the story is missing that anyone experiencing the story for the first time will be left wondering what they missed.
The main issue I have outside of the general issue with the horribly abridged story is the sheerly linear nature of the game. No matter what you do, who you beat or how good you are, the game follows the story of Dragon Ball Z exactly. If you win fights characters lost in the story, then they lose in the story. If you lose fights characters lost in the story, you get a game-over. I'm sorry, I thought we'd moved past this in the '90s! WWF: No Mercy had branching storylines perfected back on the N64, and subsequent WWF/E games had branching storylines based on whether you won or lost fights as well. I love the Dragon Ball story, but I've been there and done that before in almost every DBZ game I've played, I want to see something different once and a while! I also don't want my accomplishments in the game to be meaningless in terms of story. Even if you beat Raditz in the first fight in the game, Goku still dies, and the story proceeds as normal. It's disappointing, since it means your actions have no affect on the game. All I want to see is a Dragon Ball game with branching storylines. They could make fights that the characters lost in the series to be super hard to beat, but if you did  manage to pass them, something different could happen. Or they could keep retelling the same old story with worse writing every time, it's their choice.
One of the rather bizarre choices out of the various Saga's is in the Vegeta Saga, which is not an alternate name for the Saiyan Saga, but the main story of Dragon Ball Z told from Vegeta's perspective. Towards the end of the Frieza Saga, Vegeta and Goku both are fighting Frieza as Super Saiyans, despite Vegeta being either dead or on Earth at any point during their fight, and not having broken through the Super Saiyan barrier at this point. This is a rather major issue considering it was a fairly huge plot-point of what it took for Vegeta to become a Super Saiyan. Goku being a Super Saiyan and Vegeta not being as powerful as he was was part of the reason he became a Super Saiyan in the first place. Just handing Vegeta a Super Saiyan transformation ruins part of what made him an interesting character. Did the people who wrote this know nothing about Dragon Ball lore? Did they never watch the show or read the comics? Did they just skip everything after the Frieza Saga? I want answers, dangit! This doesn't make a lick of freaking sense!
Then there's the "Bad Guys" Saga, where you play as all of the villains in a GT-style resurrection/revenge where all of the dead villains come back to fight the heroes. The rather odd thing is that towards the end, Goku's father, Bardock shows up and demolishes the villains, and then beats up on Goku for some reason. Despite the fact that Bardock was neither dead, nor a villain. Then at the end of the saga Beerus from Battle of the Gods shows up and beats up Super Saiyan God Goku.
Then there's Adventure Mode, listed as "Alternate Story" by the title-card, but it's really just the Bad Guys saga told from the perspective of Goku. You have to beat it to unlock Super Saiyan God Goku, which is funny since you can unlock SSGSS Goku before him by tapping in a code. Rather unfortunately, despite the Super Saiyan God being unlocked by beating this mode, you can't beat the final boss with it, so I wound up beating Beerus with SSGSS Goku instead. Ha.
After you beat that, anything resembling story-mode ends. Roll credits. No Resurrection F storyline, none of the movies aside from BoG are covered, despite movie-exclusive villains like Cooler, Meta Cooler, and Turles showing up, none of the specials or OVA's, like Bardock: Father of Goku, Episode of Bardock, Yo! Son Goku and his Friends Return (Which takes place right before Battle of Gods) are covered despite Bardock being playable, and despite the latter taking place right before certain events this game does cover. Both the Bad Guys Saga, and Adventure Mode seem like they took parts of Dragon Ball GT and mashed them together with parts of Battle of Gods.
Now that we've moved past the general failings of the story, let's move on to the writing and translation. They're both abysmal. Some characters, such as Ginyu in the screenshot to the left, speak in ways that they never did in the comics or the animated series. The fluff-text for the character-roster is the most bland, uninspired garbage I've ever seen, and the bridging dialogue between scenes is so passive that it doesn't even seem like it was written by the same person who wrote the dialogue. Despite it being inspired by Akira Toriyama's work, there's no way any of this was written by him. Everything is just so bland, and all of the characters have had their personality ironed out. There's none of the unique flavor that made Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z interesting. Everything reads in such a flat, uninspired way.
This brings us to the translation. There are times when it seems like the writing was affected more by the translator not knowing how a character speaks than the writer not knowing. It's hard to tell sometimes, but if you're familiar with roughshod Japanese to English translations, you can pick out some of the really lazy moments, like times when complicated sentiments are boiled down to "I'll never forgive you!" which is something of a stock-phrase in inaccurate translations. Overall, I'm just left to wonder why they didn't copy and past the script to the animated series or the comics into it for most of the game, since they clearly didn't have anyone on-hand who could write as well as Toriyama does. That could have worked for all versions of the game, the Japanese publisher could have pasted in the Japanese script, and the American publisher could have pasted in the English one, then all that would have had to be written or translated would be the Bad Guys saga and Adventure Mode. Or they could have created some more original content, either way.
Now we come to the gameplay, which is rather insultingly easy, at least during story-mode. Some fights can be finished in a few seconds, even when characters are unevenly matched. The screenshot to the left is from my fight with Vegeta during the Krillin Saga, right before I finished him off. Even though you can't see part of my health-bar, I've still got most of my health left, and I'm hitting Vegeta with a finishing-move. As Krillin. Anyone who knows Dragon Ball knows Krillin should not be able to do this, but he can. Partially because this Saga has to contrive incredible reasons for Krillin to win all of his fights, but he still gets killed by Frieza at the end of the Frieza Saga for some reason, despite kicking Cell's butt later in the game. The other part is that most of the enemies in the game, outside of Extreme Survival, can be stun-locked from a distance with ki-blasts. During Adventure Mode and Story Mode you can literally just stand around charging your ki while the enemy AI just stands around being confused, dashing about, occasionally throwing out a punch or two. This leaves you plenty of time to dash in, pull off a Meteor Combo (A combo that knocks your opponent into the air or onto the ground) and a finishing-move to knock off most of their health. Hell, sometimes they don't even have enough health left to survive to the end of a Meteor Combo. Once I got the hand of the controls, I never died except when I let an enemy knock my health down to half so I could try and activate my ultimate attack, just so I could see what they looked like for each character. If I had been playing to kill instead goofing off, I probably would have only died like once, at the very end of Story Mode. Part of the reason for this is that the AI is so stupid that it doesn't attack when you leave yourself open, and partially because they will always, always lose a beam-struggle conflict.
When you or your opponent fires off a finishing-move, if the one on the receiving end of the attack has 150% of their Ki Gauge filled, they can fire off a counter-attack by pressing A, initiating a beam-struggle. You win this struggle by tapping the A button over and over until you win. Yes, it's a Quick Time Event, except they don't actually tell you you need to repeatedly tap the A button, so it's not just a Quick Time Event, it's a Quick Time Event that they don't tell you is a Quick Time Event. This wound up getting me killed in a couple of online matches. Sure, it tells you that in initiates a button-tapping contest in the moves-list, but it doesn't tell you which button you need to press, and if you haven't looked at the moves list for some reason, then there's no way you'd know how to do that. Like I said, what's worse than a QTE? A QTE that the game doesn't tell you about.
After you finish Adventure Mode you unlock Extreme Tournament mode, which was featured in Adventure Mode for a sequence of the game. Rather unfortunately, it contradicts some of the events of both Adventure Mode and Story Mode. For one thing, in Adventure Mode, Krillin and Lazuli (Who's still referred to as Android 18 despite Toriyama having revealed her and her brothers names freaking years ago) are competing in the tournament separately so they can win two prizes. In Extreme Tournament Mode, they're competing together against the likes of Piccolo, Bardock, Perfect Cell, Frieza, the Ginyu Force, Raditz and Nappa, and Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Goku. How they expected to take second and third place with competition like that is beyond me.
And then Broly shows up for some reason about halfway through the tournament to challenge Goku (At least I was playing as Goku because that's who you were supposed to be playing as in Adventure Mode) and if you were smart enough to pack your team with Super Saiyan Goku, SSG and SSGSS Goku, then you've got this in the bag. Then at the end, Beerus shows up, accompanied by regular old Goku and Vegeta for some reason, and if you don't know how to beat him, you're screwed, and you've got to start the whole tournament over again. Comparatively speaking, this mode is actually pretty hard if you don't know what you need to do to win. Extreme Survival is where the majority of the challenge will come from. It and the multiplayer are the only ways to accumulate Extreme Points to unlock Extreme powered-up versions of the characters. If you're only in this for the single-player, then this will do nothing for you, since it doesn't actually unlock anything you haven't already used. If you know how to handle the game, then you can beat Broly with Krillin. I'm not kidding, I actually pitted basic Krillin against Broly in a singles match and he freaking won. I've actually seen this happen before, I beat Vegeta with Yamcha in Super Dragon Ball Z once. I like this in concept, but all of the characters are ranked by "DP" (I assume that means Difficulty Points) and you wonder what those rankings even mean. Less DP means less HP, but if you're fast enough that doesn't matter. Plus, under most circumstances, the AI is so freaking stupid that they can't even hit you when you leave yourself open.
Next we move onto graphical and technical issues. When characters accumulate 200% of their Ki Guage (After total team HP has been reduced to at least 50% or less) they can activate a super ultimate attack which cannot be blocked and will cut through almost all of their opponents HP. Before the attack starts, a few frames of animation play of the character doing something for the camera. For some reason though, the portraits of the characters don't fill the entire screen, and in the case of Vegeta's picture to the left, has a white background, which makes it stand out significantly compared to the black borders. This is by far one of the strangest graphical issues I've seen in the game, since nothing else in the game aside from these portraits are pillar-boxed like this. This one portrait in particular seems like someone forgot to remove the white background before the game went gold. Seems like the kinda thing that the latest update would have fixed, but nope.
There's a big blue Z in the background on the mode selection-screen that looks like it was ripped from another Dragon Ball game and then poorly upscaled and recolored. Either that, or they ran over the top of it with a line-tool without anti-aliasing turned on. If you look close at it, it's got a lot of discoloration around the edges of the angles where the squared bleed over into the orange background. It looks ugly, and given a few minutes of time I could have come up with something that looks a lot more professional. The Jpeg compression in this picture doesn't help much, but Miiverse doesn't save screenshots in PNG format unfortunately.
Now we take a look at the touchscreen portraits for Goku. Around the right-hand side of his Gi in each picture, there's a jagged black outline that looks so freaking rough that it doesn't fit in with the rest of the picture. All of the other line transitions and outlines in the portraits are so much smoother that the outline of his Gi over his shirt. For instance, the outline of his shirt over his chest, or the outline of his hair on his head. I would love to know what happened that caused these portraits to turn out like this, because I can't think of a reason other than someone screwed up and forgot to clean up some lines before the game went gold, or else didn't have the time to. The portrait of Krillin above shares the same issues, but there are portraits that don't, such as the standard one for Vegeta, or the SSGSS portrait of Goku.
Now we come to the options menu. As I've stated before, the game is a bit too easy, so what did I do? I cranked it up to Hard to try and get more of a challenge out of it. It barely had any affect.
You can also change match duration and button-mapping if you wish, but there's one rather critical option missing. Audio. While all the text in the game is in English, all of the voices are in Japanese. Rather odd, considering all the previous games that have been released in America have had the Funimation cast as an option at least, in this game you're stuck with the Japanese cast no matter what, and most of them are either utterly unsuited to their roles or just plain bad. A quick example would be how Goku, Gohan, Turles, Goten, and Bardock are all voiced by the same woman, Masako Nozawa, even as adults. This leads to fights between these characters where you can barely tell the characters voices apart. Then there's Krillin, who shares a voice-actress with his wife, Android 18. You can tell them apart, but Krillin's voice is still too high, even for someone as small as he is. It's a rather bizarre choice, since there are plenty of Dragon Ball fans, such as myself, who despise the Japanese cast of Dragon Ball Z.
The rather odd thing is that despite having the Japanese cast, half the score sounds like it was composed by Zard and The Field of View (Composers and performers of the Dragon Ball GT theme song) and the other half sounds like it was composed by Bruce Faulconer, the Funimation dub composer. The upside is that we don't wind up with any of the really horrible tracks from the Japanese version, like the Super Saiyan transformation song, or the first ED. The downside is there's no Cha La Head Cha La, no Hikari no Willpower, no Solid State Scouter, no We Gotta Power, and no We Were Angels. The music in the game is perfectly fine, but there's nothing particularly iconic about it, nothing that particularly screams Dragon Ball Z.
This brings me to another technical issue. The voice-clips during combat have sample-rates lower than that of the music, which appears to be about CD-quality. The clips that play during cutscenes are of the same quality as the music, as are the sound-effects that play during battle, but the voice-clips almost sound like they were ripped from a GBA or early DS game for all their low-quality.
All in all, while this isn't a particularly bad game by any means, there are certainly better Dragon Ball games to choose from. Pick up any of the DBZ games on DS over this, or better yet, just pick up Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2. It's got the English voice-cast, the iconic Faulconer score, and it doesn't skip around like this game does.
In the end, this game is pretty mediocre. I give it a 4.9* rating. Sorry this is a little late, I've been stretched thin lately, and I've had a lot on my plate. Next week should be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows or Warcraft.