With the anime series having ended around a decade ago and the first DBZ game I played being on the SNES, Dragon Ball Z has had a long run, but with a new game and the series now appearing on Blu-ray it hardly seems over. Old fans and whole new generations are digging the epic battles, light hearted humor, and underdog victories that made it such a massive hit. Now we come to the latest and last in the Tenkaichi series, which comes closest to capturing that experience in videogame form.
Brief word on the gameplay, which hasn't changed from the previous installment. You dash around through the air to smack your enemies around with fists or ki blasts, dishing out canned combos, special moves, and powerful blast attacks. The game boasts over a hundred and fifty characters this time around, and while a chunk of that number is made of various versions of the same character with slightly altered move sets, with something like twenty Gokus alone, there's still plenty of variety, encompassing some of the most obscure characters in the DBZ universe. Some are unchanged from the previous game, though a number have gotten tweaks in balance and bringing them closer to their anime counterparts. The visuals are about the same, and the best we can expect before the series finally makes the leap to the PS3 and 360 generation.
If you own a Wii, I recommend you hold out and wait for that version, which features an interesting alternate control scheme and full online play.
Unlike DBZBT2's insane story mode that included nearly every battle from the entire saga, no matter how minor or boring, the third game in the series goes for quality over quantity. Only the most important battles from the series are covered, which will run you about six hours to complete. While I think this is better overall, they were a bit too sparse, leaving out things like Vegeta going Super Saiyan for the first time, and the first fusion of Gohan and Trunks. Some of these one shot battles are covered in a whole special section, but it still feels two hours too short. The brawls they cover are impressive and engaging, however, by including the story within the battle itself. There are cut-scenes and conversations during the fighting, while occasionally the R3 will flash on screen to move on to the next story bit. It makes everything more dramatic and exciting, though the fact the game engine can't seem to display more than two characters at a time hinders this with too much off screen dialogue. Another welcome twist is you don't always take the role of the good guys. Often you'll be put in the shoes of villains like Cell and Bojack to show these plunky heroes what real strength is all about.
There are plenty of modes outside of the story. One is Dragon Sim, where you train your chosen fighter for ten day stints, including the occasional mini-game, to fight a series of seven battles, claming rewards in the form of points should you succeed. I wasn't too fond of this mode since the training was a little too random, and you could easily waste half your allotted days with no improvement at all. Then there's the hundred mission challenge mode, which is normally beat the snot out of the selected fighters with a fighter or team of your own, but it throws in enough variations to keep things interesting. The thirty bout survival mode is clearly for hardcore players who want to push their skills to the max since you retain damage between bouts. There are the usual tournaments to enter, alone or freeplay with friends. Finally, you can duel, either one on one or team matches, with you versus the computer, versus a friend, or watch AI to AI matches. All of these can be recorded to replay your finest bouts at a later date.
Evolution Z returns, though evolved into a more straight forward and streamlined form. Here you can improve the entire cast of characters for most of the game modes with various items purchased from the shop. Each character has their own limits, however, so you're not going to bulk up Master Roshi to the level of SSJ4 Goku, but you can at least get him to where he'll hold his own against first level Freiza. Aside from raising their stats and adding special abilities, you can also choose an AI module for your customized fighter, to decide how they act out in AI vs AI battles. Since you can trade codes for these characters, this can lead to some long distance tournaments, which is unfortunately the only way you'll get it since the PS2 version doesn't feature online play.
With a story mode that expects you to already know the story, this one is definitely for the fans. If you're only a casual DBZ player and already have DBZBT2, there isn't much reason to grab this release, though if you haven't got that or are serious about having the definite version of all the characters in the DBZ universe, this is your game. However, if you own a Wii, I recommend you hold out and wait for that version, which features an interesting alternate control scheme and full online play.