Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is very different to the latest console iterations of the Dragon Ball Z franchise. Instead of trying to deliver big 3D landscapes to battle within, Extreme Butoden is a 2D fighter that is centered around creating a fully functional fighting game on a handheld device, rather than a flashy experience with open areas.
The demo only contained five arenas, with the usual locations such as Namek, World Martial Arts Tournament and generic areas reminiscent of iconic battle locations. Each arena has two areas battles can take place: on the ground and in the air. Battles only take to the air once a powerful combination of attacks has been produced. Dominating your opponent until they are sent flying into the air is certainly satisfying, but Dragon Ball fans looking for destructive arenas won’t find what they are looking for here.
The Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden demo itself only contained four different characters, which included Majin Buu, Son Gohan, Goku and Vegeta. Each character felt like their series counterparts, with Gohan delivering speedy attacks and Buu using his size to his advantage. Combat did feel quite sluggish compared to many fighters I have experienced on console, which is to be expected due to the 3DS’ lack of power in comparison. The sluggish nature of battles took some getting used to, but once you finally familiarise yourself with the slow natured battle style there is some great fun to be had. Iconic moves can be delivered with lengthy button combos and because of the 2D nature of each battle, there is no time wasted trying to find your opponent in the open environment. Fantastic handheld fighters are not an easy experience to deliver, but I’m happy to say each fighter has enough variety to provide some exciting gameplay.
Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden also gives an expanded focus on the lesser known individuals from the series. The focus on lesser known characters is due to the Z-Assist feature. When starting a match players can select up to four different Z-Assists to help them in battle, these range from characters like Turtle, Korin, or even Shenron himself. These assists can be initiated on the 3DS touch-pad and can produce a wide variety of actions. For instance, summoning Korin will have the feline master throw a Senzu bean onto the battle and whoever gets it will retrieve some of their health. Of course these assists all possess different cool down periods, meaning nobody will be able to spam these features to victory. Learning which Z-Assist would best suit particular moments in battles added a whole new strategic element to battles, using these assists randomly with no thought will see them gone to waste. They become important tools that need to be used effectively to dominate your foes.
Each arena as well as the characters looks great, due to the crisp 16 bit visual style, which is reminiscent of Streets of Rage. Stages represent their anime counterparts well, but the characters themselves look gorgeous. The cell shaded style on consoles have come a long way in mimicking the anime style, but these crisp old school visuals make each character seem like a moving manga. Pulling off iconic moves also looks fantastic, with Vegeta’s Gallick Gun, of Goku’s Spirit Bomb looking deliciously destructive.
The demo of Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden only contained two modes; one was the standard Battle Mode which allowed me to play against the computer in any combination I liked, while the other took place online. As you’d expect for a demo experience there were not many individuals online, but I eventually was able to experience online with a friend. Searching for battles and creating your own rooms worked well once we were both online, with zero lag during our experience; mind you these took place on the same internet connection. Battles were certainly more fun when playing a human controlled opponent, which pushed the importance of your strategic choice of Z-Assist and characters. These dramatic encounters were certainly my highlight of the Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden demo, but I’m worried how the connection will hold up when battling players on other connections.
The short slice of Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden I experienced definitely eclipsed my expectations. Handheld fighters can get very messy when they are not done right, but Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden seems to be on the right track. There were no indications of what other modes will be included in Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden come launch, and I’m still not sure if a story mode will be amongst them.
If you’re a hardcore Dragon Ball Z fan looking to enjoy a fun experience on your 3DS, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden seems like it may deliver. But as it stands, it’s hard to tell how hardcore fighting fans will come accustom to the sluggish nature of battles and how the online capabilities will handle come its western launch in October.