Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Review (PS3/360): “An Engaging, Anime Gaming Experience”

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Wallpaper

The Naruto series is an immensely popular manga series that’s been around for over 15 years. Over time, the series received a sequel called Naruto Shippuden in 2007. Naturally, with any popular series, it’s inevitable for the property to reach out to other audiences. Naruto has had no shortage in video games, and developer CyberConnect2 has created over 10 games in the series’ history. “Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3” is CyberConnect2’s latest installment in the franchise. Does it hit all the right notes or does it simply not do the series justice?

Story: 4/5

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3’s story takes place showing the event of Nine Tails attacking the village of Konoha. After witnessing this flashback, the game will fast forward years later to continue right from where the events left off in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. We find that Naruto discovers his best friend, Sasuke, has betrayed the Hidden Leaf to work with the Akatsuki. In the meantime, there’s word that Madara Uchiha is still alive and is looking to obtain the power of Nine-Tails. The game will start off during the Five Kage Summit story arc and go all the way through the Shinobi World War arc. The story found here is certainly deep and complex. The characters are all represented very well and the presentation really makes it feel like you’re watching the anime.

There’s plenty happening in the story here…and what’s interesting is that even if you’ve never played or seen anything with Naruto, you can still pick up on what’s happening here. CyberConnect2 really wanted to enhance their storytelling a good amount and they’ve certainly done so. The story doesn’t exactly take off until roughly Chapter 3, but once it does, you’ll be really engrossed as to what to look forward to next. The cutscenes are very well told, with mostly great dialogue and interesting plot events that unfold. Personally, I never had the chance to get into the Naruto franchise but the game does a great job of engaging the player into the narrative.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 4/5

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 provides a few game modes: Ultimate Adventure, Free Battle and Online Battle. The Ultimate Adventure is where you will be clocking a ton of time with, as the adventure is quite…well, ultimate. Spanning over the course of 10 chapters, plus a prologue, you’ll embark on a journey that provides for a ton of variety that keeps you on your toes. The game will start with an epic boss battle against Nine Tails, teaching you the ropes of how you can expect a boss battle to play out. This particular battle will allow you to easily leap between buildings and nimbly move your way to the target to attack. Occasionally, quick-time events will trigger that you’ll need to successfully pull off in order to dish out some serious damage. However, every boss battle later in the game plays out different, and I’ll touch on that later on. Shortly after, you’ll be introduced to one-on-one combat…and this is where mechanically, it feels entirely different from all the others on the market.

This isn’t your standard fare one-on-one combat that you’re used to in fighters like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, etc. This combat is handled on a free-roaming 3D battlefield. You’ll use a single button for close-up attacks, while pushing a specific direction on the analog stick in conjunction with the attack button can switch up your combos. Pressing the Triangle/Y button will let you use Chakra, which channels energy for your character. Holding still and pressing Triangle/Y will let you recharge your Chakra meter so that you can unleash Jutsu moves. These devastating, awe-spectacle moves looks as slick as they are deadly. You’ll be able to block any incoming attacks with the R2/RT button, but holding it down for too long may result in your opponent eventually breaking your defense. Should you want to dodge an attack or break free from an opponent’s combo, pressing the L2/LT button will initiate a Substitution Jutsu. This will confuse your opponent by attacking a log or other object instead of you, giving you the upper hand to teleport behind them and attack. Careful though, as you can only do this up to four times in a row before the meter can fill up and allow you to dodge again. The X/A button will allow you to jump and dash around the battlefield to dodge and weave your way to the opponent. While doing this, you can also throw shurikens to stun them for a second. Fights will get very intense as the AI doesn’t let up. However, this makes the game very rewarding and does an excellent job of making battles feel like you have to give it your all. If you’ve never played a Naruto title before, this can seem a bit complex or overwhelming, but once you start to get a feel for the mechanics and learn that it’s not your typical fighter, you’ll really start to appreciate the fresh and unique nature of it.

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Throughout the game’s very lengthy campaign (15+ hours to beat), you’ll not only be doing standard one-on-one fights. Instead, the developers incorporated other gameplay styles into here as well, such as Free Roam and Mob Battles. Free Roaming will take a portion of the in-between battles, where you’ll venture around the areas, partake in optional quests, advance the storyline and visit shops to buy items. The items will be used to equip for any battles so that you can increase your chances at success. Mob Battles will switch the game’s mechanics to play like a “hack-and-slash”, incorporating the game’s combat system while also introducing some slick QTEs to pull off. For example, you’ll face a number of foes at once, each with their own mini-health bar hoving over their head. While beating an enemy to a pulp, when their health depletes entirely, you’ll be able to press the jump button to speed dash to the next enemy and continue stretching out your combo. When you fill up your special meter, you can pull off a Boost Attack which has you speed dashing to every enemy in the area and pressing the appropriate buttons to deal serious damage to them. This gameplay mechanic was very entertaining and just wish there were a bit more of them. The thing about Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm’s campaign is that it really tries to throw new gameplay mechanics at you to make the game feel fresh. A brand new gameplay element for this installment are the Ultimate Decision moments. There will be times scattered throughout the game’s story where you’ll have to make a Legend or Hero decision that affects the battle and difficulty. If you want to be a Legend, expect the difficulty to spike up a good amount. Going the Hero route will keep the difficulty on par with your skills and is more for the average player. The decisions also affect the amount of points you’ll receive in the Legend/Hero department. Certain items will only be available with a Legend build, while others may only be available with the Hero build. The more you stick with a certain path, the extra experience points you’ll earn for that path. The experience points will level up that path, which allows you to carry better ninja tools and higher capacities of those tools as well.

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I mentioned earlier that boss battles all play out differently, and they do honestly. Every boss battle in the game will have you going into it feeling entirely different than the one previously that you completed. Unfortunately, mentioning the methods of play during these boss battles would be a spoiler, so I’ll avoid ruining their experiences. What I will say is that they’re incredibly cinematic and grand in scale. They actually nail the aspect of what a boss battle should be like. During the boss battles, you’ll be able to initiate Interactive Actions (IA). These are QTEs where you’ll have to press the appropriate buttons and sequence they appear in to achieve the jaw-dropping scenes during battles. You’ll earn stars during IAs and the faster you are at pressing the buttons upon prompt, the more stars you’ll earn. If you earn the maximum amount, you’ll be treated to a Secret Factor, which shows a flashback between the characters that are fighting. These sequences are incredibly flashy and a complete spectacle to see in action. Sometimes, certain battles will contain Secret Actions to unlock. These will require a very specific move to be pulled off at the right time to trigger a cutscene to few. You’ll know these are available when an icon appears on the top-center of the screen inside a bubble. The bubble will have a little image in there to give you a slight hint as what to do to initiate the Secret Action. The only thing I wasn’t fond of during a boss battle was that the camera would lose focus of the action at times. When you complete the Ultimate Adventure, you’ll be able to go back and complete optional quests that you may have missed, as well as try to fill out your Ninja World Timeline. The Ninja World Timeline will let you replay any moments from Ultimate Adventure, whether it be fights, action sequences or any of the cutscenes. However, you can unlock other events that are parallel to the game’s core story. As much as I enjoyed Ultimate Adventure, there were times where the cutscenes were so abundant and lengthy, that you forgot there was a game to play in here too. And the questionable design choice was to occasionally watch a lengthy 10-15 minute cutscene, regain control of a character, run outside the area within 5-10 seconds and watch another 10 minute cutscene. I completely understand that the story is very integral to the experience but too many cutscenes can bog down the flow of gameplay. Thankfully, the story is great to back it up.

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Aside from Ultimate Adventure mode, you’ll be able to go through Free Battle mode. There are over 80 characters to choose from and 40 stages to fight on. Here you’ll be able to take on the CPU or a buddy in either Single Match or Team Match. Single Match is your one-on-one combat, where as Team Match lets you bring in two additional characters for support. For Team Battle, depending on who you choose as your main character, followed by your two support characters, will determine certain attributes that can be handy in battle. If you want, there’s a Practice mode so that you can go in and get further acclimated to the game’s fighting system, as well as master your favorite character. Additionally, there’s Tournament Mode, which lets you choose from three different types: Free Tournament, Perpetual Change Tournament and Challenge Tournament. Free Tournament is basically your standard fare bracket setup, with no special stipulations attached to it. Perpetual Change Tournament will keep things interesting by adding certain elements to a battle. Before the match starts, both players will have a random element chosen to change the effects of battle. For example, you may receive slower Chakra regeneration while your opponent may get faster Chakra regeneration speed. It keeps things a bit more challenging and interesting. Lastly, there’s Challenge Tournament, which breaks down the tournaments into a variety of difficulty levels and scenarios. As you complete each course, you’ll unlock new ones and higher difficulties. Each course will contain specific character rosters to go up against as well.

Lastly, there’s the Online Battle. You have your Player and Ranked matches to choose from. Ranked matches are straightforward battles where you’ll be recorded with wins and losses and try to level up your rank. Player matches offers a bit more variety on the other hand. You can still participate in a standard fighting match, but you can also choose Endless and Tournament modes as well. Endless will have you fighting opponents until you lose, whereas Tournament has you aiming for the top spot. Endless can definitely provide for a ton of fun, especially if you and others in the room are trying to take down the consecutive winner. You’ll also be able to customize your Ninja Info Card. Here you can choose your card image and title to display when challenging opponents online. Interestingly, you’ll be able to trade these cards with opponents you come across online. I was able to test out a few rounds online prior to the game’s release and had mixed experiences. If an opponent had three full signal bars, the game played pretty well online. However, the moment someone with one or two bars joins in, the lag is very noticeable. Hopefully the netcode gets a patch update in the near future to provide for smoother online play.

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Graphics: 5/5

Visually, words can’t begin to describe how beautiful Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 looks on-screen. Simply put, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, with its incredibly rich, detailed cel-shading, superb animations, terrific character models and varied environments with excellent lighting effects, showing the light rays cutting through clouds and tree lines. The game literally looks like you’re watching the show, if not better. CyberConnect2 is a developer that should be very proud of the astounding visual representation they’ve nailed with Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. Even the cinematography of the epic battles when initiating Jutsu moves and boss battles in their entirety just looks like an awe-inspired spectacle. There were a few times where the framerate slightly dropped but it’s so rare that it’s barely noticeable. Overall, this game is one of the best looking titles out on the market.

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Sound: 4/5

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 has some great audio. The soundtrack is impressive and fitting for the cutscenes, exploration, and crazy battles that are waiting to ensue. It’s a blend of a Japanese musical elements fused with a cinematic orchestra that works really well and immerses you into the experience. Voice acting brings all the original voice actors onboard for both the English and Japanese voice tracks. Yes, that’s right fans, you get the choice of both language tracks so which ever you prefer more, you’ve got the choice. Another nice touch is that characters will exchange words with each other during battles, giving them a more charismatic feel. The sound effects are incredibly powerful as well, making all the battles “sound” more intense. However, lip-syncing for the English voiceovers seems a bit off at times. Also, the “Character Vs.” lacks any audio to build up the tensity of the upcoming battle and is too silent. Overall, it’s still a great audio experience.

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Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is quite an experience that fans will really love. The presentation and story is really impressive, the gameplay is engaging, the soundtrack is great and the visuals are simply stunning. Aside from a few quirks here and there, UNS3 is a great game that fans should not miss out on.

PROs:

+ Engaging combat system; varied gameplay mechanics

+ Mob Battle is a nice change of pace during Ultimate Adventure

+ Tons of content (80+ characters, 40 stages, etc)

+ Solid amount of replay value

+ Great soundtrack

+ Deep, complex story

CONs:

– Lip-syncing is off at times

– Camera during boss battles can lose focus

– Story can bog down the game’s pacing

Enjoy the review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for all the latest in gaming news and reviews!

A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us a review copy for “Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3”!

MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship Review (PS Vita): “A Competent MX Racer On-the-Go”

MUD Motocross Wallpaper

Motocross is a pretty popular sport around the world, and has seen many games of its nature. When motocross games are mentioned, immediately “Excitebike” and the “MX vs ATV” series comes to mind for fans of the genre. In September of 2012, Italian developer Milestone S.r.l. (whom have a background in racing games) decided to release their first motocross title for the PS Vita, “MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship”. The game was only available in Europe but thanks to Namco Bandai Games, they’ve localized it to North America in February 2013 as a digital download title on PSN. Is it worth driving through the mud for or should you stay clean away from it?

Gameplay: 3/5

MUD’s gameplay borders on a mix or arcade and simulation, which actually works pretty well. There are three main modes of play: Official Mode, MUD World Tour and Online. Official Mode will have you participating against real racers in either a Quick Race, Championship or Monster Energy FIM MXoN. You’ll be able to choose whether you want to race the MX1 or MX2 classes in these modes. These affect the speed of the bikes, with MX1 being a 450cc class and MX2 being a 250cc class. Quick Race will let you jump into a race and adjust the settings, such as choosing your rider, difficulty and race type. The race type is interesting as it doesn’t exactly mean you’ll race three laps or so and be done. Instead, you’ll choose a set amount of minutes you’ll race and when that time runs out, you’ll have to complete “X” amount of laps afterwards to complete the race. It’s a bit different than what you would expect from your typical racing game but it’s a fresh way to go into races. Championship Mode will let you tackle races to make your way to the top spot against official racers using a points bracket. You’ll be able to customize it as well with the amount of races (3 being the minimum, 12 being the maximum), the tracks you’ll want to race on and the order of them. You can also save your progress in between races. Monster Energy FIM MXoN has you participating in a single event to represent the nation of your choice against the best of the best.

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MUD World Tour is the heart of the game and where you’ll be spending most of your time. In this mode, you’ll have a team of four fictional characters, with only one available at the start and having to unlock the rest as your earn points. The events are broken down into tickets and levels. There are 15 ticketed events, each containing roughly 3-4 levels. There are four special event types you’ll be partaking in aside from your standard race events: Checkpoint Race, Head to Head, Trick Battle and Elimination Cup. Checkpoint Race gives you three minutes to try and clear as many checkpoints as possible on a track. Head to Head is essentially a one-on-one against another racer, and these events tend to be the most challenging and demanding. Trick Battle will have you doing as many tricks as possible in trick arenas within your three minute time limit. The more tricks and combos you do without bailing, the more points you’ll be awarded. Lastly, Elimination Cup has you trying to take the top spot while avoiding the clock from being eliminated in the last position. As you complete events, you’ll earn points that you can use for a variety of things. Points can be used to unlock ticketed events and levels within those events so that you can keep advancing. You can also purchase new tricks to use for Trick Battle mode, netting you more points but adding more complexity. Additionally, you can unlock the rest of your team and also upgrade their skills. There are four categories to upgrade: Endurance, Instinct, Agility and Strength. Endurance will give you more boost when using an energy drink (that’s your reserved, yet limited boost you can use), Instinct will give you more boost power when “scrubbing”, Agility makes you turn faster and Strength makes your rider endure bumpier terrain without falling off the bike. Each of these can level up to 10 points so that your rider can become the ultimate racer. Also, you’ll be able to purchase equipment items and cards. You can purchase helmets but those are mainly just for cosmetic purposes. If you purchase a Team, this will change your sponsored uniform, as well as boost your rewards depending on the position you place in an event. You’ll do the same for your Trick Crew, which will have similar effects as the Team element but only for Trick Battles. You can also upgrade your Energy Drink, which increases the boost capability and the amount that you can carry into a race.

MUD Motocross Gameplay 4

The game’s mechanics and physics are solid for the most part. The controls are easy to pick up on, with the throttle controlling with the R button and brakes with the L button. When you approach jumps, you’ll hold down the X button to prepare for a “scrub”, which lets you tail whip the bike in the air. Holding it down until the meter around the X button fills up and letting go at the right time will net you a boost. Letting go early will give you a “good” rating with a short boost, while letting go at the right moment before hitting the ground will give you a “perfect” rating with higher boost. You’ll be able to rotate the camera with the right analog stick, as well as look behind you to see where the other racers are. The track designs are really well done, with a mix of official and fictional tracks. Either way, they all feel unique and are entertaining to race on. The AI racers are competent so don’t expect them to go easy on you during events. The Online mode is entertaining, if a bit barebones. You’ll be able to race up to five other racers (excluding yourself) in either a Quick Race or Monster Energy FIM MXoN, but completely omits the other modes that are available for World Tour mode. You can include AI in your online sessions, as well as choose if you want collisions to occur between you and the other riders. When joining a session, you may jump into one that’s already in the middle of a race. However, what’s neat is that you can see the progress of the event with a race meter above the the opponents’ names and see who’s in the lead while waiting. Once their event is done, you can ready up to join in on the fun. You can also check their online stats while in the lobby. There’s no voice chat functionality unfortunately so unless you have friends to play and party up with, you won’t be able to communicate with one another. It ran pretty smoothly for the most part, unless other racers had a weak connection. Even then, they weren’t lagging around much at all and the controls were precise online.

MUD Motocross Gameplay 1

The game has some issues and questionable design decisions however. First off, the physics can be a bit wonky at times. There were times I was racing on a straightaway and the bike would randomly flip forward and cause my rider to fall off. Also, Trick Battles had completely different handling than races, where it felt like the bikes were turning on ice instead or dirt/gravel. The Trick Battles require button inputs for tricks but sometimes weren’t very responsive and landing would seem unpredictable as to whether you land or bail. While in racing events, there was no time showing how long or fast your race time was until after you completed a race. Also, there was no mini-map of the course, which felt like a strange omission. The real bizarre omission was the lack of a speedometer to show what your speed is. Shouldn’t a racing game show the speed you’re going? Lastly, when playing MUD World Tour mode, there’s no indication of whether you’ve completed an event or not, only that you’ve unlocked them. It gives the progression an odd feel. Issues aside, MUD FIM Motocross World Championship is a very enjoyable game and has a “one more race” feel to it.

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Graphics: 3/5

Visually, MUD is a pretty good looking game. The colors are bright and vibrant, the riders and bikes are detailed with good animations, and the environments are well detailed with animate objects. Even the crowds placed outside the track are all unique models that animate separately from one another, as opposed to cheap cardboard cutouts or completely lacking models that are thrown in. There are little details such mud sticking to the tires, bike and rider, and the flaps on the front and back of the bike shake when revving the engine. The screen can also get dirty with the mud splattering on there occasionally, which is certainly a nice touch. The switch-off is that the trees in every environment looks like the old PS2 era where they’re made of paper and lack any detail. Also, there are some visual pop-ups in the distance, but never of anything on the track itself, only the details outside the track. Lastly, there are no trails of the bikes driving on the terrain, and any of the dirt picking up from the tires looks a bit cheap. Thankfully, the framerate is very smooth and stable, never dropping at any point of the gameplay. It’s a very good looking game, that almost hits the stride of looking great but the few inconsistencies hold it back.

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Sound: 3/5

The audio department is decent but nothing to write home about. The sound effects of the bikes sound more or less as you’d expect, which is perfectly fine as it gets the job done. The engines sound loud and very crisp. The soundtrack on the other hand consists of forgettable licensed songs that aren’t all that catchy, except for maybe one or two. Custom soundtracks will definitely help you enjoy the events a bit more so be sure to load up some songs on your Vita. The sound isn’t bad at all, but doesn’t do anything above average.

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Replay Value: 4/5

MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship has a great amount of replay value. The MUD World Tour has a lot of events to tackle, with plenty of upgrades and unlockables to achieve. The Official Mode lets you race in MX1 and MX2 series classes, whether it be a Quick Race, Championship or Monster Energy FIM MXoM Race. Lastly, the Online Mode will certainly increase the longevity. There were a decent amount of people playing at the time of my review and if you’re going for trophies, the online will have you coming back for quite some time.

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Overall Score: 13/20 = 6.5 out of 10

MUD – FIM Motocross World Tour doesn’t do anything particularly great, but what it does do is provide an entertaining experience. While there are some questionable design decisions and a weak default soundtrack, the game itself is very enjoyable, especially if you like MX racing. There’s nothing bad here in MUD, but there’s nothing great either. For $30, if you enjoy MX racers, I say give it a shot as I did enjoy my time with it. It won’t blow your mind with anything in particular, but it will definitely keep you engaged to come back for more.

PROs:

+ Solid mechanics

+ Decent visuals with nice little details

+ Well designed courses

+ Great replay value

CONs:

– Other visuals details such as trees look like early PS2 era

– Forgettable soundtrack

– Trick Attack feels stiff

– Lacking some necessities for a racing game (i.e. mini-map and speedometer)

– No online voice chat

Enjoy the review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for all the latest in gaming news and reviews!

A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us a review copy for “MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship”!

Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection Review (PS3/360)

Back in 2004, when I was still going through High School, I remember going to my friend’s house after the day ended and seeing his brother playing Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3. While I was only into the Dragon Ball Z series during the Saiyan and Namek Sagas when I was younger, I had lost interest shortly after. Watching my friend and his brother facing off in DBZ Budokai 3, I was immediately intrigued by how intense the combat system looked and how it set itself apart from other fighters on the market. From that moment, I ended up getting DBZ Budokai 3 for my PS2 back then and played the hell out of it, regardless that I had lost interest in the series when I was younger. A few months ago, Namco Bandai Games announced that they were prepping an HD collection for the Budokai series that would contain the fan-favorite first and third installments. So how exactly does the HD treatment fare for these two titles?

Gameplay: 4/5

When it comes to the Dragon Ball Z Budokai series, you’ve got to hand it to Dimps Corporation. They definitely studied the source material and provided fans with gameplay that replicates the intensity of battles like those from the show. You’re not only fighting on the ground or solely punching and kicking your way to victory. This is Dragon Ball Z. You’ll be Kamehameha-ing your way through fights and going Super Saiyan 3 to be all badass. Now Budokai 1 and 3’s gameplay mechanics may appear similar at first, but both games certainly have differences.

In Dragon Ball Z Budokai, players will venture through the Saiyan, Namek and Android Sagas, playing as various characters that were involved in those stories. Aside from this, you’ll also have your Duel, World Tournament and the unlockable “Legend of Hercule” modes to keep you busy. Duel is basically where you’ll go to compete against the computer or a friend of yours. In this HD version, they’ve added the feature for the second player to customize their skills, making fights much more balanced if you want to do custom skills for characters. World Tournament is precisely as you’d expect it, competing in a tournament bracket to be the best fighter. You’ll take on the CPU in various difficulties but should you lose, you’re out of the tournament. The “Legend of Hercule” mode will provide some humor for fans of the series, as the story will consist of Hercule trying to take on Cell himself but the Z-Fighters try to stop him from getting killed. From here, you’ll be pitted in 11 fights and should you lose any match, it’s back to the beginning.

In Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3, players will notice that the game’s story mode has now been replaced as a Fighting/RPG hybrid mode called “Dragon Universe”. In this mode, you’ll choose your character that you want to progress with and witness their whole storyline. You’ll have to ability to fly around the environment and search for capsules, zenies (money) and fights to initiate. As you progress, you’ll earn experience points based on how well you fought a battle. The more sophisticated you are, the more experience points you’ll be awarded. When you level up, you’ll be able to upgrade your Health, Ki, Attack, Ability, etc. It gives the game a very addictive element of trying to make your character as powerful as possible. Aside from Dragon Universe, you’ll have your Dueling and World Tournament modes just like Budokai 1.

Stages are interactive, in which you can knock opponents through mountains, or simply Spirit Bomb the hell out of half the planet and completely alter the environment. Fans will pick up on familiar locations such as the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Supreme Kai’s World, Inside Buu, Planet Namek, and other key locations from the various sagas. The roster list is no small feat either. Budokai 1 contains 23 characters from the Saiyan, Namek and Android Sagas while Budokai 3 contains over 40 characters from not only DBZ, but the original Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT. Again, Dimps did their homework and tried to really gives these games the attention of detail and fan service that the series deserves.

In terms of the combat between both games, Budokai 1 definitely feels a little bit more stiff compared to the fluidity of Budokai 3’s. Budokai 1 is more straightforward, but still allows for complexity thanks to the Capsule Skills you can acquire. Equipping these will give your character new abilities and perks to utilize during a fight and switching these up always keeps the fights interesting. Powering up your character’s Ki gauge is integral if you want to utilize your abilities as much as possible during a fight. By simply holding the block button and double-tapping (and holding) back on the D-Pad/Analog Stick, you’ll begin to charge your Ki gauge. However, knowing when to do it is key as it leaves you vulnerable to attack from your opponent. You can then knock your opponents into the air and continue the fight off the ground, just like the show. Budokai 3 builds upon the same formula but also introduces mini-game/quick-time events during fights. These really ramp up the intensity of a battle, whether with the CPU or even better, a friend. They’ve also added teleport moves so that when you knock someone in the air, you can teleport behind them and attack several times. Pulling this off is simple but immensely gratifying, especially when countering a move this way. Should both of you shoot a Kamehameha at each other at the same time, a sequence will initiate where you’ll both have the rotate the analog sticks like a mad man (or woman) to push your blast through to your opponent. Some specials might involve the attacker to press a random button while the defender hopes to guess the same button to deflect a hefty attack. It’s these moments where the fighting mechanics felt unique back in their original releases and still hold up really well now.

Graphics: 4/5

When it comes to HD collections, there are some where the games just further show their age as opposed to truly enhancing them. Thankfully, that’s not so much the case here. Budokai 1 and 3 both had different art directions. The first game had a more “3D” look to it but was a bit bland, while the third game had a much more “cel-shaded anime” style and infused more life into the visuals. Basing the game on the PS2 versions and putting it side-by-side with the HD version, the difference is night and day. The HD version upscales the visuals immensely and while the first game looks a bit dated, Budokai 3 made me forget that I was playing what was originally a PS2 game. The only thing that will remind you of the game being a last-gen title are the ground textures during some of the stages. They’re not bad, but seem a bit more washed out compared to the upscaling the environmental backgrounds and characters received. Also, menus and cutscenes still retain a 4:3 ratio as opposed to 16:9 widescreen support.

Sound: 4/5

I have to hand it to the developers that the game sounds just like you’re watching the TV show. The DBZ theme song that plays when booting up Budokai 1 certainly brought back memories of my childhood and the fighting audio effects sound like they were ripped directly from the show. While some of the audio effects sound compressed or muffled, it’s literally how they sounded when watching the show. It didn’t bother me at all as it made the game feel more authentic and true to the show. All the original voice actors remain intact for both games on the collection. In addition, they’ve included the Japanese voiceovers for Budokai 3 (sorry, not available in Budokai 1), which was never in the original version of the game. However, there is one thing they did change, the soundtracks. If you had any fond memories of certain music tracks from Budokai 1 and 3, you won’t find them again here unfortunately. However, the reason why you won’t find them here is because the original composer, Keiji Yamamoto, was accused of stealing music and claiming them as his own compositions. Instead, they pulled some songs from the Budokai Tenkaichi series, while also providing some new songs. What’s here still definitely captures that DBZ feel and fits the game while playing it.

Replay Value: 4/5

There’s no question that DBZ Budokai HD Collection contains a ton of content to get through between both games. While Budokai 1 will hold your attention for a solid amount of time, with it’s Story and World Tournament modes, it’s Budokai 3 that will certainly keep you busy. Budokai 3’s “Dragon Universe” mode will keep you occupied in trying to complete all the characters’ campaigns and there are plenty of unlockables to go for. As with all fighting games, getting your friends gathered around a couch and taking turns will provide several hours of competitive fun. If you plan on switching between Budokai 1 and 3 while in-game, you’ll have to quit out to the XMB/Dashboard and go back in to choose your game of choice. It would’ve been nice to be able to swap between the games while in-game. Also, the one thing that’s a shame is that they didn’t add in an online multiplayer component for this HD Collection. Had they gone back and added this feature in, there’s no doubt that DBZ fans, especially those of the Budokai series, would have spent months online with it. Still, for $39.99, you’re getting a great bang for your buck and countless hours of entertainment.

Overall Score: 16/20 = 8.0 out of 10

Dragon Ball Z is a series that many have come to love over the years. Namco Bandai has released their share of DBZ games for the PS3/360 but there are Budokai fans who were dying to see this particular franchise return and for good reason. Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection contains two fan-favorite installments with impressive attention to HD upscaling, as well as some tweaking around to make these the ultimate versions. HD Collections can occasionally fare worse than their original versions if not carefully developed but DBZ Budokai HD Collection avoids that entirely. DBZ fans who’ve never experienced these really owe it to themselves to grab this collection, if not for Budokai 3 alone due to how expansive the game is. From its lush HD upscaling, to its intense combat system that still measures up incredibly well today, Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is a must-own for not only DBZ fans, but fighting fans as well.

PROs:

+ Ton of content between both games

+ Tight gameplay that still holds up very well

+ Very clean HD visual upscale

+ Replacement soundtracks do a solid job

+ Budokai 3 is still as awesome as it was 8 years ago

CONs:

– No online play

– Original soundtracks are missing in action

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A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us an advance review copy of Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection!