Review | Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2
Bandai’s Ball Blasters Return
Format: Xbox 360/PS3| Genre: Beat em up | Publisher: Namco Bandai | Developer: Spike | Price: £39.99
Jon Beach spends some time with DRAGON BALL: RAGING BLAST 2.
CHANCES ARE you already know whether you’re going to pick up the sequel to last year’s Dragon Ball Raging Blast or not. The Japanese comic/television show on which the game is based has now gained such a peculiar and divisive momentum, that even the very sight of the phrase ‘Dragon Ball Z’ will leave most gamers scratching their heads. You’d be forgiven for surmising that there’s a huge contextual mountain to climb for the newcomer to any recent Dragon Ball title, and Raging Blast 2 is no exception. Don’t expect to be eased into the universe of the series with this latest addition.
Fans however, will be in their huge multicoloured hair, flashing psychedelic backgrounds, garish cheesy music and flashy sound effects element with this new title in the series. This unashamed love letter to fans of Dragon Ball will resonate well with this audience, containing as it does over 90 playable characters from the comic universe – not to mention a plethora of unlockable artwork, soundtrack nuggets and other delicious, chocolatey Dragon Ball themed easter eggs.
The uninitiated, however, will be forced to take the game on its merits rather than be misguided by the perceived joy of these hidden extras. Their first port of call will be the visuals, which are well animated and colourful enough to lend an eclectic sense of humour to the proceedings. The same cannot be said for the fighting arena backdrops, which are sparse, unpopulated and full of invisible barriers. We’re taken from bland hillside pastures to rocky desert outcrops; to generic futuristic airport hangar style arenas and back to the hills again. The fighting areas really do seem like a tacked on afterthought, almost as if the developers were so convinced by the quality of the gameplay and actual fighting that they’d let these aspects of the game speak for themselves.The camera is a logistical nightmare, and constantly fails to keep track of the chaotic, gravity defying battles. Your opponent can be in front of you one moment, but should they choose to fly off somewhere else before the camera has had a chance to keep up, they can clip out of the game entirely. This leaves you flailing around in mid air, desperately trying to pick out your opponent in the oceans of empty space that form the arenas. There are some satisfyingly cool effects to be enjoyed here, but otherwise the gimmicky visuals contain little substance – not helped by an occasionally broken camera.
The meat of the game is split into several components. Galaxy Mode sees your character take on a series of condition based fights one after the other, unlocking new content as you progress. It’s a decent way of structuring the game, but there’s very little overt story to get your teeth into. Some contextual hand holding might have been needed for newbies to get their head around the evidently massive amounts of backstory possessed by each one of the 90 or so characters in the game. As it stands, each character spouts off a couple lines of crudely delivered battle grunts before exploding into action.
Dipping into the tutorial mode before diving into the story is probably a wise idea, but you’ll soon become wise to the fact that Raging Blast 2 is a button masher’s paradise. Despite throwing all sorts of complex commands at you in the admittedly comprehensive tutorial sessions, you really only ever need to spam the most powerful attacks over and over in order to win most battles. And in some cases it’s the only feasible way to succeed. Particularly when asked to fight four enemies with just a slither of health in one of Galaxy Mode’s more challenging conditional fights – which offer handicaps and other changes to the core gameplay in order to shake things up a bit.
Initially it feels cool to fly around, charging into your opponent from the opposite end of the map, zooming up into the clouds before crushing down and splitting the rocks from the earth. It feels like you’re genuinely taking part in madcap Japanese cartoon battle, and it’s satisfying for a while – but the combat is ultimately shallow and not suited to extended periods of play. It seems the problem with Raging Blast 2 is overpowered characters – take away the more energy bar sapping attacks and you’d no doubt be left with a more nuanced, balanced fighter. As it stands it’s just too easy to hammer triangle – and the developers know this, which goes some way to explaining the presence of the cheaper fights in Galaxy Mode.
Multiplayer fares better – helped by the berserk humour resident in each fight; but this is not enough to save the package from mediocrity. Fans will no doubt lap Raging Blast 2 up, but more casual brawlers would be advised to stick to Super Street Fighter IV.