Like the Pokémon phenomenon that continues to drive sales, Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) is one of the bigger anime franchises from the 90s. They both have huge followings with the kids and the young at heart and DBZ continues to attract new fans as the years go by. Dragon Ball characters have been defined by their bizarre hairstyles and straining power-up fighting attacks. Dragon Ball Z has now made it to the Xbox 360 Kinect. The game and its interesting fighting techniques seem to make it a great fit, but after some playtime I am not so sure.
In Dragon Ball Z for Kinect you take on the role one of several good guys from the popular anime TV series. The game follows the TV series closely, but in chunks over the series timeline. I suppose you could say it follows major points and battles, not every detail contained in the storyline as a whole.
The game is a fighting game played in the first person view and it is spread across four chapters covering the Saiyan, Frieza, Cell, and Buu saga timelines. Each chapter, if you will, is divided across several series of fights. I could recognize the odd character, like Captain Ginyu, Android 18, and a few more, but I really had no idea who a majority of these were and what kind of fighters they were. Regardless, you will find there are a nice variety of characters to choose from, which is good because of their different styles, moves, and personalities. More characters begin to unlock as you progress through the game and there are over 50 characters in all.
When you start to fight and square off against your opponent via the Kinect, if you move too quickly the Kinect may not pick up all of your motions. Yes, it does look a bit strange shadow boxing in front of your television, but it is worse if you have to repeat each and every move in an effort to get it to register. There is some semblance of a combo system for your Kinect to pick up, but you will find that you will need to slow your moves down a bit for the combos to register. I began to slow my attacks and throw more precisely registering uppercuts, right and left hooks, and even jabs. If you flail around too wildly the Kinect will begin to miss your attacks and frustration ensues.
One of the core components to doing well in Dragon Ball Z for Kinect requires you to quickly string hits together. This is so you can score an extended animation sequence for more damage, and conversely fill your meter quickly. You will end up flailing your arms around as fast as possible with little regard to style, but you must catch yourself doing this and slow down to have any success. It is a bit of a “dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t” scenario. The entire game is balanced in that regard, which becomes very draining and quite boring.
There are some positives in Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect aside from the beautiful graphics. Fans of the anime fighter will be treated to new anime footage debuting in US and Europe for the first time. Diehard Dragonball Z Fans will get to enjoy new exclusive anime footage called “The Bardock” episode. The episode details the events surrounding Goku’s father. Hardcore Dragon Ballers may have already seen or heard of the episode, but it has never been made available to North America and parts of Europe. It is a nice addition with great quality, in HD nonetheless, and subtitled instead of poorly dubbed in English.
While there are over 50 playable characters, some may be excited by the inclusion of an all-new character that needs to be unlocked. One other item I found pretty interesting was the use of QR codes. The game ships with codes for 3 other characters and 2 additional stages in the game. It is an interesting method of adding more content by leveraging the Kinect sensor. There are over 20 different QR codes designed for the game, so content will continue to be added in the future.
I have to admit, Dragon Ball Z for Kinect looks fantastic. Fan or not you will be treated to a game that looks every bit of the old cartoon series, but in fabulous high definition. The game is made entirely of cel-shaded characters and environments that authentically capture the look of the anime. I would hazard to say the series has never looked so good. Some animations are a bit stiff or perhaps robotic, but they still look wonderful nonetheless. Most gamers will not even notice some of the stiffness, as they will be far too busy playing. I also noticed a few pops and some framerate drops, but nothing to complain too heartily about. The presentation in terms of visuals definitely captures the essence of the series quite well.
The voiceover work seems to be as I remember it, although many of the original cast members are missing. The games ever present shrieks, moans and groans while fighting are well executed and are quite tolerable. The music on the other hand is quite irritating as ever. I can only describe them as boppy in nature, and they strain the brain quite quickly. The fighting effects are also a bit wimpy, except for when huge bosses show up and rumble the heck out of everything. Overall the sounds are acceptable, but they are nothing too special.
Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect makes a valiant effort to make something of a title that has notable control issues. Once again though a wonky peripheral may just kill any joy of the game for many. While the subject material is not my choice when it comes to gaming there are parts of Dragon Ball Z that are quite cool. The game has a fantastic look and a ton of content for those who love Dragon Ball Z. In the end I think fans of the series may overlook the game’s deficiencies, but casual fans that have a Kinect may want to walk right on by this one.