Eighteen years ago I got my hands on Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi. I was still relatively new to the Dragon Ball Z franchise. My best friend and I sat down during Christmas and played it on his PlayStation 2. The game gave us further opportunities to delve deeper into the lore of this ridiculous world full of aliens, gods, and demons. It was a wonderful time of my life as someone who enjoyed the fantastical world over the real one.
Now, a new entry has been announced 16 years after the release of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3. The announcement came with a trailer that summed up hundreds of hours of my life in a brief tease. As the trailer cycled through key gameplay footage, it ended with a now cinematic-looking Goku, going full Super Saiyan Blue. With this form came a startling amount of emotion from Goku, possibly even dwarfing the animation work seen in Dragon Ball FighterZ. And what came out of me? A startling amount of emotion as well.
It’s no secret here at The Escapist that I emotionally attach myself to almost every game I play, and the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai franchise is no exception. When I was a young teen, walking those mean streets of Malahide, Dublin, (Don’t look it up; you’ll laugh.) I had a quartet of lads I’d game with. (I’ve spoken about them in the past with regard to Final Fantasy XIV.) Well, when we weren’t playing Halo, we mixed it up with some anime fisticuffs. And in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi we found our ring.
For me personally, one of the best elements was the grandeur of the arenas. Unlike other fighting games, even other Dragon Ball Z games, where you were confined to a singular arena, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi offered literal cities, plains, and space itself to battle against your rivals. They were big, they were bold, and they actually allowed for strategic combat. I remember my friends and I flying around the arenas, finding our place to declare our fights, always trying to emulate Goku and Vegeta with their iconic rivalry.
On top of that was a roster that grew and grew with each entry, almost to the detriment of the game. I remember at one point when I would play as Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta, at the time the most powerful character in Dragon Ball canon, and my friend would play as Arale. This pint-sized powerhouse would almost consistently win because of her broken mechanics. All these additions made for tournaments, where my friends and I would choose the most deep-cut characters and see who would win. We’d set handicaps for ourselves: one mainstream character, and then you’d have to pick someone who was in one of the questionable films. Worst-case scenario, you’d have to pick Hercule, who was such a bizarre character to fight as.
With the signature beam struggles, dash attacks, and iconic in-game transformations, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi solidified itself as a classic in beat ‘em ups. Now, with the announcement of this untitled fourth entry, I have to look to the future. Where do we go from here?
The obvious answer is introducing the Dragon Ball Super characters. Many of these have impressive abilities. Hit and his time manipulation come to mind, and there are also those that fit into the joke column — if Monaka isn’t in the game, we riot. Knowing how the Budokai Tenkaichi franchise likes to pull from every corner of Dragon Ball lore, you can’t count anyone out of consideration. I personally hope we’ll see Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 from Super Hero. They were an excellent addition to the world that Akira Toriyama created almost 40 years ago.
Now, I have heard some negative notes circulating with regards to the gameplay of Budokai Tenkaichi. After all, how do you improve on Dragon Ball FighterZ? That title rejuvenated the franchise on the gaming stage in a big bad way, and honestly I don’t think it’s possible. After all, both titles are fundamentally different games with regards to their gameplay styles. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from what made both titles great and try to marry the two, perhaps in a kind of fusion?
Regardless, seeing Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi come back with this new announcement floored many people, and I was one of them. It reminded me of why I love gaming, especially when you get together with friends, order some pizza (or a lot of pizza), and just fall into a world together. It’s the best kind of feeling.