Honestly, I’m not sure why there’s an HD re-release for Dragon Ball Z Budokai. I don’t remember the games being cult classics ala Ico/Shadow of the Colossus or ZOE, and they weren’t huge sellers like God of War, yet here we are.
For the uninitiated, Dragon Ball Z Budokai is a 3D fighting game based on the Dragon Ball Z universe. If you don’t know what Dragon Ball Z is, well, let’s just say this game might not be for you.
Included in the HD collection is the original Dragon Ball Z Budokai, as well as Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3. You might be wondering why Dragon Ball Z Budokai 2 isn’t included, and the unfortunate answer is that they basically didn’t feel like it. Seriously.
That’s the unfortunate story of this re-release. Most recent HD collections have included some extra content along with the included games (such as making-of features, art, etc), yet Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection is simply a package of the two included games, with no ancillary reasons to own it.
Even if there was some huge making-of, I’m still not sure it’s worth owning. The HD porting process feels half-done, with 4:3 cutscenes and menus as well as low-resolution text. The games’ graphical style (standard anime polygons in the first game, cel-shading in the third) lends itself well to an HD transition, and the games are colorful and bright, but the poly count still feels pretty low, and the backgrounds are visually uninteresting.
The gameplay isn’t really anything special either. The cartoon was punctuated by some insane battles, but the Budokai games feature fights that are more or less straightforward ground melee with occasional special moves. The combat is stiff and restrictive, with little room for improvisation and very little visual panache.
Thankfully, the story presentations of the original games still hold up. The first Budokai game tells the story of the main Dragon Ball Z series in all its cheesy Saturday morning glory, and if it’s the sort of thing that you’re into, you will find much enjoyment and nostalgia from reliving all of these moments in HD.
The era of HD collections has given gamers some strange re-releases, but I think Dragon Ball Budokai HD Collection takes the cake. At its essence, it is a mediocre port of a pair of mediocre games that haven’t aged well. Combat is inflexible and stodgy, and the porting process has some odd blind spots. There could be some fun to be had by fans of the DBZ series, but for anyone else, it’s probably best to stay away from this one.
A copy of Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection for the Xbox 360 was provided to us by Namco-Bandai for the purposes of this review.