“Dragonball Z: Budokai 3” is actually two games. The first one involves fluid, fast-paced fighting that is infinitely better than its predecessors. The other half of “Budokai 3” is a badly designed role-playing game that should be beaten with iron clubs.

Fortunately, “Budokai 3” succeeds admirably in mirroring the fighting style present in the Cartoon Network anime series of the same name; in fact, whether gamers are be dodging an attack by teleportation or free flying, it seems as though the developers have shifted the “Budokai” series from a children’s title to a respectable game on par with other fighters on the market.

Unlike the previous “Budokai” games, the controls have been streamlined so that performing special attacks doesn’t hinge on stringing random combinations together. The special attacks are visually impressive and range from destroying half of the planet to switching bodies in the middle of battle.

Players start out with eight playable characters and one or two attacks; in order to unlock the other 32 characters and additional moves, gamers must take part in the Dragon Universe. This involves players choosing a character and completing the entire “Dragonball Z” storyline while progressing through the levels and exploring in a standard, RPG format. When finished with one character, gamers can choose another and do the same thing all over again. Players will spend hours upon hours completing the Dragon Universe, and, unfortunately, some story arcs don’t even reward gamers with new characters.

The wretchedness of the Dragon Universe would be digestible if it were optional; however, to get the advertised features and special attacks, gamers must take part in this lackluster RPG component. As it stands, the new and improved fighting features in “Budokai 3” are spoiled by the all-encompassing blunder of the Dragon Universe. How fun is a fighting game with eight characters and two attacks? Even the original “Street Fighter II” had more variety, and that was released more than a decade ago. Hopefully, next time Atari sets out to make a fighting game, they’ll do so without recklessly veering into other genres.

 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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