Atari is showing off a trailer for its next Dragon Ball Z fighting game, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2, at E3 2003, and we were also able to talk to the folks at Atari about some specifics. Currently in development at Dimps, the same folks who brought you the original Budokai, the game promises to deliver an experience that's similar to that of its predecessor, but will also make some significant changes to the formula.
The original Budokai was, essentially, a one-on-one 3D fighting game featuring a large cast of characters drawn from the incredibly popular power-fantasy cartoon and manga series Dragon Ball Z. One of the more unique aspects of the first Budokai was the fact that it featured a storyline that closely followed that of the DBZ cartoon, from the beginning of the Saiyan saga through the end of the Cell saga. Budokai 2 will not have a straight story mode, but instead will feature a mode currently being called dragon world. In this mode, you'll lead a team of four heroes against a team of four villains in a race to collect all seven dragon balls first. Interestingly, this mode will operate much like a turn-based strategy game, where you're given an overview map of the world and you move your characters from location to location looking for the dragon balls. If one of your heroes is at the same location as one of the villains, you'll have to square off with him or her for a single round of fighting, though you'll have the option of letting the AI fight the fight for you. The winner can then move on, continuing his or her search for the dragon balls, while the loser is stuck at that location for a turn. Considering how well-conceived the story mode in the original Budokai was, it's a bit disappointing that this mode is absent from Budokai 2. Still, we're definitely intrigued by this new dragon world mode and are eager to see more of it.
Budokai 2 will maintain the cel-shaded look used by its predecessor, though it will be making some minor changes. The character models will generally have a bit more detail, and the character style will be modified to be more in line with the art style adopted by Akira Toriyama in the later episodes of Dragon Ball Z. The little circular shadows that the characters used to cast will be gone too, though it doesn't appear that they will be replaced with anything.
The cast of Budokai 2 will include the full cast of the original Budokai, plus many characters from the post-Cell saga era of the cartoon series, including Videl, Dobura, and three forms of Buu--Maijin Buu, Super Buu, and Kid Buu. There also promises to be a ton of different fusion characters, including more "what if" fusions that never actually happened in the show, much like the fusion between Krillin and Cell that was seen at the end of the original Budokai. There will also be plenty of new arenas, some of which can be seen in the short trailer Atari has released, such as Orange Star High School and the Capsule Corporation Headquarters. The folks at Atari have said that you'll be able to import your saved game from the original Budokai into Budokai 2. They also stressed the fact that once you've imported your save game, you won't be able to use it anymore in Budokai, so be sure to back up your saved game first.
It's assumed that the gameplay in Budokai 2 will be pretty much the same, though we're told that the developer is working on making the flying mechanic in the game much more dynamic, and that the gameplay will now include power struggles, where both characters throw ridiculously huge beams of energy at each other, each trying to beat back the other energy beam. This kind of action has been a staple of the DBZ cartoon, and though we have no details on the specific mechanics of the power struggles, we're happy to see their inclusion in Budokai 2.
Though we've only caught a fleeting glimpse of the game, it seems that Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 is set to improve upon its predecessor in several appreciable ways, and we look forward to actually getting our hands on it. You can be sure that we'll have more coverage of this game in the coming months.