Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 Hands-On Impressions

The next game in Atari's console Dragon Ball series will feature a number of changes.

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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 was one of the many games on display at a recent Atari press event. Perhaps the biggest difference between Budokai 2 and its predecessor is the story mode, or lack thereof. In Budokai 2, the story mode has been replaced with the dragon world mode, in which you can select various characters from the Dragon Ball Z universe in an attempt to recover the seven dragon balls. Interestingly, this mode is almost the same as a board game in which characters (both those on your side and enemies) are given a limited number of spaces to move. When one of your characters encounters an enemy, it will automatically transition into a fighting sequence.

However, there are a number of different things you can do while on the map screen in the dragon world mode. There are certain parts of the map that are marked with money that can be used to buy additional skill capsules, and there are also dragon radars that will show where the dragon ball is located on the map. This particular item comes in handy in the levels where the objective is to find the dragon ball before another character--such as in one of the early levels where you're charged with finding the dragon ball before Nappa does. Characters can also search spots on the map for items that are hidden, but by doing so, you risk finding an item that can have harmful effects, such as the one that can reduce offensive or defensive power in a fight. There are nine maps in the dragon world mode, so you need to keep all of these things in mind while searching for the allusive dragon balls.

The dragon world mode isn't the only change in Budokai 2--a series of refinements have been made to the fighting system as well. Stronger characters (such as Nappa, Buu, and Freeza) have been given much more health, making them much more difficult to beat. In addition, supermove cutscenes are interactive now that their potency is determined by how quickly you can rotate the analog stick on the PlayStation 2 controller. Interestingly, the character on the receiving end can reduce the amount of damage by rotating the analog stick in a similar fashion during the cutscene. It actually adds quite a dramatic element to the game, particularly when a character like Freeza unleashes his devastating meteor attack, and the character being attacked uses all his power to resist the meteor. Smaller enhancements to the fighting engine include easier dodging mechanics ad quicker ki buildup.

One of the most interesting new features is the fusion character. At certain points in the game, you can actually combine two characters together, making an entirely new character. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to see this in action, but we were given the example of Goku fusing with Hercule.

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 also offers a variety of other modes. There's a world tournament option that up to eight players can compete in. The Babidi's spaceship option will place you in four different challenges such as deflecting 100 ki blasts in 99 seconds--if you happen to make it through all four challenges, you'll be rewarded with a capsule. There's also a training mode that's been designed to mimic the cartoon by having Goku instruct Gohan on the basics of the game. Lastly, there's a survival-style mode where you have to beat as many characters as possible within a given time limit or simply try to stay alive for a specific period of time.

The overall look of the game has been slightly changed and now sports cel-shaded (or, as Atari calls it, Toriyama-shaded) graphics that really do an excellent job of mimicking the look of the cartoon. All of the voice actors from the cartoon will be returning to lend their talents to the characters in the game. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 is scheduled for release in December.

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