Posted By Shaun K. about 11 months, 1 week ago
When we here at Blistered Thumbs first broke the story that the mega-popular anime/manga series Dragon Ball Z was getting its own Kinect title, I will admit that I was less than impressed by the thought of the game at that time. This was because I was already anticipating the same kind of messy and only barely functional affair that pretty much any attempt to create a non-dancing or pet Kinect game has ended up producing. The Kinect has to date repeatedly proven its lacks of functionality regarding any game that requires fast and smooth gameplay and when I think of the fights in Dragon Ball Z (disregarding the often pointless additions for the sake of filler of course) that is exactly what comes to mind. These are high impact, high speed, and high intensity affairs, with characters often moving so fast they seem to disappear into thin air. None of which seemed to lend itself to producing a prime candidate for a decent Kinect game. But after getting to spend some time with the game on the show floor at E3, I can honestly say that Dragon Ball Z for Kinect… pretty much lives down to my every initial expectation.
To give DBZ Kinect its fair due, the game is at least functional and far more responsive than many other Kinect titles have ever managed to be. I played through two fights, one against Raditz in the role of Piccolo and one against Vegeta in the role of Goku, and I was surprised at how good of a job the developers at Spike Chunsoft did in regards to translating each character’s moves into motions that players have to perform. Firing a classic Kamehameha or Piccolo’s signature Special Beam Cannon required motions from me that truly felt in line with the ones I have seen these characters make countless times before over the years. Additionally, the game had very little trouble recognizing and reading my motions, even when I did not exactly match what was exactly asked for on the screen. All of which meant that pulling off special moves was neither frustrating nor non-show appropriate.
The problem was that performing these moves lacked one key competent: fun. To be precise, while pulling off various attacks, blocks, and special moves in Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is a painless and simple process from a technical point of view, this very same process does not actually exist within the framework of a larger game that is compelling in any way. Taken as an overall whole, combat in Dragon Ball Z for Kinect (and ugh, what a title) is a stilted and overly simplistic affair which very quickly grows boring and uninteresting. The combat in the game lacks depth of any real kind, a complaint labeled against more than one Dragon Ball Z fighting game to be fair, but it also lacks the proper feel of the show.
Basically, fights in DBZ Kinect play out from a first-person perspective that is highly reminiscent of the original Super Punch-Out arcade game (right down to the displaying of the arms on screen of a player’s chosen fighter) but that is where any similarities between the two games end. Players can initiate melee combos by throwing a bunch of random punches in succession, fly further away from an opponent to launch small energy attacks (in a method that exactly duplicates melee combat and thus makes any difference between the two types of attacks non-existent), block by holding their arms in front of their faces, charge up their energy meter by clinching their fists (finger placement actually is very important overall in regards to any number of moves in the game and to the title’s credit, it rarely seems to have any difficulty reading individual fingers) and holding their arms away from their bodies, and using various motions to launch one of the two signature special moves a particular fighter will have at their disposal. I cannot stress how simplistic fights in Dragon Ball Z play out and even on the harder difficulty settings the challenge remains low.
Character movement also always plays out via cutscene but then again, what else can one expect from a Kinect game? The peripheral simply cannot handle fast paced gameplay which makes it a pretty poor choice to host a Dragon Ball Z game in the first place. I suppose it is a credit to the title’s developers that the game is as good as it is and I equally suppose that the super hardcore Dragon Ball Z fan with cash to burn and a Kinect already in their possession might find enough present in the game to make it worth a purchase. Similarly, I could see younger and less demanding fans of the series eating this one up as well and certainly there are far worse (and broken) Kinect titles out there. Even so, I cannot see anyone else finding anything of even the slightest interest present in this game.
I already mentioned how stilted fights in Dragon Ball Z for Kinect feel and this more than anything is what ruins the game. I honestly felt more like I was playing a dance game than a fighting game, a feeling not helped by how on rails fights end up being. And do I even need to explain why a dance game is the last thing a Dragon Ball Z title should be reminding me of? I suppose if the developers at Spike Chunsoft could manage to tighten up the gameplay and speed up the overall flow of action before release, this could possibly end up a decent game. But you will pardon me if I do not bother to hold my breath. Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is due out in October of this year for Xbox 360. Stay tuned to Blistered Thumbs for continuing coverage of the game and be sure to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.