Like many of my generation I was a huge fan of Dragon Ball Z in my younger days. Craving to see the next episode of Goku getting his face pounded before taking 3-4 episodes to fully charge up and offer an explosive response which would normally result in the villain of the day transforming into something even stronger, then rinse and repeat. I loved everything about it, the concept of over the top fights while flying around the world at high speeds looked more fun than a house built from trampolines and ball pits or anything else my tiny mind could imagine!
Unfortunately however, games of the long standing anime just never seem to capture the spirit or indeed cut the mustard, with perhaps the exception of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, so whenever a new game lands I'm filled with the same mix of cautious joy and inevitable fear of disappointment.
So what can I say about Dragon Ball Z Battle of Z? Well, unfortunately its pretty much as I expected, an extremely bare fighter which may contain some nice visuals and fun nods to fans but just doesn't have enough substance to keep you going for the full 10 to 12 hours it limply offers up.
As you fight through the games story mode, or single mission mode, you’ll be thrown into a random selection of battles, following each of the anime sagas in order, rewarding you by slowly unlocking the games roster which comprises of 67 fighters (with another 3 set to arrive with DLC).
Theres quite a hefty learning curve when it comes to difficulty, by the 4th mission it almost felt as if the game was throwing everything it had at me while i was still coming to terms with the small amount of moves available to me.
Each character is built to utilise a single melee and ranged attack, while being able to speed around the screen, although this does nothing to increase power or anything of that nature, it just looks cool, and once you've taken enough of a beating your Genkei Gauge will fill to glowing, allowing you to release your fighters power move such as Goku's infamous Kamehameha!
Once you’ve mastered your trifecta of moves then you’ll have learnt how to deal with almost every element of gameplay, sadly theres no deep combo system or counter attacks here for you to wrap your head around which sadly makes this less of a fighting game and more of a colourful button masher, not dissimilar to the Bleach series on the Wii.
In a bid to add some depth, after each battle you are rewarded with a selection of cards which offer slight advantages in battle and can be given to any of your fighters in order to boost their power. Now this is a rather clever addition but unfortunately doesn't reach its full potential as any card can be given and taken away whenever you feel necessary and with so many unlocked so quickly, you can soon overload your fighter of choice and even your team with ultimate power. This meant that what could have been somewhat of a game changer, just became a tedious menu navigating mission to switch cards around whenever I changed fighter for particular missions.
Many of the missions also come across as horribly unbalanced, as each mission leaves you with a specific number of revives which once depleted mean GAME OVER for you, so when battling powerful characters like Cell, one attack can swiftly knock out almost all charters and with poor AI willing to run straight into harms way, you've almost got no chance at all.
You can of course tell your team to stick to defence but apparently defence and attack both mean head straight into battle without thought.
As the difficulty ramped higher from mission to mission, it became increasingly clear just how unreliable my AI teammates were. Often leaving me with no support or falling at crucial moments leaving me to decide wether to risk the fight on my own or attempt a recovery while sustaining a barrage of attacks.
This, thankfully, is where CO-OP really comes into its own, making up for a lack of a deep combat system for a fight which really requires communication between you and your mate Steve.
Nothing could be more satisfying than starting a game of ping pong with your opponents head before lining up your final blasts to land at the same time!
The only downside to co-op really comes in the form of its matchmaking system which doesn't pair players of the same level, meaning you could fire up the battle of your life, only to be teamed up with a group of players who have yet to experience their first battle making them less of a help and much more a hindrance. Lag often rears its ugly head as well, eventually making the experience less enjoyable as time moves on.
Its not all bad though, as co-op does offer you the chance to stage crazy battles that you’ll never see in the anime which really offers something else to fans of the series. On top of this, Battle of Z throws in some hypothetical mission for those who've polished off the main stories.
Throw in some standard multiplayer modes such as Normal Battle (4v4 death match, with limited revives), Battle Royale (free for all), Score Battle (4v4 race to the highest amount of knockouts) and Dragonball Grab (think capture the flag, with 7 Dragonballs) then Battle of Z does offer a diverse list of battle types.