Monday, June 23, 2008

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit (PlayStation 3)

If you've managed to steer clear of the popular Dragon Ball Z anime for this long, you can be forgiven for thinking that Burst Limit is a game best ignored. Nevertheless, you'd be wrong. Though this 3D fighter is full of references for the fans, it's a good game in its own right and can serve as an easy point of entry into the DBZ universe.

Burst Limit goes out of its way to be accessible to newcomers with a thorough tutorial that walks you through all of the controls while introducing you to a handful of the characters that make up the game's roster. The fact that all of the PlayStation 3 controller's face and shoulder buttons have multiple uses can be daunting initially, but there are no complex combos or character-specific special attacks to memorize, and even the craziest-looking moves aren't much more difficult to perform than a straightforward punch to the face. You'll need some semblance of skill to time your attacks and to block those of your opponents, but after spending half an hour with the tutorial, you should have little trouble holding your own in a fight, regardless of which character you choose.

Even spectacular-looking attacks can be performed with a minimum of effort.

Only three combatants are available at the outset, but as you progress through the lengthy Z-Chronicles story mode, you'll unlock the rest of the roster for a total of 21. In Z-Chronicles mode, you get to play through three of the five Japanese Dragon Ball Z sagas, and you experience some of their most memorable battles from the perspectives of both good and evil characters. The Saiyan, Frieza, and Cell sagas as they're told here represent only a tiny fraction of the anime material, but there's generally enough dialog between characters to at least let you know why they're fighting, and that's all you need.

As you play through the 50-plus battles of Z-Chronicles mode for the first time, you'll inevitably unlock most of what Burst Limit has to offer, including a good number of the game's "drama pieces." These brief cutscenes are triggered by events during a fight and invariably benefit the character to which they're relevant in some way. For example, drama pieces can increase one or more of your attributes for a short time, restore some health, or call upon a partner to get you out of trouble. Drama pieces also go a long way toward making Burst Limit feel more like the anime that it's based on by employing quick camera cuts and dramatic close-ups that wouldn't be practical during normal gameplay. By unlocking and subsequently equipping up to three different drama pieces, you can customize a character to suit your play style, and to unlock all of them you need to play through the Z-Chronicles several times. New partners, attacks, and character transformations can also be unlocked in this mode, so you'll probably want to beat it at least once before venturing online to really put your skills to the test.

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