A few years back, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z was everywhere. The series was and is, arguably, the most successful anime in terms of the popularity that it has garnered since making its way out of Japan. At one point in time, it seemed as though every single kid I knew of, under the age of 12 was completely infatuated with the series and its characters. Everywhere that I looked, it was there: backpacks, school folders, action figures, Halloween costumes... you name it. Out of the popularity has come an onslaught of video games for every single platform imaginable, from home console to portable device. From the perspective of an outsider to the craze, all of the games have seemed the same to me: over the top fighting action with incredibly animated characters that I just didn’t “get”. Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 looked to be more of the same, only this one happened to “click” with me. Bear with me if I sound a little ignorant on the Dragon Ball topic, but that is because I am. This is going to be from the point of view of an outsider looking in onto the franchise, and being quite impressed with this particular package.
I am not sure, perhaps it’s may age and maturation (or lack thereof) or the seriousness in which I take my responsibility to review a game, but this Dragon Ball game hit me a lot differently than all of the others I have come across in the past. Instead of being almost immediately turned off from the outset once again, I found myself drawn into this one and intrigued to learn more not only about the characters, but the lore behind the series. Luckily for me, this game alone provides a pretty ample opportunity for me to learn about both and provides an opportunity to get in on the action, or at least feel like I am. Raging Blast 2’s purpose seems to be that of a “fan service” to loyal followers of the series while at the same time serving as a crash course on the subject to those unfamiliar with the franchise. The game is filled to the brim with content including tons of playable characters, abundant customization options, as well as what seems like a never ending list of unlockable art, movies, and encyclopedia entries and profiles which span across the proverbial Dragon Ball universe. Those who get into the game will likely be playing it for a long, long time in order to see all that it has to offer.
At its core, the game is a fighting game. Players face off against one another, or against the computer both online and offline, as one of 70 or so characters from the Dragon Ball series. That number just counts the base characters listed on the game’s main character selection screen, in addition to that base amount there are a ton of variations on the base characters available including their various forms and evolutions. All of them are presented in an incredibly detailed, cell-shaded style that looks and feels just like the anime / cartoons. The game is visually stunning in that sense; the developers have done an excellent job of recreating the style used in the actual shows into the game. It feels like you are participating in an actual Dragon Ball episode or movie. The same thing can be said for the games audio and soundtrack; while most of the original voice actors were not used, the voice samples used in the game represent the personas well based from my experience and the ability to choose between English and Japanese voices will likely be welcomed with open arms by fans the world over. These battles occur across a wide variety of modes available to the players in the game. The game boasts an impressive variety of modes and options including single player variations, tournament options, and online play. The single player modes focuses on two specific game types: Galaxy Mode and Battle Zone. Galaxy Mode is insanely extensive and provides progressive challenges for a large number of the character included in the game. These challenges span across an ever-branching “galaxy chart” which will lead to new characters and challenges along your way. This mode is also key to unlocking a lot of the content in the game, including additional playable characters and a ton of customization options for existing characters. Each Dragon Ball personality has their own path in the galaxy and can be played by gamers. The Battle Zone on the other hand requires players to defeat an onslaught of opponents and defend assigned zones. This mode is also very helpful for getting acquainted with the game and it is often complicated control scheme, but we will discuss that later. As I mentioned earlier, the game also boasts a slew of online multiplayer options as well. Players have the option to face randomly matched players in matches or enter into structured tournaments for up to 16 combatants. The online interaction can be tweaked and altered according to players wishes by either limiting games to the stock characters in the game or allowing gamers to use completely customized and powered up characters online. The choice is up to you.
The control and gameplay mechanics used in Raging Blast are surprisingly deep. There are a ton of options for players who take the time to learn and master all that it has to offer, including incredible counters, impressive super moves, and an extremely well done ground-to-air battle system that shifts between the plains seamlessly. I found my jaw dropping to the floor when I would run into an opponent online who knew the ins and outs of the system and could pull off insanely impressive combinations that seemed to never end… it was as if I was actually watching the anime itself. The same thing happened when the computer would do the same thing offline and I was often left with the feeling of “wow, I want to do that”. As deep as the system is, it walks a very fine line and almost crosses over to being a button masher. Sadly, both experienced, masterful players and button mashers will find success in Raging Blast 2, the only difference between the two will be the finesse in which they display on the screen. Not being familiar with the series, I found myself relying on button smashing a lot early on and was met with quite a bit of success. I found it pretty easy to string together long and incredibly damaging combinations against the computer on the medium to lower difficulty levels, but the visual display that accompanied them left a lot to be desired. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. It wasn’t until I practiced and learn to hone my skills and put all of the mechanics to use that the glory of the game shined through. That glory lies solely in the visual representation I spoke about earlier. The game plays out and looks like the source material when it is played correctly and as the developers intended. If you take the time to learn how to play it in that manner, you will be rewarded with an incredibly intense and cinematic experience.
All of the things that will make this game incredibly good in the eyes of a Dragon Ball fan will likely turn off would-be gamers who aren’t necessarily fond of the series. This is a huge universe and I felt very lost in it when I first played the game. I didn't know who these characters were and found it hard to care in the long run. As I became more familiar with them, by reading about them as I unlocked their profiles and even watched the full length feature animation included on the disc, I felt more comfortable and found the experience infinitely more enjoyable. Raging Blast 2 is a deep and extensive experience which caters to the fans and doesn’t apologize for doing so in the process, which is perhaps its biggest detriment. The fighting and action of the game is as furious and over the top as the anime itself, which is great for fans but may be a put off to those unfamiliar with the series. I wasn’t a fan of the anime coming into the experience but have found myself pushed towards investigating my curiosity after my time with Raging Blast 2. That won’t happen with everyone. When you consider that plus the insane amount of content and unlockables that are packed into this game, the package value of this game for the Dragon Ball die hard is almost immeasurable. I highly recommend the game if you are a fan of the series, but not so much for everyone else.