Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi is a three-dimensional fighting game involving a ton of Dragonball Z characters - even ones only seen briefly in the series.
The graphics are really the standout improvement here from previous Dragonball Z games. They do a great job of really maxing out the capabilities of the PS2. Not only are the cut scenes great, but the main gameplay features *giant* maps, with multiple terrain types (water, mountains, plants and more). You can move up to higher ground, draw your enemy into the lake to slow them down, and use other tactics. It makes the game much more like "playing in the Dragonball Z world" vs being a side-scrolling fighter.
The sound is definitely enhanced over previous versions, too. You can now choose to have the Japanese voices for your characters. It's ironic that in early days of gaming, games would come with only Japanese voices and US people would complain because they wanted to hear English. Nowadays we appreciate the language much better. By giving you the option, you can use whichever suits you best.
That's not to say that *all* sound in the game is stellar. They definitely could have included a more robust musical soundtrack - and general commentary. It often seems like those things are overlooked in fighting games, but if you're a fan and playing the game for multi hours a day, pretty much every day of the week, it wears on you quickly.
For actual gameplay, as mentioned, the maps are great. They have tons of characters which is really wonderful. It's fun to see some of the more obscure characters they included in the set. The movements and animations are great. However, the *controls* to get them to do things - and the skill of the AI at doing the same moves - are really unbalanced. We have played thousands of games on all systems over our reviewing career and there is just something not right about the combat controls here. So while you're struggling to get the combos activated, the enemy you're fighting is zipping through them smoothly and trouncing you. This is something you can "deal with" if you're patient and into the series - but if you're not an avid gamer, I can see someone getting frustrated very quickly and not playing the game again.
I'm all for having games that are difficult! I enjoy the challenge. But a game should be difficult because you are ramping up in technique. It shouldn't be difficult because the combo you typed in isn't accepted, or the key strokes react sluggishly so that your character dies before your commands are "heard".
Definitely a big step in the right direction - I really hope #2 takes care of a lot of these control issues. If they do, that will be a 5/5. For this version, I'll give it a 4/5 as a great game but with some issues.
Buy Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi from Amazon.com