Review: Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team
It’s generally known that, as far as anime is concerned, we Americans are so far behind the Japanese in terms of release dates that all we can see of them are a bunch of red asses. (That’s an astrophysics joke for you to enjoy.) The anime series Dragon Ball Z ran in Japan from 1989 until early 1996, but we didn’t start seeing it over here in the States until near the end of 1996. (Fun “Fact”: it’s actually illegal for an anime series to show on TV here in the USA while it’s still showing on Japanese TV.) So technically speaking, Dragon Ball Z is about 22 years old. Would you like to know what else came out in 1989? Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
If Keanu Reeves was able to use the last two transformative decades to lose the stoner/moron label everyone initially attached to him, then why am I stuck playing the same god damned Dragon Ball Z games over and over again? Hell, even the Star Wars games started following original characters and stories after a while.
Believe it or not, Keanu was ashamed enough that he went uncredited for his role as Ortiz the Dog-Boy but was actually willing to put his name on The Lake House.
If you’ve ever played any of the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi games then you’ve already played this one. It’s a rather unimaginative, bland remake of the earlier games of the series but now on the PlayStation Portable. This is a shame considering the Budokai Tenkaichi series was actually pretty good. Most gamers will remember it thanks to Budokai Tenkaichi 2 for the Wii, also known as “that one surprisingly good Dragon Ball Z game.” It incorporated interesting gameplay, a wide selection of characters (129 of them), and it required players to use the Wii motion controls to act out special moves in order to use them in the game. Later games would abandon that unique and entertaining control scheme in favor of simply remaking the same damned game over and over again. That’s essentially what has led us to this game.
Fun Fact: if enough Dragon Ball games are placed together, there is a risk of it opening a portal to Hell.
Now don’t get me wrong, Tenkaichi Tag Team isn’t actually bad. It’s actually rather decent, with enough content to burn away many an hour while stuck on the subway. Players can choose from a list of 70 playable characters from the series. While this is actually less than half the number of playable characters available in the last Budokai Tenkaichi game (162), it’s still more than enough to keep the game from getting too repetitive. The obligatory “Dragon Walker” story mode roughly follows the plot of the anime from the start through the Majin Buu Saga. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please cherish your ignorance.) The game also includes a battle mode which allows players to battle computer-controlled enemy teams of your choosing, a challenge mode where players can fight increasingly tougher enemies, and a multiplayer mode where you and up to 3 other players can fight one another.
Of course, that’s assuming you actually find other people who will admit to buying a Dragon Ball Z game.
Lack of originality aside, the other area where the game falters is in the control scheme. When designing a PSP game, there are certain things that designers should never do. At the top of that list is: directly porting the gameplay and control scheme from a PS2 game over to the PSP. The PS2 controller has dual thumbsticks, and many of its games take advantage of that, using one for movement and the other to control the camera. When one attempts to transfer that over to the PSP, which has only a lone nubbin’ of a thumbstick, what you get is the kind of shitty controls we thought we had left behind when we ditched the Nintendo 64. While the controls for Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team are nowhere near as bad as they were with the PSP Star Wars: Battlefront games, I could not help but feel that they were lacking in some sort of ethereal and indefinable way.
Additionally, the Tag Team feature mentioned in the game’s title sadly fails to impress. The concept is that you can fight alongside a computer-controlled partner as you take on a team of enemy characters. That sounds interesting, but oddly enough, it doesn’t really change the gameplay all that much. There’s little attempt at utilizing the mechanic to perform special combo attacks, and the only real tactical advantage to it is the ability to shoot your partner’s opponent while he’s too preoccupied to defend himself.
The best reason for an adult to play this game? So they don’t have to awkwardly avoid eye contact with other people on the subway.
While this game does provide players with a decent amount of content and a mildly entertaining experience, it doesn’t really bring anything new or worthwhile to the table. If you’re looking for an entertaining PSP fighting game to waste some time with, and you’re not completely tired of the Dragon Ball Z series yet, then this might be a game to pick up. If you’re looking for a great game to breathe some life back into your PSP, then look elsewhere. While Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Tag Team was fun for a little while, it wasn’t long until my PSP returned to its primary role as a Super Nintendo emulator. If you have the opportunity though, I do recommend that you Try It.
Still a better use for the PSP than anything Sony’s tried to do with it so far.