Extreme Mediocrity

When it comes to 2D fighting games on the Nintendo 3DS, it’s a barren wasteland. The only title of note from the past few years is Super Smash Bros for 3DS and even that was released over a year ago. After a 13 month drought for 2D fighting games, Bandai Namco is bringing Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden to the 3DS platform. Developed by famed fighting game designers Arc System Works, Extreme Butoden has high expectations to live up to, so how does it shape up?

Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is a 2D sprite-brawler and as the name suggests, is set in the Dragon Ball Z universe. The gameplay involves controlling a mix of the 20 playable characters in 1-on-1 combat through the main modes: Story, Adventure, Extreme World Tournament, Battle, and Versus Mode.

With your standard light attack, heavy attack, kick attack, special attack, and dash mechanics, Extreme Butoden ticks all the boxes for a standard 2D fighter. Simplicity is key to its combat system. Regardless of which character you are playing, the input controls remain the same, but the resulting attack will change depending on the character, similar to Super Smash Bros. Although the combat system ticks all the boxes for a 2D fighter, that’s where my problems begin.

Extreme Butoden’s mechanics feel too bland and over-simplified. Compared to other fighting games developed by Arc System Works, the move list feels short-changed and underwhelming when compared to the Dragon Ball characters we’ve seen before. While the combat was fluid, it felt slow-paced compared to its counterparts as well.

“We’re well past the limit of recycling the same story.”

In Story Mode, you play as the team of heroes from Dragon Ball Z as you face off against all your enemies from the story — the same premise as most other Dragon Ball games. As much as I love the Dragon Ball saga, I think we’re well past the limit of recycling the same story. Unfortunately, Extreme Butoden continues to flog a dead horse. The story is narrated through character dialogue before and after each enemy encounter. In an effort to abridge the story, we are left with an inconsistently paced and lifeless recount that feels like an injustice to the Dragon Ball Z saga. You can also unlock additional Story Mode series, where you can play through the exact same story, but from a different character’s perspective.

After less than 20 minutes of playing, I completed the Story Mode and unlocked Adventure Mode. Adventure Mode does mix things up a little bit, allowing you to build your own team of fighters and pitting you against different opponents. The first few stages are tutorials to help you become familiar with using special attacks and stringing combos together. As you progress through the alternate story, the difficulty ramps up but never became too difficult. Unfortunately, Adventure Mode doesn’t feel coherent or complete. Rather than being a game mode to further dive into the Dragon Ball Z story, it feels like tacked-on content to pad the short Story Mode content.

One area that Extreme Butoden does well in is its graphics. The 2D sprites are decent for a 3DS title and are on par with other Arc System Works titles. Even without 3D turned on, the animation quality is fluid and some special attacks are rather flashy. Turning 3D on, the special attacks sprites really shine, somewhat making up for the lacklustre combat.

Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden for 3DS is a competent fighting game, but fails to build any excitement. The list of 100 characters in the game filled me with nostalgia, but with 80 of the 100 being assist characters and not actually playable, it was a bit disappointing.

Overall

With its lack of flare and innovation, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden didn’t really give me any thrills and felt mediocre at best.

Developer: Bandai Namco, Arc System Works
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden Review
Competent combat mechanicsImpressive sprite worksNostalgia
Very poor re-telling of the storyLack of contentOnly 20% of the characters in the game are playable
30%Overall