Review / Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 (Xbox 360)

When I reviewed Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 last month I was worried that I’d be totally out of my depth seeing as I wasn’t familiar with the franchise. Much to my surprise though I found a game that was easy to pick up and play and entirely accessible for newcomers. That turned Naruto into one of my favorite games of the year and gave me a bit more faith in adaption’s of these crazy Japanese franchises.

Sadly though, Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 has put me back to square one, bringing all my fears about Naruto with it. Instead of a colorful, beautiful and smooth fighting game what we’ve got here is something that’s strictly for fans of the franchise only.

You’ll notice it in the game’s opening move; a heavy air-guitar track with overly dramatic singing from a Japanese artist played way too loudly over a montage of characters beating the snot out of each other with super powers that emit some very funky lighting. All of which left me thinking: “Uh… what just happened?”

Raging Blast 2 is a one-on-one fighting game that takes a whole bunch of characters from the Dragon Ball universe and pits them against each other. Each character has their own campaign to run through and there are even more of them to unlock past the impressive opening roster. There’s a sweep of multiplayer modes including on and offline which is where casual fans will want to spend the bulk of their time.

A lot of the fighting is pretty deep, letting you cancel attacks then launch super attacks off of that cancel and string together a whole bunch of crazy combos to leave your head spinning more from what you’ve pressed on the controller rather than what’s happened on screen.  That is to say it’s pretty complex depending on how you like your beat ’em ups. Throwing the joystick this way while pressing that will usually have some sort of effective outcome, and there are some simpler moves to fall back on. It’s possible to learn it all and become pretty good at the game (if you can work your way around the horribly translated tutorials), but at the same time spamming the basic attack button or keeping your distance and sticking to ranged attacks will get you through almost any tight spot. Don’t worry if you’re not too hot at fight games; you’ll probably be able to find cheap ways of getting round the campaign.

This translates into multiplayer too; matches are normally a little one sided when an experienced player is trying to perform some powerful attacks while the other is just mashing attack thus interrupting the combo. You’ll probably only want to be playing if you’re a big fan anyway as – simply put – there are better fighting games out there for anyone else.

But hey, if you are a fan at least there’s a lot here for you. After seemingly every match in the game you’ll be bombarded with extra content you’ve unlocked. This comes in the form of new characters, moves, costumes and stills from the cartoon series, providing plenty of reason to press on with the seemingly randomly strung together campaigns. Cut-scenes aren’t really evident in the game’s Galaxy Mode (the main single-player aspect), meaning you’re simply running along a line of battles knocking them out of the way. The path through each campaign can provide multiple routes so you can up the difficulty faster, but if doesn’t really feel like there’s any sort of sense to the entire mode whatsoever.

Playing by yourself seems like it’s just there to unlock stuff to enjoy in multiplayer. Why force players who just want to play with their friends to endure hours and hours of single-player matches to find everything in the game? Obviously this is an issue that a lot of fighting games suffer from, but then again not all fighting games pile on the single-player stuff quite as much as Dragon Ball.

It’s the presentation that makes the game feel so loose. Even the menu just screams PS2 standard with it’s empty flashy space background that has even more of that ridiculous music playing too loud over the top.

When it comes to graphics it’s a bit up and down too. Character models are lovingly recreated down to the finest detail, but environments are bland and blurry, making the characters seem like they’re a generation ahead of the arena they’re fighting in. I hate to beat a dead horse, but compared to Naruto, Raging Blast 2 comes up short every time. Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 raised the bar for these sorts of games and Dragon Ball is going to have to catch up sooner or later.

Still, if you’re a fan of this franchise then by all means pick up a copy of Raging Blast 2; it’s got more than enough fan service to appeal to you. The fighting is deep if a little intimidating and there’s a tonne of content. Be prepared to do a lot of work before you can enjoy it in multiplayer though. Other than that, the rest of us are better off staying far away from this one.

+ A deep combat system that some will love to master
+ Lots of fan service complete with a lot of content

– Needs a lot of work to unlock multiplayer content
– Sloppy presentation cheapens the feel
– Fighting system isn’t very accessible or as polished as most other games in the genre