I haven’t been satisfied with a Dragon Ball game for some years now. Where Dragon Ball Xenoverse took some long overdue steps in new directions, it wandered a little far from entertaining mechanics for my liking. Extreme Butōden, I hoped, would sit on the other side of the scale. It’s a 3DS game – I don’t care about narrative, I don’t need the envelope to be pushed, all I wanted was good, fun, fighting.
I didn’t get good, fun fighting. Extreme Butōden’s combat has some strong roots planted. Controlling characters feels great; you’ve got a button for punch, kick, energy blast, and evade, with the shoulder buttons charging energy and pulling off super moves. Great roots, but no tree, no bush, barely a weed. It’s a base level fighting system lacking any of the interesting, unique mechanics that have made Dragon Ball fighters fun in the past. As a bare-bones fighting game, it’s competent, but — as seems the present standard for DB games — is almost immediately tiresome. Mashing the punch button is as likely to knock out the game’s toughest enemies as trying to string together more ‘advanced’ techniques, so why bother?
There are a couple of single-player modes here. Z Story abridges the narrative of Dragon Ball Z with a handful of fights and loads of text boxes full of mediocre dialogue. Adventure Mode guides you through a couple of hours of ‘what-if’ narrative. The story here is less interesting and reverent to the canon than the stuff I could find in my second-grade writing book. It’s clear nobody cared, and nobody tried to do anything of worth with the plot, so why bury these modes in such an inundation of text to skip through? Probably in an attempt to mitigate the fact that the singleplayer content, as repetitive as it is, can be comfortably completed in a few hours. There’s also Extreme World Tournament, a typical arcade mode.
There is something Extreme Butōden does well, and it does so exceedingly. The sprite work in this game is beautiful. Big, detailed character sprites animate with the smoothness of Krillin’s scalp and capture the characters’ movements and mannerisms exceptionally. Characters like Chi-Chi and Yajirobe enter fights as support characters, and it’s great to see some of the less battle-capable but equally great characters pop in. There were clearly some very talented and passionate people on the art team; it’s a shame they weren’t put to better use.
Dragon Ball Z Extreme Butōden doesn’t feel like a game made by people who wanted to make it, but by people scraping for the bare minimum on a project they’d rather skip. The great sprites really are a joy to look at, but repetitive, bland gameplay and extremely limited content make Extreme Butōden yet another lacklustre, unnecessary Dragon Ball game. Not a bad game, but not worth spending time with either. Please stop popping out these games for a quick buck and realise the potential of the licence you have on your hands, Bandai Namco.