RIP Ralph Baer
I really, really hate writing obits. I really do. But I take it as a personal honor to be able to say good things about the men and women I respect, whether in this industry or just in my life, and Ralph Baer is the reason all of this exists in the first...
I used to love going to a store called We're Entertainment. The franchise was small and my hometown's outlet shopping mall was graced with an entire retail space filled with Dr. Evil catchphrases printed on mugs and the like. In addition to the movie posters, obscene T-shirts, and displays of useless crap stood a dedicated corner filled with Dragon Ball Z memorabilia. I bought a few T-shirts that were worn far more often than they should have been and topped it off with a Super Saiyan Vegeta cell phone charm for my elementary school backpack.
I bring up We're Entertainment to illustrate a simple fact: I am the target audience for Dragon Ball Z Kinect. In addition to the overpriced licensed goods, I had a little brother I fought with on a regular basis and a penchant for watching both the first airing and subsequent repeats of Toonami Midnight Run. A game that lets me fight Frieza and fire off destructo disks should be a home run.
Unfortunately, that's not the case with DBZ Kinect largely due to monotonous gameplay and the utter disappointment (most of the time) that is the Kinect motion camera. Namco's motion-controller brawler puts you in the biggest battles of your life and proceeds to bind your hands behind your back. I need those fists to do battle with galactic threats like Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, and Buu.
I couldn't be bothered to make it all the way to Cell, though, and I thought I would have done better. Remember when Goku and Frieza fight and it lasts for like... half of the show's 200+ episodes? You'd think if I had the patience to sit through all that powering up and Spirit Bomb gathering, I'd be able to make it through DBZ Kinect's campaign.
But the inane tedium of even one battle was enough, even though I know I have a duty to the citizens of Earth, much like Goku. Set down into battle, players have to punch as fast as they can to whittle down their opponent's health. Then a quick cutscene shows your character speeding about, walloping Nappa or Recoome every which way. Why the hell can't I do that cool stuff? Why does the player have to do all the boring punching when Goku pulls off mind-boggling combos?
I'm afraid we have to lay the blame squarely on the Kinect again. I tried mixing up my input, time and again, but the only thing that translated was a flurry of brainless punches.
You know the move where Piccolo or another of Earth's muscular heroes hits the enemy into the air and then teleports above only to smash the goon back into the rocky crags below? I can't tell you how many times I mimicked that feat of brutality as a twelve-year-old, but it doesn't work with the Kinect.
Special moves are extremely rigid (which means you're likely to fail at pulling them off on the fly) and many fights leave the player with so little autonomy, I wondered if I was playing a game at all. When I walked away to make a sandwich, Goku took a beating, but I was still back in time to save Earth and all my friends.
The bottomline is that no one really expected DBZ Kinect to represent the brand or experience as well as a child's imagination could, but I at least hoped it would look as good as other recent DBZ games. Not true! DBZ Kinect still has a few horrible surprises up its sleeve, many of which involve horribly rendering a scene from the show.
I keep going back to the fight with Nappa, mostly because that's the run of episodes I remember best. Of course, when the entire game features a poor redub and poor cel-shading, Namco Bandai effectively twists the knife it's been stabbing my inner child with. Then... I heard it.
In a cutscene, Goku begins powering up. The now infamous line from the cartoon was coming soon. I sat down to watch my reward for all the furious punching and sweating. Needless to say, I'm not handing out over 9000 stars for this one.
DBZ Kinect is a novelty wrapped in repetition. A small child in your household might have a lot of fun, if he or she can properly use the Kinect. While many of Namco's Dragon Ball games feature ever expanding rosters, knock-down, drag-out fights, and really pretty, animé-inspired graphics, DBZ Kinect is a totally passable affair, even for (lapsed or otherwise) diehard fans.
Copy provided by publisher.
Dragon Ball Z Kinect
All the characters you love from Dragon Ball Z...
... with a terrible dub and poor cel-shading
The Kinect really sucks
Not as bad as Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor!
But... still pretty bad.
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