Seriously, are they even trying anymore?
In yet another retelling of the Dragonball Z saga, DBZ Tenkaichi Tag Team shows the gang from the arrival of Raditz and the discovery of Goku's alien origins through to the saga of Majin Buu. You take control of the appropriate characters along the way – most of the time being Goku and Vegeta – and defeating the big, strong bad guys in battles of increasing difficulty and skill.
[image1]Okay, I made that last part up. But that's what I was hoping for going in.
I don't know how many times this story needs to be retold to the masses who know it already. At this point, the animé just in the US has to have been around for easily over a decade, and I know in Japan it released earlier than that, and has had games released about it as early as the Nintendo FamiCom/NES days. And the way these games have been telling this story have ranged from fighting games, to platform games, and even strategy-RPGs. But this game is the least inspired in the bunch.
But, as always, to give it a fair shake, let's start with the presentation of the story. All of the characters have spoken dialogue throughout the game… except when they don't. Occasionally, the game either doesn't load the dialogue or doesn't have any. Speaking suddenly dies off at random points and occasionally picks back up again during the storytelling segments. On top of that, the dialogue is simply boring, uninspired writing on the level of "I'm a bad guy ready to kill you!" and delivered by a lethargic cast in one of the most bland performances in gaming, not including the constant typos in the word boxes.
Thankfully, the graphics look alright, although not breathtaking at all. The cel-shaded look isn't bad, as it pops on the PSP's screen, but the movements look a little odd in practice (especially when they're bouncing on invisible trampolines in mid-flight).
[image2]The fighting itself is alright, albeit very repetitive. With a fighting game, one would expect a range of techniques to choose from, but it's very easy to get through every round with just some basic “run up, attack, rinse, repeat” tactics. And the special attacks? They're two per customer – sometimes two ranged attacks, sometimes one ranged and one close-up sequence, occasionally a mix – and they're so easy to activate that they're able to be used constantly. A quick charge-up, blast, attack, charge, blast, and the battle is usually won. Unless you're actually fighting in a tag-team.
Speaking of the actual tag-team action, it works alright if you've got a partner to fight with (whether it's AI or a human player), but many of the battles have the a player finding themselves in a two-on-one situation. In the early-going (by “early” I mean the first five or so sagas?), it's not much of a problem, but eventually the computer catches up with everyone. No matter how many times you can just knock 'em out in the first few matches, later on they can get insanely cheap with their constant double-teaming. If you miss the split-second opportunity to block, you're just going to be beat up for a while. “Hope your health bar's full!” The jerks. It reminds me of fighting that guy that would only play Street Fighter II Hyper Edition as E-Honda, trap you in the corner, and constantly move slowly forward with the Hundred-Hand Slap. Same amount of cheap.
In case anyone is still interested, there is a way to customize characters in the Free Battle system for some multiplayer fights. Each character has three slots to personalize, and each consists of three Types: Ability, Tag, and Intellect. It's a pretty basic system, just buy the item and plug it on to the player of your choice, which is easy to do, since the game literally throws all kinds of its currency at you. No, literally, they throw beans at you between battles which can net a player more “cash” than the battles themselves, but it is a little interesting for a fighting game to employ. It's a little convoluted to mess around with, but as it's the only thing that seems to have some effort put into it (on a basic level), points where due.
But with a bland… well, everything, DBZ Tag Team Tenkaichi is completely skippable. This is the worst storytelling in a game – even a game like DBZ where battles are strung together with as little story as possible – and is one of the most mind-numbing games in some time. If it had some care put into it, it could probably be an interesting portable fighter. As-is, this just feels sloppy and rushed out the door. I guess if it still prints money I can understand, but c'mon. Enough is enough.