Ha, ha! Look, TYP wrote a review on a fighting game. This should be good for a laugh!
One might find it odd that I should review Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors. I’m hardly a fan of fighting games—in fact, this is the first non-Smash Bros. fighter I’ve ever owned. As such, hard-core fighter fans (like PGC’s own S-U-P-E-R or WindyMan) looking for an expert opinion best read elsewhere. If you just want to know if the game is any good, it is.
Although Supersonic Warriors is most certainly a fighting game, developer ARC System Works (of Guilty Gear X fame) ditches the traditional “my-side-your-side” ground battles in favor of a less restricted aerial format more akin to those seen in the anime. The setup works remarkably well for the license. Characters are constantly in flight, executing, dodging, and blocking attacks in midair. B performs weak, quick attacks, and A executes stronger but slower attacks. Long-range energy attacks of varying strength (B/A while holding R) can counter each other, while fist fights (B/A) give fighters a chance to regain ki (needed for energy attacks) and perform combos when their opponent is stunned. You can also regain ki by hovering and powering up by holding down R, though don’t expect the enemy to stand around and watch like their TV counterparts might.
At first the characters may seem almost identical. Many characters share similar energy attacks—especially the Saiyans—but a helpful glance on GameFAQs will reveal much more than the in-game tutorial and meager instruction booklet let on. Super energy attacks (B+A while holding R) will vary depending on the two characters’ relative positions. Most characters have generic “giant ball” or “giant beam” attacks for at least one direction, but the developers also included many of the characters’ signature moves, some of which are quite unique. For instance, Captain Ginyu swaps health and statistics with his enemy using Body Change from below, and Gotenks does his crazy Kamikaze Ghost thing from above. Some characters have other off-beat features: Gotenks fights on a time limit before Young Trunks and Goten’s Fusion technique wears off (and they lose the match), Dr. Gero absorbs energy attacks instead of powering up, and Buu slowly regains health. Each fighter also has three power levels that expand or replace moves in his or her arsenal, helping to compensate for the slightly lacking thirteen playable characters.
In an interesting design decision, the game provides no control over an attack’s aim. Some attacks will adjust to a change in the enemy’s position, either through homing capabilities or pre-launch tracing, but the aggressor has no say in the matter. This transforms energy-based combat into a very strategic endeavor, with timing and evasion being key talents. Blast a powerful energy attack when the enemy is off guard and you may severely damage or stun your opponent; trigger from too far away, when the enemy can evade, and you may become the vulnerable one.
Supersonic Warriors brilliantly captures the presentation of the series. High levels of parallax scrolling provide a real sense of motion as the camera zooms in and out to accommodate the speeding fighters. Just as remarkably, the characters remain sharp and detailed at all times. The characters’ attacks look fantastic and are accompanied by quality voice work from the folks at FUNimation (You dub-haters can always import). The soundtrack is bland…but then again, so is the show’s.
The game has bigger flaws than its soundtrack, though. Powerful energy blasts, especially the Kamehameha Wave, will sometimes shoot straight forward, even if your enemy was never in that direction. The R button has the misfortune of being both the power-up/energy attack modifier when hovering and the homing sprint button when moving. Zooming directly toward the enemy instead of powering up from a safe distance, simply because you still had your thumb on the D-pad, is unarguably a poor control decision. The GBA may be short on buttons, but surely the neglected L button and the unused select button could have been used to alleviate this clash of controls. Eventually the game can become repetitive due to its fairly easy AI and a lack of environment interaction. The different modes merely repackage the same fighting game with more tag-team options.
DBZ fans will also groan at the horrendously-written dialogue and narration featured in the “What if…” stories, which were probably written in two hours by a hung-over intern who finds plot holes amusing. You’ll swear they were written by that 10-year-old twerp you just bashed in the forums. The show-inspired sagas and a few of the hypothetical plots (Krillin and Piccolo’s) are less insulting. For the serious DBZ fans, cult favorites like Tien and the lesser members of Team Ginyu are reduced to cameo roles. Also, Cell’s transformations are omitted—he appears in his perfect form at all three power levels. Raving fans of the series will also cite “significant” plot errors and omissions in the rightfully abbreviated sagas.
Supersonic Warriors will not blow your mind, but considering the franchise’s unattractive gaming history and the GBA’s limited buttons, Banpresto and ARC’s offering is pretty darn good. The gameplay is decent, though somewhat repetitive, and players really feel like they’re controlling the Z characters in a heated battle. If your kid is a fan of the show, or you’re secretly one yourself, this is one of the best DBZ games on the market.