Whether or not you like Dragon Ball: Raging Blast II depends on your allegiance to said franchise. If, perhaps, you're coming off New Vegas and expect sharp writing and an intriguing plot, I'm afraid Raging Blast II has neither. If you're a Street Fighter, Tekken or Soul Caliber fan, looking to sate your combative urges with a complex but balanced experience, again, Raging Blast II isn't for you.
But, if like me, you're a fan of the Dragon Ball universe, it's cast of vegetable-named characters, its constant resupply of impossibly powerful villians, and its were-apes and instant blond hairdos, then you're in luck. Raging Blast II is a true Dragon Ball experience, and if you can ignore its shortcomings, it's quite a fun and often hilarious diversion.
Raging Blast II comes loaded with the anime 'Plan to Eradicate the Super-Saiyans', which should fill you in on what Dragon Ball is all about. The game itself isn't very interested in a story. With the 'Galaxy Mode', you pick a character from the 90-strong roster, and advance through a series of tiered stages, with each successful bout unlocking the next opponent.
However, while Raging Blast II lacks a compelling, or even watchable, storyline, it has successfully carried the anime characters into the interactive realm. Each character, from fan-favourite Goku, all the way to obscure villians like Meta-Cooler, looks, sounds and feels the part. You can perform a string of hand-to-hand attacks, flurries of blows and kicks which send your opponent flying across the destructible stages, and can also pull off powerful ki-based attacks, like Goku's trademark Ka-Me-Ha-Me-Hah.
Now, I can imagine that any non-Dragon Ball fans reading this might gawk at things like 'Meta-Cooler' and 'Ka-Me-Ha-Me-Hah', but it's all part of DB's childlike charm. It doesn't take itself too seriously, despite all the pompous posing and obsession with bulging biceps and pectorals. Just don't expect a deep story or compelling character development. To offset this, however, there is a multiplayer component, which allows you to duke it out with friends from around the world. However, at this stage before release it was difficult to find a match to properly judge it.
Unlike most of today's fighting games, Raging Blast II is an entirely 3D-based fighter. You're not locked into 2D environments, instead unleashed on entire landscapes, although there are some invisible walls. To fully exploit your surroundings, you must make good use of your characters ability to fly. It's a clumsy process, not helped by the game's obsession with multiple button presses to perform a single action, but it is a very exhilarating and enjoyable thing to soar across the screen, firing off blasts of ki.
You're also equipped with a variety of 'Super Attacks', with further attacks available to unlock. These 'Super Attacks' are mapped to the right analogue stick, which is a much more streamlined way of performing a move. Fighting games are, of course, built on the idea of memorizing complex button presses to perform attacks, but having to press three buttons in a row, two of which are located much too close for comfort, simply to perform a jump then dash, is a little too frustrating unless you're totally wired for this kind of thing.
But what I must commend the game for is really pushing the fighting genre to its limits. You can fly, you can blast across the screen, fire off bolts of energy and perform devastating attacks that can level an entire city stage. However, the game isn't exactly intuitive, and while there's a lengthy tutorial stage, the full roster of moves, abilities and counters remain a mystery unless extensive testing is done.
Raging Blast II's greatest strength is its visuals. From the character models and their animations to the variety of locales, ripped straight from the anime series' greatest stories. Attacks are fast and fluid and particle effects light up the screen. The game very rarely drops frames and keeps fights at a commendable level. Altogether, it's a wonderful visual experience, and truly feels like you're watching one of the anime's epic bouts, only this time you're in control.
The sound design, too, is good, but not quite as impressive. Some voice-actors obviously aren't the same as the anime's, which for fans like myself may provide something of a disconnect. The writing, as I mentioned, is poor but true to the series, so it all depends on your expectations. The music is, however, wonderful, full of cheesy guitar-riffs and soaring tones. Beginning, and ending, a match is always an intense experience.
Overall, Raging Blast II succeeds on a number of fronts, mainly for capturing that Dragon Ball look and feel. Despite the clumsy controls, it's fun to leap and soar across the screen and deliver a furious flurry of strikes, although its equally frustrating to find the non-responsive controls leave you open to a beating of your own. For Dragon Ball fans, this is a must-have, and the lengthy anime included is a much-appreciated bonus. For fans of fighting games, however, they may find the experience to be below their high standards.
- Great visuals, true to the Dragon Ball look
- Quite unlike any other fighting game
- Combat is fast, fun and cinematic...
- ... But it's also clumsy and overly complex
- Lack of story is odd
- Can get a tad repetitive
The Short Version: Dragon Ball: Raging Blast II is a true DB experience, from its huge roster of characters to its epic bouts and destructible stages. It suffers from an overall lack of plot and, thus, character, and the overly complex control scheme can be a bit off-putting. But if you're in the mood for a typically Japanese beat-em-up, then look no further.