Dragon Ball Z for Kinect|
After playing a couple of hours of Namco Bandai’s latest offering – Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect – I have only one thing to say….somebody call me a doctor. Either my heart is about to explode, or I just destroyed my pectoral muscles, or both – because my chest and sides have not burned this much since my twelfth-grade gym class’ Presidential Fitness Push-Up test. I think it’s fair to say that with Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect, I have punched more dead air in the past three hours than I have punched in the past 30 years.
The sad thing is, while all that punching may have given me some much needed exercise, it was not much fun. And since Dragon Ball Z for Kinect is not listed anywhere in their literature as an exercise program, but does happen to be listed everywhere as a game, I would have to assume the developers intended it to be fun; consider it a mark that they missed.
To their defense, participating in a realistic fight would most likely leave me breathless with an aching rib cage. Only, I would not expect that pain to come from pulling a muscle while being forced to rabbit-punch the air a couple hundred times in the course of one match, just so I get the chance to try some illogical quick-time event that I never can seem to pull off the way the Kinect interface wants me to. But that’s precisely what you get with Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect; which for all of its flash and fury and for the developer’s good intentions, ends up being an exercise (quite literally) in fighting game frustration.
OK, so I’m no fan of Dragon Ball Z – in fact, I am really not a fan of much other anime for that matter. But I do get the gist of the storyline from the game’s cinematic cutscenes. In fact, if there is one aspect of Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect that deserves kudos, it’s in the presentation. The visual and audio quality of the game is really impressive, and every bit as good as a Saturday morning cartoon. The way the game seamlessly moves from cinematic cutscene to the first-person action absolutely is fantastic, and the way it transitions from first-person fight to third-person quick-time event is equally impressive. I might not have a clue of what the convoluted storyline was all about, but the way it was delivered was definitely the high point of the game.
And maybe if I were more of a Dragon Ball Z fan, that fantastic presentation would have been enough to sway me into feeling like Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect was not an absolute bummer in terms of gameplay – which it is. And it’s not so much what the game asks you to do – it is a Kinect fighting title, after all, we expect to a fair share of punching and kicking – but the repetition of which that the game requires is what really takes its physical (and mental) toll.
When it comes to the gameplay, think of a traditional platformer title, but one in which there are only boss fights. The gamer is pitted against a succession of these boss-like characters, each of which must be taken out with the trademark three levels of ascending boss power. The gamer commences to unleashing a flurry of punches and kicks, each of which slowly fills one segment of an onscreen power meter.
Once the initial power segment is full, the gamer can either continue to fill additional segments (ultimately to unlock more powerful special attacks) or take a stab at one of the available special attacks, as indicated by the onscreen special attack tiles. These special tiles require the gamer to assume a series of particular stances, which when completed correctly initiates a cinematic cutscene of their character performing said attack. Then, like any good boss fight, the enemy gets up, dusts off, and comes back with a special attack of his/her own which the gamer must now dodge or defend against. Repeat this process a couple dozen times, and you have Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect in a nutshell.
Really, I do so wish I could talk about some of the finer points of the game; like the initial enjoyment I found in throwing fire balls, or leaning to dodge incoming, um….fire balls, but even that enjoyment disappeared after the first few enemies. When the whole of the game ends up being the very same actions, over and over and over, the novelty quickly wears off.
Even my 8 year old, Dominic, barely made it through the first character before he was yelling at the television (and at me) things like “I am trying to do that, but it won’t let me!” and “This stupid game won’t let me win.” The funny thing is, his character never did die during all that complaining, and he even eventually won the match, and all without using a single special move. All he had to do was punch, punch, punch about two hundred times, and eventually the enemy was worn down. Is that even right? I guess anything goes in the world of Dragon Ball Z.
In terms of gameplay modes, Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect is a one-trick pony; offering only a single player story mode, and a free-play mode allowing gamers to revisit previous story mode fights. There is no local multiplayer, no online play, and no extra challenges. This is a bit of a shame, because I could see a Kinect fighting game really taking off online; I assume the developers were not equipped to step outside the formulaic confines that make up the single player story mode.
As I mentioned before, Dragon Ball Z is actually quite impressive when it comes to the audio and visual presentation, and it does not hurt that the game includes an exclusive episode of the television show on the disc as well as a cardboard hairpiece to give you that trademark Dragon Ball Z look. That being said, I would venture to say that Dragon Ball Z for the Kinect is only going to appeal to hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans.