Random Ramblings Vol.10 : Dragon Ball Z Battle of Z, the missed opportunity and the squandered potential!

The latest Dragon Ball is a disappointment…not because it is a bad idea to begin with or due to execution…largely…but due to Bandai Namco’s usual release schedule and scam-y attitude of “we release dates not games” that Activision and EA seem to have mastered by now. As you may guess, this greatly squanders and hampers any proper or even innovative ideas the developer may have.

This year’s DBZ game comes from Artdink, the Macross () Frontier and Gundam Battle () games developer and home of some pretty talented people when it comes to anime games, especially involving mecha. Needless to say that even those games kinda suffered due to the attitude and “bussiness model” Bamco uses. Which is especially slimy and scam-y when one takes in account that Bandai Namco is the japanese Disney and a multi corporation bussiness with anime studios, toy manufacturers and plastic model makers under there control and get a ton of money from their games as well + have almost 75% of the overall profit from toys, anime and even videogames…you suddenly get really irritated how they treat the public and how they treat the fanbases of their games and more importantly how much they look down on their developer studios. This especially apparent when Harada Katsuhiro just plain left Bamco for a while due to how the top hats and CEO decided to treat the Tekken franchise. And he was right to do so.

Macross

But anyway, taking into account that Artdink is really smart when it comes to turning around their mistakes and genuinly fixing their games, here’s what needs fixing in the new DBZ game, Battle of Z and how it can be fixed using previous material of Artdink. First, the controls are pretty…scattered and seem to be placed without much though.

Controls

Controls :

Analog Stick / LS – Move
Cross / A – Descend/Dash
Circle / B – Ki Blast
Square / X – Ascend/Dash
Triangle / Y – Melee
Triangle + Circle / Y + B – Special Move
R1 / RB – Lock On
L1 / LB – Guard
L1 + Triangle / LB + Y – Chase Attack
L1 + Circle / LB + B – Powered Ki Blast
L1 + Square / LB + X – Unique A
L1 + Cross / LB + A – Unique B
L1 / LB + LS – Step(After-image dash)
RS – “Camera Control”/Switch Enemy/Target Ally
L2 / LT – Unique A
R2 / RT – Unique B
D-pad – Ally Commands
Select / Back – N/A
Start – Pause

As you can see, the controls aren’t exactly ideal for a Dragon Ball game that involves free flying and team attacks, in a brawler game. One of the most apparent and annoying problems is the Lock-On in this game, since it is taken straight from Battle Robot Damashii. Instead of using the traditional method of locking an opponent that enters the stage, the lock-on is never on, requiring the player to do it manually and use one of the sticks to circle through enemies. That is atrocious, especially when the Macross games had the brilliant set-up of :

  1. Having the lock-on feature start up immidiately upon entering the battlefield and automatically targetting the closest enemy in the vicinity.
  2. Using the lock-on button to strafe between opponents quickly.
  3. Using the lock-on button in conjunction with the movement button to target exactly the enemy the players want.
  4. Being able to exit lock-on mode by holding down the Lock-on button and enable it again by pressing it again.
  5. Being able to target allies when they are downed by directing the Lock-on.
  6. Have it be small and if possible turned of but still have some indication of being locked on to that enemy, often the head alone and the camera following the enemy as best as possbile gave it a briliant visual guidance without any extravagant signs.
  7. Be able to target your allies by pressing the guard button and the lock-on button together but only when they are alive so that you can share energy etc.

Just by that, the lock-on and fighting system suddenly get consirably better and we free an important stick that would later be used for anything else.

Lock On

Second, the Select / Back button is surprisingly without purpose, yet in the Macross game it served a really great one : that of bringing up the orders menu. That menu had very basic commands one could give their parnter, should they bring one. In the case of having more than one partner though, this can be a bit frustrating to be honest, especially when trying to get 3 CPUs to agree on what they’ll do. The solution for that would be an expansion beyond the basic four commands of “Grapple”, “Shoot”, “Defence”, “SP” and add four more commands that are customizable, like the “tactics” settings in the Tales games. And on top of that, be able to customize the A.I. of your partner(s), down to which enemies they will hunt down. Again, this isn’t difficult at all, the Tales games did it by giving simple options that are basically the “combat roles” of your A.I. partners.

Following this set of changes, the final big change should be how the flying is implemented in the game, as right now, it is horrenduous taking that much space on the controller, especially when the idea is similar to the Another Century’s Episode series. Free the two buttons that have the flying and instead put them into the Up and Down buttons of the d-pad we just freed for the ascending and descending buttons to control the flight. Keep in mind that like in the Macross games, if a player is flying or dashing towards an enemy, that path will carve towards the aerial space of the enemy, be it lower or higher than the player. This is very important.

Now, the left and right directions will be used for moveset change and tag. Moveset change will be used to change the special attacks the characters have, so that almost all, if not all, attacks of the characters are present somehow in the game. It makes sense right? Dragon Ball characters have such a plethora of colourful, devastating attacks that are a shame to miss out on, especially when a game with fewer buttons, Zenkai Battle Royale, manages to fit more attacks that this game. Tag is tag as you imagine. The Cross / A and Circle / B buttons are finally free to be used properly and have them be more useful moves. The Cross / A should be the jump button that is context senseitive that alters the height of the jump while two taps of the buttons would be the “Dash Rush” move, the dash that makes characters rush towards the targetted enemy and if used while flying then it makes the characters fly faster, with the aura and all. The Circle / B buttons should be a proper dodge move, the after-image / step moves we see in the series to make it more interesting. Of course, these dodge moves will use Ki to balance things out, also useful to cancel down animations and if used in conjunction with the the Guard button, it can block and redirect energy attacks, again, a move that uses Ki to pull of with the Ki requirement for the move being half of the Ki the enemy used to pull the move. This way, the player can move while guarding without having to use that awful “Step” move the game uses.

The “Chase moves” attacks should be able to be like the Chase moves of the Macross games, with the player get double the speed and power for that one attack to break guards and knock opponents away to be able to “chase” them with these Meteo Attacks they use in the show. The guard button should final have the ability to be used with the Triangle + Circle / Y + B to pull of the “Partner Special Move” the Macross games feature. Basically, the move is that a player will do the Special Move of his own but with either a partner character that is near him, using his or her special move as well or a partner character at random in th field, if they are away from the radius of the player character.

Lock-on

The melee in this game is also very, very bad. Especially compared to the melee combat in the Macross series. The melee right now consists of random punches and kicks that all look the same ending with an axe handle attack. And it is a really long string that can be cancelled only at certain points to cheese the combo…yeah, awful. This is Gundam Battle () series level of melee, very bad. Macross on the other hand did this : they gave each type of Valkyrie or foe a certain type of melee string but made the branching of that string and finisher moves different for each of them. An example would be the VF25F would have a knife combo with a slashing combo end but the VG25G would have a slightly shorter knife combo with a stab. I also mentioned branches : if at any point of the combo one would also use any direction to use different attack moves, with left or right ending with a knockback move, with up the move would end up being a launcher and with down the move plant the enemy on the ground. Also, given the amount of martial arts the DB universe has and how diverse the moves people use in the manga, this system would be exellent.

Having taken all these things in mind, here are the new controls :

New Controls :

Analog Stick / LS – Move
Cross / A – Jump(on the ground)/Dash(in the air)
Circle / B – Ki Blast
Square / X – Dodge
Triangle / Y – Melee
Cross X2 / A X2 – Dash Rush
Triangle + Circle / Y + B – Special Move
R1 / RB – Lock On / Change Targets / Lock Off
L1 / LB – Guard
L1 + Circle / LB + B – Powered Ki Blast
L1 + Triangle / LB + Y – Chase Attack
D-pad Up – Ascend
D-pad Left – Tag
D-pad Right – Moves change
D-pad Down – Descend
Select / Back – Ally Commands
Start – Pause

And just by that, the set-up is better, meatier and more enjoyable, plus open for more strategic combat. And would you look at that, it would fit a portable device. But say it doesn’t get made for one and keeps its home console moniker, then we have three more button to fill out and surprisingly add depth.

Free Buttons

R2 / RT – Unique Ability
L2 / LT – Transform
RS – Camera Control

And there you go! But there is another layer of fixing and that is the customization and balance.

Customization

The game’s idea of balance is having a battlefield of players that have messed up stats, can’t even cooperate and have really obnoxious abilities with almost enough retries given to the characters to drive someone crazy. Let’s fix some of this absurdity by fixing…the game classes. First, the game introduces four classes :

  1. Fighting Type : skilled at close combat, can combo with melee attacks. Attack Type moves are Kaio-ken Attack, Dance of the Sword, Recoome Kick.
  2. Ki Blast Type : skilled at long range battle, can make consecutive attacks using the GENKI Gauge. Ki Blast Type moves are Consecutive Energy Blast, Death Beam, Spirit Ball.
  3. Support Type : powers such as health regeneration and support abilities. Support Type moves are Health regain blast, Fighting Pose.
  4. Interference Type : adept at ablilities that interfere with the enemy’s movements. Interference Type moves are Solar Flare, Chocolate Beam, Drain Energy.

This is sounding fine and dandy, but soon you start thinking “Wait…that doesn’t really sound all that right, what about characters that used both interference and support moves, what about balanced speedsters that were adept at both melee and ki blasts, like Goku” and when one plays the game, all that falls in shambles. The types should be more categorized like this :

  1. Fighting Type : skilled at close combat, can continually combo melee atatcks by cancelling them via guard instantly and continue anew for greater damage at the cost of Ki. Their Speed, Defence and Support are dependant on the character, their Melee power is always among the top numbers while their Ki power is lower.
  2. Ki Blast Type : skilled at long range battle, can make consecutive attacks using the GENKI Gauge to instantly fill their Ki gauge. They can also use different Ki Blast moves by tapping the Ki Blast button in different ways. Their Speed, Defence and Support are dependant on the character, their Ki power is always among the top numbers while their Melee power is lower.
  3. Support Type : adept at abilities that interfere with the enemy’s movements and even have powers such as health regeneration and support abilities. Their Speed, Defence, Ki and Melee are dependant on the character, usually on the lower ends while their Support power is always among the top numbers. To do away with their bad stats and bad fighting potential, their moves are highly unusual with a very wide range of effects.
  4. Speed Type : Typical speedsters, the only class in the game that has a set rule of stats, that being top tier Speed, middle class Melee and Ki power but the rest of the abilities at the lowest ends. The are the most standard type of fighters, being jacks of all trades with no real advantages or weaknesses.

Somehow you get a beter understanding of the characters now and how they fit in the game. The stats I talked about are a bit of a mess here though since they adhere to a type and not so much a character when it should be the other way around.

Stats

It is a disaster. First of there are too many statuses, these are humanoid beings, not fine-tuned transforming robots. Less stats to avoid confusion and have a better system of distribution like the Macross games :

  1. Health : Affects the character’s HP points and their number is indicative of how much the character will have in battle.
  2. Battle Power : Affects the character’s Ki points and their number is indicative of how much the character will have in battle as well as the Ki regeneration speed.
  3. Melee : Affects the character’s Melee based attacks.
  4. Ki : Affects the character’s Ki based attacks.
  5. Defence : Affects the character’s toughness and their Guard’s toughness / how much damage is absorbed via guard.
  6. Support : Affects the character’s Supporting and Interference moves, if the character has them.
  7. Speed : Affects the character’s overall Speed, ranging from movement speed to attacking speed.

The characters of course have limits to those stats and should properly adhere to the story’s canon to work. It may seem stupid, but tiers will exist in this game one way or another and the trade-off for that will be the number of retries given to the character, something that will be touched later. The stats will grow by experience points in the same way the previous Artdink games have, by earning the experience points after a mission or battle and pumping them to the character on the status menu. The experience earned is affected by the mission itself and score rank of that mission. The way this works is that all characters have status that range from 1 to 1000 or from 1 to 100000 in the case of Health and Battle Power and each character has different limits to their stats that affect their battle prowess. These limits shape the characters to match the series’ canon and lore so a Base Goku will naturally be weaker than his Super Saiyan Goku counterpart, in game measured by the number. For example, Base Goku has maximum 400 Melee while Super Saiyan Goku has 500 Melee. Depending on how close the stat is to the limit, more experience points will need to be spent there to make a difference. This system of course is able to add and detract experience points from the stats whenever the player wishes so they can be distrubuted any way the player wants until they reach their full power at least. There is no limit to how much experience points a character can collect, just how much they can pump into their stats.

Of course, people will want their favourite characters to fight toe-to-toe and that is why a “Limiter Release” will exist in the game as a trade-of, just like all those mecha games. The Limiter Release will practically destroy any limits any character has and the players will be able to pump points to their characters to make them ubeatable war machines and have ludicrous matches like Super Saiyan God Goku vs Chaotzu on equal footing. It should be noted that the Limiter Release has always been the ultimate reward the game offers and it is given for further amusement, the battles between players will have special rules that will affect whether or not the teams will use the Limiter Release or not, for fair play…or CHAOTIC AWESOMENESS!!!! 😀

Second of all, the system uses cards and status sockets that are dependent on the character…really bad idea. The card system is good for equips, special clothing or side effects for battle, but for leveling up and status progress is horrible. If anything, it should be compared to the Skill selection of the Macross games. There is great room for improvement there.

Clothing

The retry system is kind of broken in this game when it comes to battle. First of, retries in the mission / story mode is pretty stupid, if not utterly and absurdly idiotic. On the other hand, during battles between friends and online, it can be done and bring an interesting team chemistry and mechanics. First of, retries should be tied to two things : Character tier and Limiter Release.

Retries

Of course, Limiter Release removes any kind of retries for the characters. That is the easiest thing to do ever, unless one fiddles with the custom rules of combat, then it’s ok but the default system should be “Limiter Release = 0 retries”. Next, I mentioned character tiers, there should exist. The easiest thing to do with those tiers is to divide the characters based on the power levels of the transformations. For example, Base Goku is a Tier 4 and thus gets 3 retries by default but Super Saiyan 3 Goku is a Tier 1 character and thus gets 0 retries. The retries of course should be presented by Senzu Beans, like in the show.

I hope these things will be implemented in some degree, I hope in full effect by next year, to finally make a great 3D Dragon Ball game. We have waited for to long for one to grace the consoles and Zenkai Battle Royale isn’t comming out soon.

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