Release(s): November 14, 2003 (Europe), November 23, 2003 (Australia), December 4, 2003 (North America), February 5, 2004 (Japan)
Platform(s): PlayStation 2, GameCube
Publisher(s): Bandai (Japan/Europe), Atari(North America/Australia)
Back in late 2002, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai was first released and while it got okay-ish reviews from critics, it was well liked by fans and was very successful commercially with the PlayStation 2 version selling over a million copies within a year in the states alone. No doubt a sequel would be in the makings.
On April 7, 2003- Dragon Ball Z had officially aired its final episode in the states making it the right time to release Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 later that same year and having room to cover the final arc of the series.
If you’re familiar with the gameplay of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, you’ll probably know what to expect here (a 3D fighting game with flying, projectiles, and transformations) as the overall formula remains relatively the same so what’s different here? Well, you can now perform Death Moves freely by simply pressing forward or back and the E button at the same time. On top of that, they seem to do noticeably more damage than regular physical attacks thanks to fixed damage scaling, which makes them useful to a variety of situations instead of just serving as combo filler. Another thing is certain special moves will have you fulfill a certain requirement while executing them which include rolling the analog sticks to fill a parameter or playing a button-guessing game with the opponent. If these conditions are met, the desired effects will happen otherwise the move won’t be as effective or in some cases, it may backfire.
Aside from that, there aren’t any major changes to speak of. Granted some of the tweaks and additions that Budokai 2 offers do make things a bit more interesting, but they don’t hide the fact that the core gameplay hasn’t really changed so all the issues with Dragon Ball Z: Budokai still apply here- special moves are still awkward to pull off, many characters are still clones of each other, and battles still often come down to who can tap buttons faster.
One thing that has certainly changed about Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 is the new single-player campaign in the form of Dragon World. Instead of just going from one scenario to another like in the first Budokai's Story Mode, Dragon World takes place on a board game-like setting where you take control of Goku and a set number of his allies depending on the stage. You have to accomplish a certain objective in order to progress (which usually just involves beating the big bad) but you can do other things such as getting attack and guard boosts (which only last for one stage) for each party member, finding hidden unlockables, and collecting all 7 dragonballs (which will allow you to grant a wish for an ultra rare skill or unlockable at the end).
Dragon World also covers the Dragon Ball Z storyline all the way to the final battle with Kid Buu though it's told in a very loose matter that wouldn't make much sense whether or not if you’re familiar with the source material.
All in all, the mode has its appeal but due the slow pace combined with the repetition of unlocking extras and loose storytelling, it gets old fast especially later on where you have to face the same enemies like Frieza and Cell or Saibamen and Cell Juniors over and over again…. but for what its worth, you now at least have the option to customize each character’s skill tray to your likings.
Dueling, World Tournament, and Practice remain largely the same with a few notable changes- World Tournament now allows you to complete with up to 8 different players. Nobody earns any prize money in the end, but it can make for good casual fun when you have friends around (just remember whom to switch the controllers over to). Practice now comes paired with an additional menu (which is called Training) where you are taught how to play the game in a step-by-step tutorial. While most fighting games just have you select a character and follow the instructions of a boring text prompt, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 has you take the role of Goku's second born son Goten who is mentored by the veteran Z-Warriors. It's pretty short and kinda vague on the details but it does help in teaching you the basics well enough.
The E.S.S is also the same as in the first game only a few capsules have been added. The most notable of which are the fusion and potara capsules- these have two characters combine into one fighter with a significant power increase and a new set of moves. When activated, the fusion dance capsule can only last for a couple seconds but you have unlimited ki (which can be deadly in the hands of a good player) whereas the potara capsule will last for the rest of the match but if your opponent successfully intercepts, you can never attempt it again for the rest of the match. Certain characters has their own fusion or potara capsule- some of them you may be familiar with while others you may never find anywhere else (Tiencha, Gokule).
The Skill Shop has been vastly improved from the last game. While it's still random, you now have the option to purchase at least 3 capsules for each skill type which makes getting the capsules you want much easier and much less tedious than before.
Just like the last game, there is an additional game mode called Babidi’s Spaceship which is unlocked by wishing for it with the dragonballs. In this mode, you will play four different battles with a certain challenge to them which are defeating as many opponents as you can before you are k.o’d, an endurance game where you last against an invisible opponent as long as possible, land as many hits on the opponent before time runs out, and ping-ponging a ki blast with an opponent as much as possible before time runs. The better you perform in this challenges, the more Kili you earn which can be used to unlock Majin characters and their skills.
If you play against another player, you can challenge each other to four different battles which are playing hot potato to where if you hit the other player, they will hold a bomb that will detonate unless they hit you back. The second one where you try to damage each other to the point where your infinite energy can’t keep on. Third one is you knock each other back which increases your knockback percent ala Super Smash Bros and you try to send each other out of the tournament ring. Last one where your health gauge is fused with your ki gauge so if you build your ki, you also get more health.
Overall, Babidi’s Spaceship provides a nice distraction, but the lack of variety hurts it though.
If there’s one thing Budokai 2 definitely improves from the first game, it’s the graphics. Instead of using traditional shading, Budokai 2 actually makes use of the cel-shading technique and introduces a style that would become a staple of future Dragon Ball Z games. This new direction really paid off because not only do the character models look much better, but they capture the overall visual flair of the anime even more than any other game before it whatnot with the jagged edges and dark outlines.
The stages have also been touched up. They're much more detailed (besides the grass) and have more going on in the background (Hyperbolic Time Chamber for example now actually looks like a vast yet empty void). Some stages still fall a bit on the bland side but beggars can’t be choosers.
On top of all that, ki blasts, particle effects, beams, and auras look much closer to the anime. Auras even have some neat effects as they would spike up and even gain sparks during certain transformations.
The voice clips have largely been recycled though dialogue for fight intros, outros, cutscenes (of course), etc. has been redone to provide better and more natural (and funnier) delivery. Likewise, Kenji Yamamoto returns as the main composer but there are plenty of new tracks that add a bit of variety to the game's soundtrack with mostly jazzy beats added for extra flavor thanks to compositions from the soul/jazz band Tower of Power..
The menus are changed up and don’t have that tanbokoden aesthetic from the previous game. On the other hand, the load times are much faster lasting only up to 10-15 seconds for a battle and ultimate moves have a much more cinematic flair. The opening sequence for Budoka 2 isn’t a mere recreation of any of the anime’s openings using the in-game graphics but is an originally animated intro that looks like it can be for its own anime and it comes with an original theme song.
There’s not much left I have to say about Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2. It has a number of neat additions, but they feel half-baked and Budokai 2 ultimately comes out as a pretty underwhelming sequel. While the cel-shaded graphics are rather impressive even to this day, the overall combat is barely a step up from its processor and Dragon World is disjointed to say the least.