Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi Review

Dragon Ball Z has seen various video game adaptations for well over the past decade. Of these, very little have been able to fully capture the look and feel of the epic battles containing these superhuman combatants. Now, here in 2011, Spike (a developer with a fair list of DBZ games under their belt) has returned once again to try and bring that defining title to fans of the series. Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi has a lot to prove. Is this title’s power level over 9,000? Or is it as legit as Hercule?


If there’s one aspect of the Dragon Ball Z universe that Spike nailed completely, it has to be the visual presentation in Ultimate Tenkaichi. Fans of the popular anime series will immediately be taken back by the vibrant colors and detailed characters. It carries the beautifully updated look of Dragon Ball Z Kai with the added benefit of three-dimensional modeling, which gives off a truly stunning experience. Actually, Spike was kind enough to let us play AND watch Dragon Ball Z. In between certain battles throughout the story, you’ll be treated to re-drawn cutscenes depicting some unforgettable moments. Focusing back on gameplay, each character is outlined in black, giving off that cartoon feel. In addition, clothing tears, skin reflects damage and facial expressions change to appropriately reflect anger or concern (the two normal emotions displayed throughout the show). Let’s not forget about those environments, the areas housing the insane duels. The backdrops are just as sharp and detailed as the characters, providing a wonderful contrast between the two. DBZ fans will watch their beloved TV show come to life in ways never before seen.

Story Accuracy
I’m sure many of you reading this review are no stranger to the story of this series. Ultimate Tenkaichi fully explores Dragon Ball Z and a small portion of GT (sorry, no Dragon Ball here). At the time of writing, many sagas have been completed in Story Mode, but not all of them… yet. So far, the stories stay true to their televised counterparts. Players will be given the opportunity to relive their favorite epic sagas as they personally partake in crucial points in each one. Playing as Bardock as he fights Frieza never gets old (even though we all know how that ends). That’s one of the game’s strong points. These are battles that all of us, or at least more of us, have seen play out to the end and, although we’ve seen it already, playing it refreshes the entire experience and draws you further into this universe.

Cinematic Gameplay
The powerhouse characters in Dragon Ball Z both deal and take a ton of damage. In order to properly portray the intensity of these fights, the gameplay has to be quick, flashy and brutal. Luckily, it contains these three characteristics. Every battle feels very cinematic. Watching Goku perform his well-known moves such as the Kamehameha or Spirit Bomb are dead on to what the show displayed. These moves are further intensified as the environment reacts to the energy-filled attacks. Craters and cannals become a common sight when slinging around the destructive power these Saiyans have at their fingertips. However, the ultra-cinematic style has it’s shortcomings, but more on that in a bit.

One of the features that fans have been waiting for is the ability to create their own Saiyan warrior. The time has finally come. Ultimate Tenkaichi allows players to change various aspects of their created character. While the amount of customization options can be somewhat underwhelming, the addition of this mode is a step in the right direction. Plus, there are customization unlockables that can be gathered to increase the number of selectable items. Even better, once a character has been created they are taken into Hero Mode. Hero Mode is a special story mode for the created character, separate from the main story that follows the series faithfully. Flying around the world, using your scouter (assuming you equipped your character with one) to observe the environment and training under different masters as you prepare to take on an ultimate evil is quite enjoyable.


Watered Down Gameplay
The cinematic style of the gameplay is very pleasing and works for the overall aesthetic. However, the nature of the gameplay itself is a bit disappointing. This is the trade-off that was made: more flashy DBZ action, less player input. Combos come in strings of three before it breaks into a “Knock-Back Chain” or “Chain Attack.” Knock-Back attacks, well, knock the receiver back as the attacker pursues them in to toss them around some more before delivering a devastating final blow. Chain attacks are groupings of flurry attacks strung together via more tossing around. Special attacks are still assigned to the right analog stick, just like Raging Blast. Unlike Raging Blast, however, engaging opponents at a distance is much less personal. You won’t be flying/dashing your character over to them. Instead, the game will initiate a mini-cinematic which shows your character closing the distance. Possibly the worst part is that most of your acquired skills from past games in the series aren’t applicable here. Dodging, countering and other actions of the like boil down to minimal button presses (button spamming instances aside). To perform these actions, the player must select an option which will be represented on screen via controller face buttons. In order to counter, though, one must randomly select one of these buttons in hopes that they selected the same as their opponent, since that results in a successful counter. It degrades down to praying and luck. That can be very disheartening for those who planned on spending time mastering an intricate battle system.http://www.justpushstart.com/

Story Telling
While the cinematics and levels provide immersive and entertaining ways of experiencing the story, there is still one aspect of the game that make this over-the-top game extremely dull. Before missions in the story, players will be greeted by unbelievably slow-scrolling text that details the story in more depth. For many, this will be unbearable. Personally, I enjoy reading the backround info to the events I’m about to be a part of. The text makes its way up the screen, scrolling slower than any Star Wars intro, begging you to skip it and get to the fight.


Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi gives some and takes some. The overall presentation is pure eye candy that anyone and everyone will appreciate. From the cinematic battles to the excellent cutscenes, the spirit of Dragon Ball Z has been captured. Unfortunately, the meat of the title, gameplay, falls short from expectations by providing players with what ends up becoming one large, repetitive quick-time event as the game takes care of most of the action on-screen itself. Ultimate Tenkaichi is definitely a game for the fans as they will be able to overlook where it falls short and truly appreciate what it has accomplished.

[Editor’s Note: Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi was reviewed on the Xbox 360 platform. The game was provided to us for review purposes by the publisher.]

9 thoughts on “Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi Review

  1. they have turned dragon ball into a tactical game it is no more free movement.im very dissapointed in namco for destroying the game.Even making your own character is not the best there is a lotof limitation so kudos to namco for wrecking an extremly good game

  2. This is terrible. I’m really starting to feel that Namco is just gobbling up fan’s wallets at this point. The gameplay in Tenkaichi 3 for the PS2 was beautiful. It was fast paced and control of your character was completely up to the player. The graphics were amazing enough for the PS2, and I felt like they were more appropriate.

    Namco does this EVERY time. They show something flashy and then the game itself ends up sucking because it lacks something in gameplay, or many things. As far as I’m aware, Tenkaichi 2 or 3 got the best reviews over every other DBZ game, because the game play was actually worth buying.

    Namco really needs to stop this horse shit. I want a graphically and slight gameplay improved Tenkaichi 3 with zero lag on my PS3 now please.

  3. This game is awesome, but only two problems I have with this new DBZ game.

    1. The Gameplay. I saw some videos from youtube and the gameplay is kind of like an rock-paper-scissors and it gets repeatitive.

    2. The Characters. The game missed many important characters for each saga from Dragon Ball Z. as well from the Dragon Ball Z movies and Dragon Ball GT.

    Anyway I’m still getting this game at the end of 2011 on Christmas.

  4. Dragonball Ultimate Tenkaichi brings alot to the table.

    Lets review the positives.

    Number one would be the enhanced graphic system that blows past the Ragingblast graphics, bringing a feeling of watching a Dragonball episode but in an actual game!

    Two would be the Hero mode! Giving us the fans opporunity to create what we think should be a sayain and fighting our way to the top, seeing ourselves us there with the greats like Goku and Vegeta.

    But ofcourse we didnt miss the negatives… well its hard to as they are pretty apparent!

    One word can only be used for the gameplay “Disapointing”

    Its not terrible but it is in no way matching the feel of Dragonball Budokai Tenkaichi 3 as with Dragonball ultimate tenkaichi we see all control of what we do in battle taken of us! (In a fighting game like Dragonball? Bad move!)

    Using quicktime events really made the idea of “skill” non-existent, as its not needed to win just the idea of “yep, it looks like square is the button for me this time!” then hope it works. The use of quicktime events also makes player diversity impossible as the quicktime events are almost impossible to avoid… Meaning almost every player will play the same.

    Its about having diversity between players!

    Taking the fight out of our hands instantly takes away the chance to use skillful tactics and to show our true powers on the battlefield as each player will play differently… and thats what is needed on any fighting game, thats the basics, diversity and a skill set so large that everyone can have their own unique fighting style… where as in a real fighting sport you would use you own moves at your own time… and in a game we expect the same! or anything as close as you can get to the real life experience but with super powered fighting machines.

  5. I feel this review, while completely accurate in what it states is missing one crucial detail, the character count. The character count in this game is a joke, the best example of this pathetic roster of crap is that it contains every member of the Ginyu Force, EXCEPT GULDO! how the hell they left out one of the FIVE members iconic of the same team is beyond me. That is an utter slap in the face to all DBZ fans everywhere. Also, the absolute crap excuse for controls in this game is nothing less than insulting. this pathetic monstrosity is barely playable, and once again I must express that this is a complete and total insult to all dragon ball fans around the world. This game is BROKEN and should not have been released in this PATHETIC and INEXCUSABLE state. for all of those who have not had to endure the displeasure of doing so already… DO NOT BUY THIS PATHETIC AND LAZY EXCUSE FOR A GAME!

  6. Seriously disappointed by this game. I wonder who they hired to developed this game? Really? After a budokai tenkaichi 3 on the ps3 they just started to play with the DBZ franchise on the next gen consoles. NONE of the DBZ games for xbox360 or PS3 are better than the previous ones. People wanted a super fantastic gameplay, not a “cinematic” type gameplay.There are so many things that do not make sense in this game. For example,why put Gogeta ssj4 without even putting the others SSJ4? really? This game is just an insult to the fans of dragonball Z. They should be ashamed because when you look at other games ( Naruto ultimate ninja) for example , you really know that the developers where “real” fans of the series and weren’t only looking for profit but for a good game.

  7. Yeah… I’m having fun because I’m a fan, but the decreased strategy and skill involved does hurt. I’m keeping it since it looks great, and is mostly fun right now, but next game coming out, I’ll wait for the reviews.

    (I still don’t understand why they ditched Burst Limit for Raging Blast. BL looked much better and got much higher ratings than the RBs did- They brought back the old side-scrolling gameplay, refreshed it by taking out what made it redundant, and delivered a cool cinematic side to the fights. I wouldn’t mind if Dimps came to rescue the franchise, but I think the problem would merely be solved if they gave the game 2 to 3 years in development time. Either that, or just expand on this game’s graphics engine and custom features while overhauling the game-play.)

    A thought that crossed my

  8. It looks awesome and is getting better and better than the other ones. Awesome options for these parts of it. CAN’T WAIT TO BUY IT!!! :P


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