GAMES - Article
16:00 - 2nd January 2013, by Matt Kamen

Beating Up Dragons

With original games such as Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and the enduring Tales RPG franchise, plus adaptations of popular anime including Naruto and Dragon Ball Z, Namco Bandai offers a wealth of titles to the gaming Japanophile. At the recent Japan Expo in Paris, NEO took an early look at the company's upcoming slate.

Dragon Ball should need no introduction - from its manga debut in 1984, Akira Toriyama's action comedy has thrilled the world. The adventures of martial artist Son Goku and his allies have been adapted for games many times before too, but the upcoming Dragon Ball Z - Battle of Z is aiming to be a bit special.

"There hasn't been a Dragon Ball Z game for the last two years, so we've spent that time with a new development team to create something fresh," producer Hashimoto Kunio tells us. "Previous titles mainly focus on the one-on-one battles, but with Battle of Z, we want to give players something different. We're focusing on controlling a team of four fighters at once, unlike a regular fighting game."

Each round plays out much like a typical beat-'em-up, but with your chosen roster going into battle together, attacking in concert. The game has been designed around the inherent strengths and attributes of each character. "For example, Goku and Krillin aren't on the same power level in the anime and manga," Kunio explains. "To reflect that, Krillin's battle style is more of a supporting type. He's not as strong as Goku, but his abilities have other benefits to the team. Each character has six ability statistics, and players can use cards to strengthen each ability, based on the character's attributes in the original story."

Battle of Z also adapts the key moments from the anime, from the earliest days of the Saiyan Saga to the events of the brand new movie Battle of Gods. Only released in Japan in March this year, the feature film debuted Goku's new Super Saiyan God form, which makes its first playable appearance here. "The Dragon Ball Z story is well known, so players are probably aware that 'oh yes, this is going to happen now'," said Kunio. "But for this game, we're allowing different characters. When you play against Raditz or Frieza for example, Goku might not be there. Instead, you might have Piccolo, kid Gohan and Yajirobe, who didn't defeat them in the original version. There aren't huge changes, but the slightly shifting narrative gives a different experience. We've gone into a lot of detail and investigated how Toriyama draws and writes a comic, so we can reproduce his work as much as possible."

Other new features for Battle of Z include enhanced online features for team matching, and an eight-player mode - or as Kunio puts it, "a total battle royale: no allies, just an eight-way brawl with only one person winning!"

With its fresh approach to combat and a hearty roster of nearly 60 characters to team up with, the game is shaping up to be a fine successor for the much-loved Tenkaichi series - look for it on PS3, PS Vita and Xbox 360 next year.

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