The demo for Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 dropped on PSN this week, so I thought I’d give it a chance. The last Dragon Ball games I’ve played were the Budokai games on the PS2, and those were immensely enjoyable, with their crazy-totally-awesome-OMG-can’t-believe-it super attacks and an entertaining story-driven single player to keep the game fresh and replayable. I figured, hey, Dragon Ball is Dragon Ball, so I’d like this newest incarnation by proxy, right?
Well, not quite. The demo is just one arcade-type fighting match, no overarching story or anything. You’re given a choice of four characters, Super Saiyan Goku, Kid Buu, Demon King Dabura, and Ultimate Gohan,and two arenas, a canyon type stage and an ice stage.
From the moment you press start, it’s a barebones demo; there’s no setup, no tutorial, not even an options menu, meaning there’s no list of controls beyond a poorly designed “Moves List” in the pause menu. As a demo, it’s pretty infuriating; they just throw you in the deep end of the pool and hope you can flail around enough to get to the edge and climb out safely. I know there’s supposed to be some sort of story or adventure mode or something, and the fact that this demo bypassed that in favor of a simple exhibition fighting match is considerably disappointing.
The gameplay itself isn’t as disappointing, but it’s definitely lacking; it’s almost overly simple, to the point where fighting is either boring or completely frustrating. You have two attacks, a basic attack (Square) and a charge attack (Triangle). There’s also a “special” attack or ability (Circle) unique to each character, which range from moderately useful to completely ineffective. There’s Super attacks mapped to the right analog stick, with each direction being a separate attack, and an Ultimate attack mapped to R3. These attacks drain Ki, which can be easily accumulated by holding the down button on the D-pad. There’s other buttons that do things too, like flying and blocking, but forget all of that; you’re the most effective when you mash the basic attack button repeatedly until the opponent goes down.
If you aren’t the one doing the button-mashing, it’s the computer returning the favor and doing the same. This wouldn’t be a problem if they implemented a competent blocking mechanic, but in the blocking and evading system is almost completely broken and nigh-impossible to pull off. R1 is the block button, and depending on which face button you press, you either evade or put up a block that deflects different type of attacks. This sounds great on paper, until you realize that the timing required to successfully pull off these blocks is inhumanly precise. Everyone’s attacks are so fast that it’s crazy to even attempt to block their offense; once you’re in a flurry of button-mashing, you’re essentially stuck in a brutal beatdown until the CPU feels sorry for you and finishes his combo. As if that didn’t kill the flow of the combat, once you’re down, a big icon of the face buttons pops up, urging you to yet again mash the hell out of your controller until you get up.
The scale of the environments is impressive, and the distances at which you can trade projectiles is something to marvel at, but ultimately, this demo feels like a race to see who can mash buttons faster. There’s other elements of the game, like pressing R1 when your Ki gauge is completely full to activate a “Raging Soul” mode, but all that does is make your button-mashing harder to evade, and sets it to the tune of some amazingly bad Japanese butt rock that comes from nowhere.
I would’ve loved to see something similar to the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 demo, where they give you one fight from the story mode, cinematics and all, as that’s where the Dragon Ball fighting games have always shown their charm and appeal. Instead, we’re given a soulless demo that plays more like “Dragon Ball: Press Square to DRAGON DRAGON ROCK THE DRAGON” than a fun game.
If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that the actual game won’t be as bad; it’ll have an actual story mode that adds some personality to the game and makes it a lot easier to forgive the combat system’s questionable mechanics. As bad of a taste this left in my mouth, it’s only a demo; I’m still very interested in the full game, and have it waiting for me in my Gamefly queue when it releases November 2nd for the PS3 and the Xbox 360.