if I had to sum up my childhood by naming 3 different things, I'd say Pokemon, LEGO and Dragon Ball Z. I still vividly remember when this game first debuted on the PS2. Me and my cousin were super psyched about it, but he didn't want me to get it before him, and so he told our grandmother who would be accompanying me to make the purchase that the game was super violent and you could cut Cell in half. What a little shit, right? well, I still got it before him because she forgot all about that a week later. SUCK IT, JOSH!
while my first experiences with this game are the PS2 version, this review is of the Gamecube version, which is actually improved over its predecessor. While there are no extra modes or characters, the polygon count has been upped and the cell shading effects look much better. They were also able to add full character shadows.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai is a 1 on 1 fighting game. It features a total of 23 characters from the Saiyan Saga, Namek Saga, and Android saga. The character roster, while still quite satisfactory, including characters such as the whole Ginyu Force and even Hercule, is missing a couple of other characters I felt should have been playable, such as Videl.
The game's fighting system is easy to learn, but perhaps a bit too easy. you can punch, kick, gauge use a ki energy blast. As for special moves, such as the kamehameha, you simply input the proper number of punches or kicks, followed by the ki button. The problem is that most characters either share moves, or have moves that are activated the exact same way. Basically, if you learn any character, you've learned them all.
There is also a pretty huge balancing issue. Most of the characters such as the saiyans, and villains such as Cell and Freeza can transform into more powerful forms. Meanwhile, characters such as Yamcha and the androids have no transformations whatsoever. This causes a bit of unfairness when the opponent has transformed 3 times, and is now doing massive damage to your character who has no higher form.
I really like the health system in this game, which is somewhat comparable to Darkstalkers 3. Instead of rounds, you simply have 3 health bars which are layered. Once all 3 are depleted, you lose. It eliminates the need for rounds, and the health bars are long enough that experienced players can have a lengthy match. The game doesn't offer a lot of modes, the main attractions being story mode, which is excellent, and world Tournament mode. What makes the story mode so great is hat it is almost a perfect emulation of the TV show. The great cell shading effects even make it looks like the show, and the voice actors are spot on.
While Dragon Ball Z Budokai is lacking in modes and characters when compared to newer releases in the series, it's a great game when looked at in retrospect. The biggest issues are balancing and the same-ish move sets, but all in all it's still a fun game. At only a few bucks, it could be fun for a weekend, but I'd much recommend one of the sequels. The Gamecube version beats out the PS2 original with better graphics, but everything else remains the same. In case you need a comparison, I have used screenshots from both versions. It's very easy to tell which come form which system.